Patricia Hofer

Bible scholars’ interpretations do have limitations.

Bible scholars have added greatly to our understanding of the “voice” and the “words” of Bible texts, and I appreciate their work. But their scholarly interpretations do have limitations. For example, Jesus’ encounter with the woman taken in adultery has often been questioned for its authenticity (John 8: 1-11). The earliest available Greek texts of John’s Gospel didn’t include it, which leads some to the presumption that it was fabricated.
My question is, by whom? Whose “agenda” would have been furthered by making up such a story? Certainly the Pharisees wouldn’t have done that. They were the ones who looked foolish in it. And the scribes in the early Christian church had no doctrinal reason to fabricate a story about not condemning a woman’s adultery. And then, too, if Erasmus added the narrative many centuries later, as Bart Ehrman and others speculate (Misquoting Jesus, 64-65, 82), what would be the purpose of his adding a fabrication on this kind of topic?
The most likely scenario is that this encounter with Jesus sustained itself in oral tradition because it really happened. It is something that only the Son of God would do or could do. Only he would have responded the way he did at that time and in that place. And Jesus didn’t answer in a physically authoritative or confrontational or doctrinal way, as a fictional account would likely have written it. Rather, he “stooped down,” allowing the accusers to be convicted by their consciences. And as CS Lewis, a literary critic and writer, pointed out, there is no reason for a fictional account to include the odd detail that Jesus “bent down and scribbled in the dust with His finger.” Such a trivial occurrence, wrote Lewis, had to have been there only because the one recounting the story had “seen it” (God in the Dock 159). (quoted from Living Large, chapter 42, ©️ 2013)

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