Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bias against the PA

In his expose' of James White (a notable KJVonly Opponent), Jesse Boyd takes him to task for his shifty handling of the textual evidence regarding the PA (Jn 7:53-8:11):

  1. It is apparent that White takes his list of manuscript evidence straight out of the UBS4. However, he fails to include an asterix with mss. 1424. According to the UBS’ abbreviation system, the asterix refers to the original hand of the manuscript. Apparently, 1424 has the pericope in the margin. White does not want anyone to know that.
  2. White includes Codices L and Δ in his list of evidence, but he fails to mention that both mss. exhibit a blank space after John 7:52. It is clear that the scribes were aware of the fact that they were leaving something out.
  3. White argues that the pericope is absent from the majority of Lain versions. This is simply untrue. It is found in the Vulgate tradition and numerous mss of the Old Itala dating back to the second century. The UBS4 lists four italic mss hostile to the pericope, but seven plus the Vulgate that include it. White’s majority does not exist. Besides, there are thousands of Latin mss. that have not been examined by anyone, especially James White.
  4. White claims that the pericope is missing from the majority of Syriac mss. also. However, he fails to mention that it is found in the Palestinian Syriac and numerous later mss. of the Peshitta and the Harclean Syriac (even the UBS4 admits this). The pericope is also found in certain mss. of the Philoxenian Syriac. White’s assertion is misleading.
  5. White argues that the pericope is missing from the majority of lectionaries. Most assuredly, White has never seen an ancient lectionary in his life. John Burgon, on the other hand, personally handled over sixty of them. According to him, the passage was found rubricated in every one of them.. In other words, there were liturgical directions that instructed the reader to skip from 7:52 down to 8:12. This is hardly an omission of the pericope, for the pericope served no purpose on Pentecost Sunday when John 7:37-52; 8:12 was read. White also conveniently fails to mention that the Church selected nine out of the twelve disputed verses to be read on October 8. This reading, according to Burgon goes all the way back to the earliest of times in the Christian Church.
  6. White gives more credence to ten minuscules that place the pericope in different place in the Gospels than he does to the hundreds of them that retain the passage in the traditional place. His use of the exclamation point at the end of the sentence containing the aforementioned assumption indicates that he considers these witnesses to be great evidence against the passage. What White doesn’t promulgate is that the four mss. that place the pericope after Luke 21:38 come from a common archetype and are known for reworking the Scriptures (e.g. Luke 22:43 is removed and thrust into Matthew 26 between verses 39 and 40. White claims, “such moving about by a body of text is plain evidence of its later origin and the attempt on the part of the scribes to find a place where it ‘fits.’” This situation proves nothing of the sort save that a few irresponsible scribes wished to remove the passage from the Pentecostal Lesson because they believed it to treat the sin of adultery too leniently. Or, perhaps the mss. they were copying did not include the passage, but the scribe wished to include it where he had space (e.g. at the end of Luke or John).
  7. White says that some scribes included the pericope after John 7:44. It is apparent that White gets this information from Metzger who get it from Eberhard Nestle. In a footnote, Metzger promulgates that Nestle mentioned some Georgian mss. that placed the pericope after John 7:44. However, Nestle provided no specific mss. How do we know Nestle did not just make this up out of thin air.
  8. White says that John 7:52 and 8:12 go together. Are we to believe that “out of Galilee ariseth no prophet” is immediately followed by “Then spake Jesus again to them saying” without a word of explanation. As Edward Hills asserts, “Such impressionistic writing might possibly be looked for in some modern author. It is unthinkable in the simple narrative of John.” 68 Besides, what does White do with the fact that Jesus is nowhere in the vicinity in 7:45-52? Also, what is the purpose of the word “again” in 8:12? Without the pericope, there is no “again.”
  9. White says, “aside from issues of vocabulary and style.” What issues is he referring to? Of course, White gives absolutely no examples to back his claim. J.P. Lange, a scholar far more learned than White, says that the pericope exhibits the same “mystic twilight” that is common in John’s Gospel. 69
  10. White says, “The story of the woman taken in adultery interrupts the flow of the text.” How? The average reader does not see this.’
  11. White says that it is a “near certainty” that the pericope is not an authoritative part of the Bible. His “near certainty” is based upon one-sided evidence that is promoted with no documentation whatsoever.
  12. White claims that the story itself represents an oral tradition about Jesus that came to have its part in the Gospel of John over time. There is no concrete evidence for such a tradition whatsoever apart from the Gospel text itself. If all of this is true, why would a scribe insert the passage right in the middle of the passage preached from on the most important Sunday of the year--Pentecost?
  13. White does not provide a single sliver of documentation for the claims he makes on the pericope. Is the reader supposed to believe what he says simply because he says it. Apparently, White never consulted writers such as John Burgon, J.P. Lange, or Edward Hills.
  14. It is interesting to note the striking similarity between White’s words and those of Bruce Metzger in his Commentary on the Greek New Testament. White uses the term “earmark” as does Metzger. 70 This word is so uncommon that it is very doubtful it came from White’s vocabulary when Metzger was obviously sitting right in front of him.
  15. Concerning internal evidence surrounding the pericope, White writes, “aside from issues of vocabulary and style.” Metzger writes, “the style and vocabulary of the pericope differ noticeably . . .” 71 White writes, “interrupts the flow of the text.” Metzger writes, “it interrupts the sequence.” 72 Concerning the external evidence, White takes his list of witnesses straight out of Metzger. Also, he writes, “Both A and C most probably did not contain the passage, though both are defective in this section of John . . .” Metzger writes, “Codices A and C are defective in this part of John, but it is highly probable that neither contained the pericope.”73 What is going on here? White is taking information from Metzger, changing a few words, and offering no documentation. That is called “plagiarism” Mr. White, not scholarship.
 Conclusion: Fifteen counts of misrepresentation of evidence have been cited on one page of White’s book, The King James Only Controversy. This fact is scary. One can only wonder how much White bends the truth in the other 285 pages. This work is not scholarship. It seeks to trash the King James Bible through deception. Believe James White if you will, but I choose to believe God’s promise in Psalm 12:6-7. “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.”

68. Hills,89.
69. Lange,268.
70. see Metzger, 188.
71. Ibid.
72. Ibid.
73. Ibid.,187. 


  1. No. What Burgon said was,
    "In all her Patriarchates, as far back as the written records of her practice reach, —and they reach back to the time of those very Fathers whose silence was felt to be embarrassing,—the Eastern Church has selected nine out of these twelve verses to be the special lesson for October 8."

    Burgon was referring to the period prior to the first mention of the PA by a Greek commentator in the 12th century--but certainly not any farther back than Didymus the Blind, a 4th century writer who was recently discovered to have mentioned the woman taken in adultery.

  2. You refer to point 5. above, "This reading, according to Burgon goes all the way back to the earliest of times in the Christian Church. "

    You are right in contrasting Burgon's stated position re: the patristic evidence with Boyd's assertion.

    However, while the specific reading of the PA on Oct 8 may not have been implied, Burgon certainly thought it was authentic to John's Gospel, and presumably, if every part of John was read on occasion in the earliest underground churches, then this story would also have been told, although not with clock-like regularity as with the later formal Lectionary system.

    Its hard to imagine Burgon not believing and willingly assenting to the gist of Boyd's statement, since he defended the passage vigorously.

    On the evidence of Didymus, he may be the earliest identified writer that skeptical method would give with confidence, but the total sum of patristic evidence, when other earlier writings are included, such as the Apostolic Constitutions and the indirect statements of Tertullian, seems to suggest a date much earlier than the mid 3rd century. Didymus himself seems to take the story for granted, as arriving from antiquity.


  3. I believe we are in agreement here, but just to clarify: there is no direct evidence that lectionaries were being used prior to the 5th century. What Burgon asserted was that the nine verses had been in the lectionary as long as it had been in use; the word 'early' modifying not the church itself, but its use of the lectionary.