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KJV Defended



Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine


Second Pages to Chapters

1  2  4  6  8







 The King James Version Defended, by Edward F. Hills



Since 1881 many, perhaps most, orthodox Christian scholars have agreed with Westcott and Hort that textual criticism is a strictly neutral science that must be applied in the same way to any document whatever, including the Bible. Yet there have been some orthodox theologians who have dissented from this neutral point of view. One of them was Abraham Kuyper (1894), who pointed out that the publication of the Textus Receptus was "no accident," affirming that the Textus Receptus, "as a foundation from which to begin critical operations, can, in a certain sense, even deserve preference.'' (1) Another was Francis Pieper (1924), who emphasized the fact that "in the Bible which is in our hands we have the word of Christ which is to be taught by and in the Church until the last day." (2)

It was John W. Burgon (1813-1888), however, who most effectively combated the neutralism of naturalistic Bible study. This famous scholar spent most of his adult life at Oxford, as Fellow of Oriel College and then as vicar of St. Mary's (the University Church) and Gresham Professor of Divinity. During his last twelve years he was Dean of Chichester. In theology he was a high-church Anglican but opposed to the ritualism into which even in his day the high church movement had begun to decline. Throughout his career he was steadfast in his defense of the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God and strove with all his power to arrest the modernistic currents which during his lifetime had begun to flow within the Church of England. Because of his learned defense of the Traditional New Testament text he has been held up to ridicule in most of the handbooks on New Testament textual criticism; but his arguments have never been refuted.

Although he lived one hundred years ago, Dean Burgon has the message which we need today in our new Space Age. Since his books have now become difficult to acquire, they should all be reprinted and made available to new generations of believing Bible students. His published works on textual criticism include: The Last Twelve Verses of Mark (1871), The Revision Revised (1883), and The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels and The Causes of the Corruption of the Traditional Text, two volumes which were published in 1896 after Burgon's death.

In his Revision Revised Burgon gives us his reconstruction of the history of the New Testament text in the vivid style that was habitual to him. "Vanquished by THE WORD Incarnate, Satan next directed his subtle malice against the Word written. Hence, as I think,—hence the extraordinary fate which befell certain early transcripts of the Gospel. First, heretical assailants of Christianity, —then, orthodox defenders of the Truth,—lastly and above all, self constituted Critics . . . such were the corrupting influences which were actively at work throughout the first hundred years after the death of S. John the Divine. Profane literature has never known anything approaching to it—can show nothing at all like it. Satan's arts were defeated indeed through the Church's faithfulness, because, — (the good Providence of God has so willed it,) —the perpetual multiplication in every quarter of copies required for Ecclesiastical use—not to say the solicitude of faithful men in diverse regions of ancient Christendom to retain for themselves unadulterated specimens of the inspired Text,—proved a sufficient safeguard against the grosser forms of corruption. But this was not all.

"The Church, remember, hath been from the beginning the 'Witness and Keeper of Holy Writ.' Did not her Divine Author pour out upon her in largest measure, 'the SPIRIT of truth,' and pledge Himself that it should be that SPIRIT'S special function to 'guide' her children 'into all the Truth' ? .... That, by a perpetual miracle, Sacred Manuscripts would be protected all down the ages against depraving influences of whatever sort,—was not to have been expected; certainly, was never promised. But the Church, in her collective capacity, hath nevertheless — as a matter of fact — been perpetually purging herself of those shamefully depraved copies which once everywhere abounded within her pale: retaining only such an amount of discrepancy in her Text as might serve to remind her children that they carry their 'treasure in earthen vessels,'—as well as to stimulate them to perpetual watchfulness and solicitude for the purity and integrity of the Deposit. Never, however, up to the present hour, hath there been any complete eradication of all traces of the attempted mischief,—any absolute getting rid of every depraved copy extant. These are found to have lingered on anciently in many quarters. A few such copies linger on to the present day. The wounds were healed, but the scars remained, — nay, the scars are discernible still.

"What, in the meantime, is to be thought of those blind guides —those deluded ones — who would now, if they could, persuade us to go back to those same codices of which the Church hath already purged herself?" (3)

Burgon's reconstruction of the history of the New Testament text is not only vividly expressed but eminently biblical and therefore true. For if the true New Testament text came from God, whence came the false texts ultimately save from the evil one? And how could the true text have been preserved save through the providence of God working through His Church?

No doubt most Bible-believing Christians, not being high-church Anglicans, will place less emphasis than Burgon did on the organized Church. Certainly they will not agree with him that the Church must be governed by bishops or that it was through the bishops mainly that the New Testament text was preserved. For this would be confusing the Old Testament dispensation with the New Testament dispensation. During the Old Testament dispensation the Church was governed by a divinely appointed priesthood, and it was through that priesthood that the Old Testament Scriptures were preserved. Now, however, in the New Testament dispensation all believers are priests before God, and each congregation of believers has the right to elect its own pastors, elders, and deacons. Hence the New Testament Scriptures were preserved in the New Testament way through the universal priesthood of believers, that is to say, through the God-guided usage of the common people, the rank and file of the true believers.

But these defects in Burgon's presentation do not in any essential way affect the eternal validity of his views concerning the New Testament text. They are eternally valid because they are consistently Christian. In this present chapter, therefore, we will follow Burgon in his defense of the Traditional Text in five passages in which it is commonly thought to be altogether indefensible. If in these five instances the Traditional Text wins a favorable verdict, its general trustworthiness may well be regarded as established.

1. Christ's Reply To The Rich Young Man (Matt. 19:16-17)

As Tregelles (1854) observed long ago, (4) we have in Matt. 19:16-17 a test passage in which the relative merits of the Traditional Text on the one side and the Western and Alexandrian texts on the other can be evaluated. Here, according to the Traditional Text. Matthew agrees with Mark and Luke in stating that Jesus answered the rich man's question, What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life, with the counter-question, Why callest thou Me good. But according to Western and Alexandrian texts, Matthew disagrees here with Mark and Luke, affirming that Jesus' counter-question was, Why askest thou Me concerning the good. It is this latter reading that is found in Aleph B D and eight other Greek manuscripts, in the Old Latin and Old Syriac versions and in Origen, Eusebius, and Augustine.

The earliest extant evidence, however, favors the Traditional reading, why callest thou Me good. It is found in the following 2nd-century Fathers: Justin Martyr (c. 150), He answered to one who addressed Him as Good Master, Why callest thou Me good? (5) Irenaeus (c. 180), And to the person who said to Him Good Master, He confessed that God who is truly good, saying, Why callest thou Me good? (6) Hippolytus (c. 200), Why callest thou Me good? One is good, My Father who is in heaven. (7) Modern critics attempt to evade this ancient evidence for the Traditional reading. Why callest thou Me good, by claiming that these early Fathers took this reading from Mark and Luke and not from Matthew. But this is a very unnatural supposition. It is very improbable that all three of these 2nd-century Fathers were quoting from Mark and Luke rather than from Matthew, for Matthew was the dominant Gospel and therefore much more likely to be quoted from than the other two.

The internal evidence also clearly favors the Traditional reading, Why callest thou Me good. The Western and Alexandrian reading, Why askest thou Me concerning the good, has a curiously unbiblical ring. It does not savor of God but of men. It smacks of the philosophy or pseudo-philosophy which was common among the Hellenized gentiles but was probably little known in the strictly Jewish circles in which these words are represented as having been spoken. In short, the Western and Alexandrian reading, Why askest thou Me concerning the good, reminds us strongly of the interminable discussions of the philosophers concerning the summum bonum (the highest good). How could Jesus have reproved the young man for inviting Him to such a discussion, when it was clear that the youth had in no wise done this but had come to Him concerning an entirely different matter, namely, the obtaining of eternal life?

Modern critics agree that the Western and Alexandrian reading, Why askest thou Me concerning the good, does not fit the context and is not what Jesus really said. What Jesus really said, critics admit, was, Why callest thou Me good, the reading recorded in Mark. Matthew altered this reading, critics believe, to avoid theological difficulties. W. C. Allen (1907), for example, conjectures, "Matthew's changes are probably intentional to avoid the rejection by Christ of the title 'good', and the apparent distinction made between Himself and God." (8) B. C. Butler (1951), however, has punctured this critical theory with the following well placed objection. "If Matthew had wanted to change the Marcan version, he could have found an easier way of doing so (by simple omission of our Lord's comment on the man's mode of speech)." (9) This remark is very true, and to it we may add that if Matthew had found difficulty with this word of Jesus it would hardly have occurred to him to seek to solve the problem by bringing in considerations taken from Greek philosophy.

Rendel Harris (1891) had this comment to make on the reading, Why askest thou Me concerning the good. "A text of which we should certainly say a priori that it was a Gnostic depravation. Most assuredly this is a Western reading, for it is given by D a b c e ff g h. But it will be said that we have also to deal with Aleph B L and certain versions. Well, according to Westcott and Hort, Aleph and B were both written in the West, probably at Rome. Did Roman texts never influence one another?" (10) The unbiased student will agree with Harris' diagnosis of the case. It is surely very likely that this reading, redolent as it is of Greek wisdom, originated among Gnostic heretics of a pseudo-philosophic sort. The 2nd-century Gnostic teacher Valentinus and his disciples Heracleon and Ptolemaeus are known to have philosophized much on Matt. 19:17, (11) and it could easily have been one of these three who made this alteration in the sacred text. Whoever it was, he no doubt devised this reading in order to give the passage a more philosophical appearance. Evidently he attempted to model the conversation of Jesus with the rich young man into a Socratic dialogue. The fact that this change made Matthew disagree with Mark and Luke did not bother him much, for, being a heretic, he was not particularly interested in the harmony of the Gospels with each other.

Orthodox Christians, we may well believe, would scarcely have made so drastic a change in the text of Matthew, but when once this new reading had been invented by heretics, they would accept it very readily, for theologically it would be quite agreeable to them. Christ's question, Why callest thou Me good, had troubled them, for it seemed to imply that He was not perfectly good. (Not that it actually does imply this when rightly interpreted, but it seemed to.) What a relief to reject this reading and receive in its place the easier one, Why askest thou Me concerning the good. It is no wonder, therefore, that this false reading had a wide circulation among orthodox Christians of the 3rd century and later. But the true reading, Why callest thou Me good, continued to be read and copied. It is found today in the Sahidic version, in the Peshitta, and in the vast majority of the Greek manuscripts, including W. which is probably the third oldest uncial manuscript of the New Testament in existence.

Thus when the Traditional Text stands trial in a test passage such as Matt. 19 17, it not only clears itself of the charge of being spurious but even secures the conviction of its Western and Alexandrian rivals. The reading found in these latter two texts, Why askest thou Me concerning the good, is seen to possess all the earmarks of a "Gnostic depravation." The R.V., A.S.V., R.S.V., N.E.B. and other modern versions, therefore, are to be censured for serving up to their readers this stale crumb of Greek philosophy in place of the bread of life.

In his comment on this passage Origen gives us a specimen of the New Testament textual criticism which was carried on at Alexandria about 225 A.D. Origen reasons that Jesus could not have concluded his list of God's commandments with the comprehensive requirement, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. For the reply of the young man was, All these things have I kept from my youth up, and Jesus evidently accepted this statement as true. But if the young man had loved his neighbor as himself, he would have been perfect, for Paul says that the whole law is summed up in this saying, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. But Jesus answered, If thou wilt be perfect, etc., implying that the young man was not yet perfect. Therefore, Origen argued, the commandment, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, could not have been spoken by Jesus on this occasion and was not part of the original text of Matthew. This clause, he believed, was added by some tasteless scribe. (12)

Thus it is clear that this renowned Father was not content to abide by the text which he had received but freely engaged in the boldest sort of conjectural emendation. And there were other critics at Alexandria even less restrained than he who deleted many readings of the original New Testament text and thus produced the abbreviated text found in the papyri and in the manuscripts Aleph and B.

2. The Angel At The Pool (John 5:3b-4)

The next test passage in which the Traditional reading ought to be examined is John 5:3b-4, the account of the descent of the angel into the pool of Bethesda. For the benefit of the reader this disputed reading is here given in its context.

2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. 5 And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, He saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? 7 The impotent man answered Him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. 8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. 9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed and walked.

The words in italics (vss. 3b-4) are omitted by Papyri 66 and 75, Aleph B C, a few minuscules, the Curetonian Syriac, the Sahidic, the Bodmer Bohairic, and a few Old Latin manuscripts. This disputed reading, however, has been defended not only by conservatives such as Hengstenberg (1861) (13) but also by radicals such as A. Hilgenfeld (1875) (14) and R. Steck (1893). (15) Hengstenberg contends that "the words are necessarily required by the connection," quoting with approval the remark of von Hofmann (an earlier commentator) that it is highly improbable "that the narrator, who has stated the site of the pool and the number of the porches, should be so sparing of his words precisely with regard to that which it is necessary to know in order to understand the occurrence, and should leave the character of the pool and its healing virtue to be guessed from the complaint of the sick man, which presupposes a knowledge of it." Hilgenfeld and Steck also rightly insist that the account of the descent of the angel into the pool in verse 4 is presupposed in the reply which the impotent man makes to Jesus in verse 7.

Certain of the Church Fathers attached great importance to this reference to the angel's descent into the pool (John 5:3b-4), attributing to it the highest theological significance. The pool they regarded as a type of baptism and the angel as the precursor of the Holy Spirit. Such was the interpretation which Tertullian (c. 200) gave to this passage. "Having been washed," he writes, "in the water by the angel, we are prepared for the Holy Spirit.'' (16) Similarly, Didymus (c 379) states that the pool was "confessedly an image of baptism" and the angel troubling the water "a forerunner of the Holy Spirit.'' (17) And the remarks of Chrysostom (c. 390) are to the same effect. (18) These writers, at least, appear firmly convinced that John 5:3b-4 was a genuine portion of the New Testament text. And the fact that Tatian (c. 175) included this reading in his Diatessaron also strengthens the evidence for its genuineness by attesting its antiquity. (19)

Thus both internal and external evidence favor the authenticity of the allusion to the angel's descent into the pool. Hilgenfeld (20) and Steck (21) suggest a very good explanation for the absence of this reading from the documents mentioned above as omitting it. These scholars point out that there was evidently some discussion in the Church during the 2nd century concerning the existence of this miracle working pool. Certain early Christians seem to have been disturbed over the fact that such a pool was no longer to be found at Jerusalem. Tertullian explained the absence of this pool by supposing that God had put an end to its curative powers in order to punish the Jews for their unbelief. (22) However, this answer did not satisfy everyone, and so various attempts were made to remove the difficulty through conjectural emendation. In addition to those documents which omit the whole reading there are others which merely mark it for omission with asterisks and obels. Some scribes, such as those that produced A and L, omitted John 5:3b, waiting for the moving of the water, but did not have the courage to omit John 5:4, For an angel . . . whatever disease he had. Other scribes, like those that copied out D and W omitted John 5:4 but did not see the necessity of omitting John 5:3b. A and L and about 30 other manuscripts add the genitive of the Lord after angel, and various other small variations were introduced. That the whole passage has been tampered with by rationalistic scribes is shown by the various spellings of the name of the pool, Bethesda, Bethsaida, Bethzatha, etc. In spite of this, however, John 5:3b-4 has been preserved virtually intact in the vast majority of the Greek manuscripts (Traditional Text).

3. The Conclusion Of The Lord's Prayer (Matt. 6:13b)

Modern English versions are "rich in omissions," (to borrow a phrase from Rendel Harris). (23) Time and again the reader searches in them for a familiar verse only to find that it has been banished to the footnotes. And one of the most familiar of the verses to be so treated is Matt. 6:13b, the doxology with which the Lord's Prayer concludes.

(a) External Evidence in Favor of Matt. 6:13b

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever, Amen (Matt. 6:13b). This conclusion of the Lord's Prayer is found in almost all the Greek New Testament manuscripts (according to Legg, (24) in all but ten), including W (4th or 5th century) and Sigma and Phi (both 6th century). It is also found in the Apostolic Constitutions, (25) a 4th century document, and receives further support from Chrysostom (345- 407) (26) who comments on it and quotes it frequently, and from Isidore of Pelusiurn (370 - 440), (27) who quotes it. But, in spite of this indisputable testimony in its favor, it is universally rejected by modern critics. Is this unanimous disapproval in accord with the evidence?

(b) Is the Conclusion of the Lord's Prayer a Jewish Formula?

Matt. 6: 13b is usually regarded as a Jewish prayer-formula that the early Christians took up and used to provide a more fitting termination for the Lord's Prayer, which originally, it is said, ended abruptly with but deliver us from evil. According to W. Michaelis (1948), for example, "It (Matt. 6:13b) is obviously modeled after Jewish prayer-formulas, cf. 1 Chron 29:11." (28)

This seems, however a most improbable way to account for the conclusion of the Lord's Prayer. For if the early Christians had felt the need of something which would provide a smoother ending to this familiar prayer, would they deliberately have selected for that purpose a Jewish prayer-formula in which the name of Jesus does not appear? Even a slight study of the New Testament reveals the difficulty of this hypothesis, for if there was one thing in which the early Christians were united it was in their emphasis on the name of Jesus. Converts were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38); miracles were performed in this name (Acts 4:10); by this name alone was salvation possible (Acts 4:12); early Christians were known as those who "called upon this name" (Acts 9:21). Paul received his apostleship "for the sake of His name" (Rom. 1:5), and John wrote his Gospel in order that the readers "might have life through His name" (John 20:31).


Is it probable then, (is it at all possible) that these primitive Christians, who on all other occasions were ever mindful of their Saviour's name, should have forgotten it so strangely when selecting a conclusion for a prayer which they regarded as having fallen from His lips? Can it be that they deliberately decided to end the Lord's Prayer with a Jewish formula which makes no mention of Christ?

It is a fact, however, that the Lord's Prayer concludes with a doxology in which the name of Christ is not mentioned. Can this surprising fact be explained? Not, we repeat, on the supposition that this conclusion is spurious. For if the early Christians had invented this doxology or had adopted it from contemporary non-Christian usage, they would surely have included in it or inserted into it their Saviour's name. There is therefore only one explanation of the absence of that adorable name from the concluding doxology of the Lord's Prayer, and this is that this doxology is not spurious but a genuine saying of Christ, uttered before He had revealed unto His disciples His deity and so containing no mention of Himself. At the time He gave this model prayer He deemed it sufficient to direct the praises of His followers toward the Father, knowing that as they grew in their comprehension of the mysteries of their faith their enlightened minds would prompt them so to adore Him also. And the similarity of this doxology to 1 Chron. 29:11 is quite understandable. Might not the words which David used in praise of God be fittingly adapted to the same purpose by One who knew Himself to be the messianic Son of David?

(c) The Testimony of the Ancient Versions and of the Didache

The concluding doxology of the Lord's Prayer is not without considerable testimony in its favor of a very ancient sort. It is found in three Syriac versions, the Peshitta, the Harclean, and the Palestinian. Whether the doxology occurred in the Sinaitic Syriac also is not certain, for the last part of the Lord's Prayer is missing from this manuscript. It is found, however, in the Curetonian manuscript, the other representative of the Old Syriac in the following form, Because Thine is the kingdom and the glory, for ever and ever, Amen. The Sahidic also has the doxology of the Lord's Prayer, and so do some manuscripts of the slightly younger Bohairic. In the Sahidic it runs like this, Because Thine is the power and the glory, unto the ages, Amen. And in the Old Latin manuscript k (which is generally thought to contain the version in its oldest form) the Lord's Prayer ends thus, Because to Thee is the power for ever and ever. And the doxology is also found in its customary form in four other Old Latin manuscripts.

Thus the doxology of the Lord's Prayer occurs in five manuscripts of the Old Latin (including the best one), in the Sahidic, and in all the extant Syriac versions. Normally the agreement of three such groups of ancient witnesses from three separate regions would be regarded as an indication of the genuineness of the reading on which they thus agreed. Hort ( 1881 ), (29) however, endeavored to escape the force of this evidence by suggesting that the doxologies found (1) in k, (2) in the Sahidic version, (3) in the Syriac versions and the vast majority of the Greek manuscripts were three independent developments which had no connection with each other. But by this suggestion Hort multiplied three-fold the difficulty mentioned above. If it is difficult to believe that the early Christians chose for their most familiar prayer a conclusion which made no mention of Christ it is thrice as difficult to believe that they did this three times independently in three separate regions. Surely it is easier to suppose that these three doxologies are all derived from an original doxology uttered by Christ and that the variations in wording are due to the liturgical use of the Lord's Prayer, which will be described presently.

The Didache (Teaching) of the Twelve Apostles, a work generally regarded as having been written in the first half of the 2nd century, also bears important witness to the doxology of the Lord's Prayer. This ancient document was not known until 1883, when Bryennios, a Greek Catholic bishop, published it from a copy which he had discovered at Constantinople in 1875. It is a manual of Church instruction in two parts, the first being a statement of Christian conduct to be taught to converts before baptism, and the second a series of directions for Christian worship. Here the following commandment is given concerning prayer. And do not pray as the hypocrites, but as the Lord commanded in His Gospel, pray thus: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, as in heaven so also upon earth; give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debt as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the power and the glory for ever. (30)

Here this early-2nd-century writer claims to have taken this model prayer from the Gospel (of Matthew). Is it not reasonable to believe that he took the whole prayer from Matthew, doxology and all? Who would ever have guessed that this ancient author took the preceding portions of the prayer from Matthew but the doxology from contemporary ecclesiastical usage? Yet this is the strange hypothesis of Michaelis and others who have come to the Didache with their minds firmly made up beforehand to reject the doxology of the Lord's Prayer. In support of his view Michaelis appeals to the absence of the words kingdom and Amen from the Didache, but surely these minor verbal differences are not sufficient to justify his contention that the doxology of the Didache was not taken from Matthew. And perhaps it is permissible to point out once more that if the doxology had been taken from contemporary ecclesiastical usage it would have contained the name of Christ, because the other prayers in the Didache, which were taken from contemporary ecclesiastical usage, all end with a reference to the Saviour.

(d) The Liturgical Use of the Lord's Prayer

But someone may ask why the doxology of the Lord's Prayer is absent from certain New Testament documents if it was actually a portion of the original Gospel of Matthew. An inspection of Legg's critical edition of this Gospel (1940) discloses that the doxology is omitted by Aleph B D S and by six minuscule manuscripts. It is also omitted by all the manuscripts of the Vulgate and by nine manuscripts of the Old Latin. And certain Greek and Latin Fathers omit it in their expositions of the Lord's Prayer. Thus Origen, Tertullian, Cyprian, and Augustine make no mention of it. But these omissions find their explanation in the manner in which the Lord's Prayer was used in the worship services of the early Church.

From very early times the Lord's Prayer was used liturgically in the Church service. This fact is brought home to us by an inspection of C. A. Swainson's volume, The Greek Liturgies (1884). (31) Here the learned author published the most ancient Greek liturgies from the oldest manuscripts available. In the 8th-century Liturgy of St. Basil, after the worshiping people had repeated the body of the Lord's Prayer, the priest concluded it with these words, for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory of the Father, and the people responded, Amen. In two other 8th-century liturgies the wording is the same, except that the doxology repeated by the priest is merely, for Thine is the kingdom. Later the doxologies which the priests were directed to pronounce became more and more elaborate. In the 11th-century Liturgy of St. Chrysostom, after the people had repeated the Lord's Prayer down to the doxology, the priest was to conclude as follows: for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, now and always, and for ever and ever.

Thus we see that from very earliest times in the worship services of the Church the conclusion of the Lord's Prayer was separated from the preceding portions of it. The body of the Prayer was repeated by the people, the conclusion by the priest. Moreover, due to this liturgical use, the conclusion of the Lord's Prayer was altered in various ways in the effort to make it more effective. This, no doubt, was the cause of the minor variations in the doxology which we find in the Didache, the Curetonian Syriac, and the Old Latin manuscript k. And furthermore, a distinction soon grew up between the body of the Lord's Prayer and the conclusion of it, a distinction which was made more sharp by the occurrence of the Lord's Prayer in Luke (given by Christ for the second time, on a different occasion) without the concluding doxology. Because the doxology was always separated from the rest of the Lord's Prayer, it began to be regarded by some Christians as a man-made response and not part of the original prayer as it fell from the lips of Christ. Doubtless for this reason it is absent from the ten Greek manuscripts mentioned above and from most of the manuscripts of the Latin versions. And it may also be for this reason that some of the Fathers do not mention it when commenting on the Lord's Prayer.


4. The Woman Taken In Adultery (John 7:53-8:11)

The story of the woman taken in adultery (called the pericope de adultera) has been rather harshly treated by the modern English versions. The R.V. and the A.S.V. put it in brackets; the R.S.V. relegates it to the footnotes; the N.E.B. follows Westcott and Hort in removing it from its customary place altogether and printing it at the end of the Gospel of John as an independent fragment of unknown origin. The N.E.B. even gives this familiar narrative a new name, to wit, An Incident In the Temple. But as Burgon has reminded us long ago, this general rejection of these precious verses is unjustifiable.

(a) Ancient Testimony Concerning the Pericope de Adultera (John 7:53-8:11)

The story of the woman taken in adultery was a problem also in ancient times. Early Christians had trouble with this passage. The forgiveness which Christ vouchsafed to the adulteress was contrary to their conviction that the punishment for adultery ought to be very severe. As late as the time of Ambrose (c. 374), bishop of Milan, there were still many Christians who felt such scruples against this portion of John's Gospel. This is clear from the remarks which Ambrose makes in a sermon on David's sin. "In the same way also the Gospel lesson which has been read, may have caused no small offense to the unskilled, in which you have noticed that an adulteress was brought to Christ and dismissed without condemnation . . . Did Christ err that He did not judge righteously? It is not right that such a thought should come to our minds etc." (32)

According to Augustine (c. 400), it was this moralistic objection to the pericope de adultera which was responsible for its omission in some of the New Testament manuscripts known to him. "Certain persons of little faith," he wrote, "or rather enemies of the true faith, fearing, I suppose, lest their wives should be given impunity in sinning, removed from their manuscripts the Lord's act of forgiveness toward the adulteress, as if He who had said 'sin no more' had granted permission to sin." (33) Also, in the 10th century a Greek named Nikon accused the Armenians of "casting out the account which teaches us how the adulteress was taken to Jesus . . . saying that it was harmful for most persons to listen to such things." (34)

That early Greek manuscripts contained this pericope de adultera is proved by the presence of it in the 5th-century Greek manuscript D. That early Latin manuscripts also contained it is indicated by its actual appearance in the Old Latin codices b and e. And both these conclusions are confirmed by the statement of Jerome (c. 415) that "in the Gospel according to John in many manuscripts, both Greek and Latin, is found the story of the adulterous woman who was accused before the Lord." (35) There is no reason to question the accuracy of Jerome's statement, especially since another statement of his concerning an addition made to the ending of Mark has been proved to have been correct by the actual discovery of the additional material in W. And that Jerome personally accepted the pericope de adultera as genuine is shown by the fact that he included it in the Latin Vulgate.

Another evidence of the presence of the pericope de adultera in early Greek manuscripts of John is the citation of it in the Didascalia (Teaching) of the Apostles and in the Apostolic Constitutions, which are based on the Didascalia.

. . . to do as He also did with her that had sinned, whom the elders set before Him, and leaving the judgment in His hands departed. But He, the Searcher of Hearts, asked her and said to her, 'Have the elders condemned thee, my daughter?" She saith to Him, 'Nay, Lord.' And He said unto her, 'Go thy way: Neither do I condemn thee.' (36)

In these two documents (from the 3rd and 4th centuries respectively) bishops are urged to extend forgiveness to penitent sinners. After many passages of Scripture have been cited to enforce this plea, the climax is reached in the supreme example of divine mercy, namely, the compassion which Christ showed to the woman taken in adultery. Tischendorf admitted that this citation was taken from the Gospel of John. "Although," he wrote, "the Apostolic Constitutions do not actually name John as the author of this story of the adulteress, in vain would anyone claim that they could have derived this story from any other source." (37) It is true that R. H. Connolly (1929) (38) and other more recent critics insist that the citation was not taken from the canonical Gospel of John but from the apocryphal Gospel according to the Hebrews, but this seems hardly credible. During the whole course of the argument only passages from the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are adduced. Can we suppose that when the authors of these two works reached the climax of their plea for clemency toward the penitent they would abandon the Scriptures at last and fall back on an apocryphal book?

Another important testimony concerning the pericope de adultera is that of Eusebius (c. 324). In his Ecclesiastical History Eusebius gives extracts from an ancient treatise written by Papias (d. 150), bishop of Hierapolis, entitled Interpretation of the Oracles of the Lord. Eusebius concludes his discussion of Papias' writings with the following statement: "The same writer used quotations from the first Epistle of John, and likewise also from that of Peter, and has expounded another story about a woman who was accused before the Lord of many sins, which the Gospel according to the Hebrews contains." (39)

From this statement of Eusebius naturalistic critics have inferred that Eusebius knew the pericope de adultera only as a story occurring in the writings of Papias and in the Gospel according to the Hebrews and not as a part of the canonical Gospel of John. This conclusion, however, by no means follows necessarily. Eusebius may have been hostile to the story of the woman taken in adultery not only because of moralistic objections but also because it was related by Papias. For Eusebius had a low opinion of Papias and his writings. "He was a man of very little intelligence," Eusebius declared, "as is clear from his books." (40) It may very well be that the disdain which Eusebius felt for Papias made him reluctant to mention the fact that Papias' story occurred also in some of the manuscripts of the Gospel of John. At any rate, an argument against the genuineness of John 7:53-8:11 based on Eusebius is purely an argument from silence, and arguments from silence are always weak. Instead of stressing Eusebius' silence it is more reasonable to lay the emphasis upon his positive testimony, which is that the story of the woman taken in adultery is a very ancient one, reaching back to the days of the Apostles.

Also the Spanish Father Pacian (c. 370) appealed to the pericope de adultera when protesting against excessive severity in discipline. "Are you not willing," he asked, "to read in the Gospel that the Lord also spared the adulteress who confessed, whom no man had condemned?" (41)

(b) What the Facts of History Indicate

The facts of history indicate that during the early Christian centuries throughout the Church adultery was commonly regarded as such a serious sin that it could be forgiven, if at all, only after severe penance. For example, Cyprian (c. 250) says that certain bishops who preceded him in the province of North Africa "thought that reconciliation ought not to be given to adulterers and allowed to conjugal infidelity no place at all for repentance." (42) Hence offence was taken at the story of the adulterous woman brought to Christ, because she seemed to have received pardon too easily. Such being the case, it is surely more reasonable to believe that this story was deleted from John's Gospel by over-zealous disciplinarians than to suppose that a narrative so contrary to the ascetic outlook of the early Christian Church was added to John's Gospel from some extra-canonical source. There would be a strong motive for deleting it but no motive at all for adding it, and the prejudice against it would make its insertion into the Gospel text very difficult.

Not only conservatives but also clear thinking radical scholars have perceived that the historical evidence favors the belief that the pericope de adultera was deleted from the text of the fourth Gospel rather than added to it. "The bold presentation of the evangelist," Hilgenfeld (1875) observed, "must at an early date, especially in the Orient have seemed very offensive." (43) Hence Hilgenfeld regarded Augustine's statement that the passage had been deleted by overscrupulous scribes "as altogether not improbable." And Steck (1893) suggested that the story of the adulteress was incorporated in the Gospel of John before it was first published. "That it later," concluded Steck, "was set aside out of moral prudery is easily understandable." (44)

Rendel Harris (1891) was convinced that the Montanists, an ascetic Christian sect which flourished during the 2nd century, were acquainted with the pericope de adultera. "The Montanist Churches," he wrote, "either did not receive this addition to the text, or else they are responsible for its omission; but at the same time it can be shown that they knew of the passage perfectly well in the West; for the Latin glossator of the Acts has borrowed a few words from the section in Acts 5:18. (45) In Acts 5:18 we are told that the rulers laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison. To this verse the Latin portion of D adds, and they went away each one to his house. As Harris observes, this addition is obviously taken from the description of the breaking up of the council meeting in John 7:53. If the Montanists were the ones who added these words to Acts 5:18, then the pericope de adultera must have been part of John's Gospel at a very early date.

Naturalistic scholars who insist that John 7:53-8:11 is an addition to the Gospel text can maintain their position only by ignoring the facts, by disregarding what the ancient writers say about this pericope de adultera and emphasizing the silence of other ancient writers who say nothing about it at all. This is what Hort did in his Introduction (1881). Here the testimony of Ambrose and Augustine is barely mentioned, and the statement of Nikon concerning the Armenians is dismissed as mere abuse. (46) Contrary to the evidence Hort insisted that the pericope de adultera was not offensive to the early Church. "Few in ancient times, there is reason to think, would have found the section a stumbling block except Montanists and Novatians." (47) With the implications of this sweeping statement, however, Rendel Harris could not agree. "Evidently," he observed, "Dr. Hort did not think that the tampering of the Montanists with the text amounted to much; we, on the contrary, have reason to believe that it was a very far reaching influence." (48)






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