When Dallas Theological Seminary professor Daniel Wallace examined New Testament manuscripts stored in the National Archive in Albania last June, he was amazed by what he did not find.
The story of the woman caught in adultery, usually found in John 7:53-8:11, was missing from three of the texts, and was out of place in a fourth, tacked on to the end of John's Gospel.
"This is way out of proportion for manuscripts from the 9th century and following," Wallace said. "Once we get into that era, the manuscripts start conforming much more to each other. Thus, to find some that didn't have the story is remarkable."
Wallace called modern translations' inclusion of the famous narrative, in which Jesus said, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone" and told the woman to "go and sin no more," the result of "a tradition of timidity."
The Roman Catholic Church requires this story to be considered Scripture, and Protestants have not broken with that tradition, even though it is missing from the earliest and most reliable manuscripts. During the 5th century, the church was sorting out what, exactly, should be in the canon of inspired Scripture. Pericope adulterae, as it is known, first appears in a Greek text during this period, although it is alluded to by Greek writers as early as the 2nd century.
Many scholars agree that the verses are not original to John's Gospel, pointing out that the story interrupts the flow of the verses that come before and after. The style is also noticeably different from that of John's usual writing.
But that doesn't mean that all Bible scholars want the story removed. Many of them disagree with Wallace and believe it relays an historical event and that it belongs in our Bible.
"There is no reason to pull ...