Book Review To Cast the First Stone

Book Review To Cast the First Stone
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   - 1 - Book Review: To Cast the First Stone James Snapp Jr.Initially published at The Text of the Gospels 2019  Last year, Princeton University Press released To Cast the First Stone , a book by Tommy Wasserman and Jennifer Knust about the story of the adulteress (John 7:53-8:11). Tommy Wasserman (academic dean at Örebro Theological Seminary in Sweden, about 120 miles west of Stockholm) is perhaps best known to American scholars as the author of The Epistle of Jude: Its Text and Transmission  (2006), and as the General Editor of the online TC-Journal  . He is also involved in the International Greek New Testament Project. Jennifer Knust is a professor of Religious Studies at Duke University, and is the author of Unprotected Texts . Back in 2014, Wasserman and Knust were among the participants in a symposium on the  pericope adulterae  (“section about the adulteress”) at Southeast Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina – a symposium which concluded with an affirmation by all of the participants that the  pericope adulterae  should be proclaimed in churches. Instead of a  Perspectives -style volume in which all symposium-participants  present their views, we have, five years later, To Cast the First Stone: The Transmission of a Gospel Story . This is not the text-critically focused volume that some readers might expect. Nowhere in its 344 pages (440 if the bibliography and indices are counted) is there a straightforward list of Greek manuscripts in which John 7:53-8:11 follows John 7:52, and of Greek manuscripts which have nothing at all between John 7:52 and John 8:11, and of Greek manuscripts which move all twelve verses to another location (after John 21, or after Luke 21:38, for example), and of Greek manuscripts which have only part of the passage (either John 7:53-8:2, or John 8:3-11). Readers must reach the table on pages 280-281 to find a  presentation of how the passage is treated in uncial manuscripts. In a book which Bart Ehrman has predicted to be “definitive,” this is a major shortcoming, especially when one notices how much of the book dwells upon minutiae. The description of patristic evidence  presented by Wasserman and Knust is likewise insufficient. (Prosper of Aquitaine? Faustus? These names do not appear.) Readers are sure to learn much, however, about a wide variety of peripheral subjects. For example, Marcion (an infamous heretic of the second century) is thoroughly rehabilitated; Wasserman and Knust declare that he was actually “a modest rather than a   - 2 - radical redactor” (p. 113). Several pages (pp. 185-191) address the question of the  provenance of Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus – inconclusively. Mark 16:9-20 comesup again and again, although Wasserman and Knust avoid going into much detail about the voluminous support this passage receives. They affirm that the passage should be viewed as “unquestionably canonical” (p. 19). Other subjects covered in the first half of the book include Julius Africanus’ rejection of the book of Susanna, singular omissions in early Greek manuscripts of John, the significance of asterisks and obeloi in Origen’s  Hexapla , the story of Judith, the prayer of Sarah in the book of Tobit, an episode in the “  Martyrdom of Peter, ” the Roman story of the rape of Lucretia, the debauchery of Claudius’ wife Messalina, and even Cleopatra. Readers may find the first half of the book rather padded. Things get better after the first 200 pages. Chapter 6 begins with an account of fourth-century references to the  pericope adulterae  in Latin patristic writings. Unfortunately,little care has been taken to differentiate between quotations and allusions and  possible  quotations and  possible allusions. A statement by Hilary of Poitiers is called an allusion although it may be a case of coincidental uses of the same common terms. The authors describe the statement of the monk Gnositheos, including the phrase, “if anyone is without sin,” as “a brief allusion to the adulteress” (p. 203) although the similarity to John 8:7 may be entirely coincidental. Wasserman and Knust go into detail about two pieces of evidence which will doubtlessly be of interest to many readers, for these important details have not been covered in popular materials such as Metzger’s Textual Commentary : (1)  the Greek base-text of Ambrose’s quotations of the  pericope adulterae , and (2)  the support given to the  pericope adulterae  as part of the text of the Gospel of John following 7:52 and preceding 8:12, in the Old Latin capitula , or chapter-summaries. Ambrose, the authors observe, “appears either to have translated directly from the Greek or to have consulted diverse Latin witnesses or, as is more likely, both options” (p. 220). They point out that Ambrose’s term amodo , in his quotation of John 8:11, has no support in Latin manuscripts, and should be considered “a calque, that is, a new Latin word designed to match the Greek phrase ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν (or ἀπ’ ἄρτι)” (p. 222). The Latin capitula  – a subject I have visited previously – were collected, compared, and published by Donatien De Bruyne in 1914. Wasserman and Knust present De Bruyne’s data showing that the Latin capitula  exist in multiple forms that in one way or another mention the account of the adulteress. Two of these forms of the capitula  are especially interesting: “Form Cy” (“Cy” stands for Cyprian) was assigned by De Bruyne to the time of Cyprian or shortly thereafter, that is, to the mid-200s. It has the phrase ub adulteram dimisit   at the beginning of a chapter-summary, stating that after Jesus dismissed the adulteress, He testified that He is the light of the world, speaking at the treasury in the temple, etc. Wasserman and Knust also point out that another form, “Form I,” uses the Greek loanword moechatione ; this may confirm that the Old Latin text(s) of the  pericope adulterae  was translated from Greek. Somewhat surprisingly – considering that Wasserman and Knust repeatedly affirm their belief that the  pericope adulterae  is not srcinal – the authors grant that if De Bruyne is correct in his dating of the Old Latin capitula forms, and also correct in his view that ub adulteram dimisit   is not an interpolation (and Wasserman and Knust present nothing to   - 3 - support any other view), then “the pericope adulterae was present in John in a Latin context  by the third century” (p. 263). This admission – basically conceding that the Old Latin capitula  constitute plausible evidence that the story of the adulteress was in the Greek text of John from which Latin translations were made in the 100s (“by the third century”) – renders the earliest evidence for the inclusion of the passage practically contemporary with the earliest manuscript-evidence for its non-inclusion. (I see no way to reconcile this with the authors’ statement on page 268 that “It seems likely that the Johannine pericope adulteraewas interpolated in the early third century.”) Other evidence is also covered: the treatment of John 7:53-8:11 in Codex Bezae and its marginalia, Jerome’s reference to the inclusion of the story of the adulteress in many manuscripts, both Greek and Latin, the assignment of a chapter-heading to the passage in some medieval manuscripts, the support for the  pericope adulterae  in most Old Latin manuscripts, and corrections of some misinformation that has been spread about the  passage. Regarding this last subject, some readers may be shocked by the mercifully brief critique the authors supply as they test the accuracy of a paragraph from Metzger’s Textual Commentary  on page 251. For those who have trusted D. A. Carson’s claim that “All the early church fathers omit this narrative,” or Steven Cole’s claim that no early versions include the story of the adulteress, the data provided by Wasserman and Knust should be illuminating, the way being struck with a cattle prod is illuminating. Some readers may be exasperated by the amount of information in this book that doesnot pertain directly to the text of the story about the adulteress; it pertains instead to what may be called “ancient Christian book culture.” The tour of ecclesiastical treatment of the  New Testament text is far too scenic. Yet this may be advantageous to readers who might appreciate being told things such as the following: ● Codex Bezae might have been copied from a third-century bilingual exemplar (p. 236). ● Eighteen papyri manuscripts from the 100s and 200s with text from the Gospel of John have been found, but only two of them (P66 and P75) contain John 7:52 and 8:12. (p. 67) ● “In the case of the Gospel of John, a circle of friends added a series of  postresurrection appearances to the end of the Gospel.” (p. 91, footnote, referring to John 21.) This last data-nugget may serve as a sort of model for the authors’ solution to the question, “What should be done with the story about the adulteress, and why?” . It would have seemed heavy-handed if they had said, “The passage is not srcinal, but it should be retained because the Council of Trent said so,” or, “The passage is not srcinal, but it should  be retained because it has been declared “inspired, authentic, canonical Scripture” by the Orthodox Church.” Instead, Wasserman and Knust affirm that the  pericope adulterae  is not srcinal, but offer a more nuanced basis for an argument for its inclusion: on balance, ancient Christian book culture affirmed the passage and proclaimed its message. Can a convincing case be made that John did not write the  pericope adulterae  as part of the Gospel of John? Yes, say Wasserman and Knust – but similarly they are convinced that John, anticipating his death, did not write the twenty-first chapter of the Gospel of John; the   - 4 - embrace of the supplemented text in ancient Christian book culture may be considered a  better guide, when it comes to defining the canonical text, than strict matters of authorship. Some readers (myself included) may be disappointed that Wasserman and Knust did not spend more time engaging Maurice Robinson’s theory ( presented at the 2014 symposium) that the  pericope adulterae  is an srcinal segment of the Gospel of John which fell out of the text in an early influential transmission-stream. Robinson proposed that in an early lection-cycle, the annual reading for Pentecost was John 7:37-52 with 8:12 attached (as it is in the Byzantine lectionary). An early copyist, either deliberately adjusting the text to make the lector’s job easier, or accidentally misinterpreting marginalia that told the lector to skip ahead to 8:12, omitted 7:53-8:11. Thus, the theory goes, the  pericope adulterae  was dropped from the text – not due to anyone’s desire to suppress it, but as a conformation of theform of the text used in a rudimentary lection-cycle. Wasserman and Knust attempt to refute Robinson’s theory by citing the Typikon of the Great Church – a ninth-century liturgical book in which, among other things, Gospels-segments are arranged for each day of the year. The authors grant that in this source, the Gospels-segment for Pentecost was indeed John 7:37-52 with 8:12 attached. They also observe that in this Pentecost-lection, there are no instructions to skip from the main segment(John 7:37-52) to the closing segment (8:12), although such skip-from-here-to-there instructions appear for other lections which consist of more than one segment of text. “This evidence,” Wasserman and Knust state on page 298, “suggests to us that the Johannine  pericope adulterae was simply missing from copies available in Constantinople when the Pentecost lection was assigned,” and (p. 299) “It seems fairly certain that the pericope adulterae did not enter Byzantine copies of John until the close of the fourth century, or even later.” Explanations for the Typikon’s non-use of skip-from-here-to-there instructions for thePentecost lection can easily be imagined, but the thing to see is that the authors’ proposal thatthe  pericope adulterae  was not in the text at Constantinople when the Pentecost lection was assigned does not really touch Robinson’s model, in which the basic Byzantine lection-cycle echoes an earlier lection-cycle in which the loss of the  pericope adulterae  had already occurred. Wasserman and Knust do not adequate address Robinson’s point that it is difficult to  picture a Byzantine scribe deciding to insert the  pericope adulterae  within the lection for Pentecost, when simpler options existed, such as putting it at John 7:36 (so as to immediately precede the Pentecost lection). They simply acknowledge, “This aspect of Robinson’s argument is convincing.” So how do they explain the presence of the  pericope adulterae  within the Pentecost lection in over 1,400 manuscripts of John? Similarly they offer no explanation for the first sentence of the  pericope adulterae : as Robinson asked in 2014, what kind of freestanding story begins with “Then everyone went home.”??? A more satisfying explanation is given for the migration of the  pericope adulterae  to a place after Luke 21:38 in family-13 manuscripts ( et al  ). As Chris Keith has already shown,the insertion of the  pericope adulterae  to follow Luke 21:38 is an effect of treating the  passage like a lection; the movement to this location made the lector’s job easier; the lector could thus find the lection for Oct. 8 (the Feast of Pelagia) near the lection for Oct. 7 (the Feast of Sergius and Bacchus). Everything you have read or heard to the effect that   - 5 - the  pericope   adulterae  is shown to be a “floating anecdote” by its appearance after Luke 21:38 in family-13 manuscripts can be safely ignored. A few shortcomings of To Cast the First Stone  may be covered briefly: ● There is no variant-by-variant treatment of the text of the  pericope adulterae . An opportunity has thus been missed to show readers the differences in the forms in which the  pericope adulterae  appears in various sets of witnesses. The interesting distinctive readings in the passage in the family-1 manuscripts are never given a spotlight. In a book that gives two full pages to the Lothair Crystal, this was neglectful. ● Asterisks were discussed briefly but the authors seem to have given up any attempt to analyze their use by scribes producing Gospel-manuscripts: “The precise meaning of asteriskoi in Byzantine Gospel manuscripts remains opaque,” they acknowledge on page 128. But what would have been a better occasion to shine a strong light upon copyists’ use of asterisks and other marks than when investigating the  pericope adulterae ? ● Only slight attention is given to the  pericope adulterae  in the Armenian version; noattention is given to the Georgian version. No explanation is offered for the treatment of the  pericope adulterae  in a small group of Georgian copies in which the passage appears after John 7:44. This is unfortunate, inasmuch as the Christian Standard Bible has a footnotewhich mentions this dislocation; CSB-readers are bound to think (incorrectly) that the footnote describes Greek manuscripts. ● Wasserman and Knust treat Jerome’s affirmation (in  Against the Pelagians   2:17  ) that the story of the adulteress is found in many copies, both Greek and Latin, with unwarranted skepticism: “The existence of many copies of John “in both Greek and Latin” with the pericope adulterae,” they write on p. 236, “though presupposed by Jerome, cannot easily be confirmed.” This is certainly true once one no longer considers a statement (not a  presupposition but an assertion )  from the supreme scholar of his age to be confirmation. It seems bold – not in a good way – to look back 1,600 years, squint, and say that Jerome’s claim “may have been an exaggeration.” ● Too little attention is given to Codex Macedonianus; unless readers consults a detail in the footnote on pages 280-281, below the two-page table, they could get a false impression from the table. Codex Ebnerianus should have been featured, and more attention should have been given to the Palestinian Syriac lectionary’s dislocation of John 8:3-11 to the end of the Gospel. Also, readers could have benefited from some acknowledgement that dozens of the manuscripts in which the  pericope adulterae  does not appear are copies of the same medieval commentary, and thus boil down to a single relatively late source. ● Codex Fuldensis is erroneously assigned to 569 on page 230; the correct date (546) is stated in a footnote on page 4. Also, it is difficult to explain the description of Codex Fuldensis as “a fifth-century Latin Gospel harmony” on page 260. ● No detailed analysis of the lacuna in Codex Alexandrinus was provided; this wouldhave been helpful. ● Annotations found in 039 and in minuscules 34, 135, 1187, 1282, and 1424 should have been included in the discussion of critical notes on pages 279ff. ● The description of GA 1333’s secondary inclusion of John 8:3-11  between Luke and John is insufficient. ● Didymus the Blind stated in his commentary on Ecclesiastes that there had been found, “in certain Gospels” – ἔν τισιν εὐαγγελίοις – an account in which Jesus says,
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