In the story in the gospel of John, Jesus with the adulterous woman was
not found in the most reliable sources such as Codex Sinaiticus and Codex
Vaticanus. Why is the story in our Bible’s today if it was not in what is
considered the most authoritative documents on biblical manuscripts? It
kind of bugs me because in Matthew 5 Jesus says that nothing will
disappear from the law. The word of God should be flawless, so I am just
curious about that. If someone later inserted John 8 with the adulterous
woman then how can that gospel be inspired? I know that the story goes
with the character of Jesus but anyone can do that and insert it in the
Bible. I hope that you can clarify this for me.

This is a good question! What you are referring to is the fact
that good Bible translation will note that the story of the woman caught
in adultery in John chapter eight is not found in the earliest and most
reliable manuscripts. The important question is not so much whether the
story was in the original, but whether the story is true. The fact is
that all the later manuscripts included the passage in John 8. There are
only three of all the thousands of Greek manuscripts which do not include
John 8. The problem is that it is the three which do not include John
8:1-11 are the earliest and most reliable. The questions is how did it
get there and why. After thinking about this question quite a bit, the
conclusion I have reached is that the story of the woman caught in
adultery is a true story–probably one which was often told by the apostle
John himself. I am guessing that this story became so strongly associated
with John that because of this consensus, at some point an editor put it
into the gospel of John. It is also possible that with the original
gospel of John there were two versions, one with and one without this
story, but this explanation seems less likely to me. In any case, as you
imply, everything in this story has the feel of a genuine incident in the
life of Jesus. I can think of no significant doctrine or teaching in the
Bible which would be changed either by including or excluding this

Let us assume that the above speculation is true. Does this
somehow make the Bible less inspired by God? Did every inspired writing
ever written find its way into the Bible? Obviously not. By the way, the
passage you reference in Matthew chapter five is not speaking about
whether some single word or phrase would or would not be lost in the New
Testament. Jesus is saying that none of the requirements in the Law of
Moses will be removed by his ministry. Jesus did not remove the Law of
Moses, but rather he fulfilled the requirements of the Law of Moses. The
word of God is flawless, and I see nothing about the passage in John 8
which would negatively impact my belief about the inspiration of the Bible.

Let us consider for a moment the worst case scenario. If the
story of the woman caught in adultery was not even a true story, yet was
included in the later manuscripts of the New Testament, even that would
not make the original uninspired (not that I believe this is the case,
personally). The fundamental question is whether the original writings of
the Bible authors were inspired by God. To illustrate this point,
consider 1 John 5:7,8. There is a section here which found its way into
later Greek manuscripts but which was not found in any of the earlier
manuscripts. This section was almost without question added by a later
editor, not because John wrote this passage, but in order to support their
own doctrine of the Trinity. That is why most translations only include
this little passage in the margins. The point is that even if some
sincere but misguided editor added his own little comment into a New
Testament book, that would not bring into question the inspiration of the
original writing, which is the principle question at issue. All the
evidence I have seen is that God has managed, despite the imperfect
efforts of humanity, to pass on to use both an Old and a New Testament
text which is essentially the same as the original. I discuss this
question in detail in an article at this web site. Click on: A
Remarkable Collection. You will also find a chapter on this subject in my
book Reasons for Belief: A Handbook of Christian Evidence.

John Oakes, PhD

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