Baker Academic

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Jenny Knust and Tommy Wasserman's Breakthrough in Pericope Adulterae Research—Chris Keith

I'm just now getting caught up after the Society of Biblical Literature conference in San Antonio last month.  I will have more to say but have to pass along one of the most exciting things that happened.  In a session dedicated to applying the work of classicist William A. Johnson to issues in early Christianity and rabbinic Judaism, Jenny Knust presented some of the research that she and Tommy Wasserman have completed for a forthcoming monograph on the transmission history of the Pericope Adulterae (John 7:53-8:11).  This presentation featured the para-textual evidence of Latin capitula and Greek kephalaia, chapter division systems in ancient mansucripts.  On some matters, Knust and Wasserman confirm what others have argued (including yours truly), which is that the passage likely entered the Gospel of John by the third century in a Greek manuscript but in the Latin-dominant West.  On other matters, however, Knust and Wasserman have broken entirely new ground by focusing on evidence that nearly everyone else (including yours truly) has ignored.  In so doing, they've demonstrated rather conclusively that the passage was not ignored in the Greek-dominant East until the twelfth century.  This thought that the story was ignored in the Greek East is attributable largely to Metzger's The Text of the New Testament:

"The account is lacking in the best Greek manuscripts. . . .  No Greek Church father for 1,000 years after Christ refers to the pericope as belonging to the fourth Gospel, including even those who, like Origen, Chrysostom, and Nonnus . . . dealth with the entire Gospel verse by verse.  Euthymius Zigabenus, who lived in the first part of the twelfth century, is the first Greek writer to comment on the passage." (319-20, 4th ed.).

In the commentaries on the Fourth Gospel that treat John 7:53-8:11, you very regularly find some version of this statement about Euthymius in the 12th century.  I'm happy to say that in my 2009 monograph I disagreed with Metzger's claim on the basis of the sixth-century Syriac Chronicle of Zacharias Rhetor (translatedfrom a fifth-century Greek text) and Nicon (possibly tenth century).  Knust goes further in challenging Metzger:  "Yes, prior to the twelfth-century the passage was overlooked in Byzantine homilies and commentaries, but somehow, and for some unstated reason, the pericope adulterae became important enough that it was granted its own, unique chapter." In short, most Byzantine manuscripts have an 18-chapter version of the Gospel of John, but a minority add a 19th chapter in order to include the story of the adulteress.  These manuscripts themselves are later, but three manuscripts in Family 1 (1 [12 cent. in NA28], 565 [9th cent.], 1582 [948 CE]) have a scribal note that states that (1) most manuscripts do not have the kephalaion about the adulteress, (2) John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, and Theodore of Mopsuestia do not mention the story, and (3) it is found in a few manuscripts, and in these it is in the 86th Ammonian section after John 7:52.  In light of the uniform nature of the comment, the particular fathers mentioned, and the possibility that the 10th-century scribe of 1582 had access to the library of Caesarea (argued by Amy Anderson), as well as some supporting evidence from Eusebius' scribal practices, Knust concludes that it is possible to date a 19-chapter Greek Gospel of John that includes the kephalaion of the adulteress to the fifth century CE.  Independently of this, however, the kephalaia, as a para-textual reference system, demonstrates conclusively that Greek scribal authorities "commented on" the Pericope Adulterae prior to the 12th century.

Jenny Knust and Tommy Wasserman have just re-written Bruce Metzger.


  1. You are aware that this was already noted in my book, right?

    It's just 99 cents. If this is too much I will gladly send a free copy.

    Also, this is not news. As you surely know, John Gwynn pointed out the material in the Zacharias-Rhetor source back in the 1800's. Metzger simply never clarified his inaccurate comment, and so it spread.

    1. I've never read your book. Yes, I am aware of John Gwynn's work, and it's his work that I discuss in my book on PA in reference to the Syriac tradition. This nevertheless remains news because Gwynn did not discuss the full material in the Byzantine tradition to my knowledge; he focused entirely on the Syriac tradition. The folks at Muenster have confirmed that Knust and Wasserman have made some new discoveries, so I think that qualifies as "news."

  2. Dear James, we are certainly not claiming that everything here is new. On the contrary, we are referring to other scholars' work (in the case of Family 1 and the scholion in question of course the studies by Amy Anderson and Allison Welsby), and primary material (of the type you heard me present at SEBTS some years ago). We try to paint a larger picture and draw out the implications of known or unknown pieces of evidence. As you can imagine, there is much more to this than Chris' notes from the SBL presentation.