Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pericope adulterae

Over at CT there is an article on the Pericope adulterae: Is 'Let Him Who Is Without Sin Cast the First Stone' Biblical? by Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra. It includes this quote:

"Such judgments [about the inauthenticity of the pericope] raise questions about what words like canonicity and inspiration mean for evangelicals. If we reserve the word inspired for the text in the earliest manuscripts, yet accept that other material (such as the pericope adulterae) should be included in our biblical canon, are we implying that select biblical passages may be canonical yet not inspired? If so, what should we do with this distinction?"

My questions are:

1. Would you preach this text? Me, personally, no! But it is a charming story about forgiveness and grace and I can refer to it on those terms.

2. How do you explain this to Christians without undermining their confidence in the Scripture? Some Christians have a view of Scripture that is totally ignorant of the area of textual criticism and they get squirmy with the questions it raises (this is why there are Textus Receptus-folk and KJV-only fruit cakes in the first place). In other words, they accept the authority of the text but have never wrestled with the phenomenon of the text. This is why pastors should run an adult Sunday school study on textual criticism.

I have to say that some time ago I read a comment at the Christianity Today news site where one unfortunate chappy claimed that "using an Alexandrian text will lead to an Alexandria spirituality, read your King James Bible!". In making an educated guess of this chappy's position I would love to ask, "Does using a text reconstructed by a Catholic humanist professor lead to a Catholic spirituality?" (immense apologies to my Catholic friends!).

7 comments:

Ken Schenck said...

I always found it deeply ironic that Erasmus was a Catholic humanist who was one of Luther's principal sparring partners, that the 1611 King James included the Apocrypha, and--at least as rumor has it--King James preferred the young men at court to women... somehow all these things seem somewhat discordant with the usual MO of a King James only person.

Tim Ricchuiti said...

Dan Wallace actually addressed that very question at the recent Greer-Heard Forum. He said the best way to go about it was to prepare a congregation for those types of issues (text-critical in this case) ahead of time, so that when a pastor gets to John 7:52 it's little more than a comment to move onto 8:12. I would tend to agree: I think it's a bad idea to start separating "biblicity" and canonicity in the pulpit.

Wayne said...

What would be some helpful resources for a pastor to use in order to put a class on 'textual criticism' together? I would love to put a class together, but I'm not sure where I would start.

greg said...

I think going through F.F. Bruce's The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, and having group discussions would be a great way to introduce the topic. He's definitely a scholar in this area, but that book isn't too "scholarly."

Joel Willitts said...

Shouldn't our view of inspiration apply to the church's preservation of the text as well as its composition? If the church has handed down to us the story should we now decide that it is not inspired Scripture because it is not in the earliest MSS?

Wieland Willker said...

Just a few days ago I posted this on the textualcriticism list:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/textualcriticism/message/3662

Jim Swindle said...

The passage is completely in harmony with the Jesus whom we know from all of the rest of the New Testament. Whether or not it was in the very earliest manuscript, its very broad acceptance from early days to now leads me to think that it's both apostolic and canonical. After all, it's quite possible for something to be apostolic without being in the same original. I suspect that it was added to John, and added precisely because it was apostolic.