The other day I wrote a post about how the ending of the Mark’s gospel was added to the bible when scholars realized the original ending contradicted the other gospels. I also promised a followup with another example of people adding things to the bible. Here it is.
In the Gospel of John there is an often cited story about Jesus and an adulterous woman. We all know the story. Jesus is doing Jesusy things, like visiting temples and stuff. A group of men bring a woman in front of him, calling her an adulterous woman and reminding Jesus that Moses’ law demands that she be stoned to death. Jesus says, “Let he without sin cast the first stone,” and everyone leaves in shame. But this never happened. Even the bible agrees that this story was added to the bible after the fact.
The verses can be found in John 8:1-11. But like with the false ending in Mark, we find two footnotes that give us some insight into how the church views these verses.
The first footnote explains how some authorities place this story either at the end of John or somewhere in Luke. The footnote goes on to tell us that some versions of the bible disregard this tale completely and remove it from the bible. The second footnote explains that — while the Catholic church believes this apocryphal tale — the verse was absent in early transcripts of the bible and that the style suggests an author other than John.
New Testament scholar Bart D. Ehrman (a former Christian who, after studying the bible for his M.Div and Ph.D degrees, realized the problems with Christianity and became an agnostic) tells us what might have happened here. He says that many bible scholars suspect that an early bible scribe was copying John and thought that the gospel reminded him of a story he once heard about the adulterous woman, so he wrote it in the page margins. The next scholar who came around to make a copy of the gospel saw those notes and erroneously thought the story was part of the gospel. You can watch his video on the topic and more here in Misquoting Jesus in the Bible. He also has a book called Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible that I recommend.
The story of Jesus and the adulterous woman never happened. Even the bible admits that it probably shouldn’t even be in the bible. The next time you hear someone quoting this story, remind them that it’s not real, and show them the evidence in the bible itself.
Note: You’ll need either the catholic bible (or the anglicized version of the catholic bible), the CEB, the CEV, the ERV, the GNT, the LEB, or the Voice. Almost every other version of the bible, including the King James Version, omits these footnotes and pretends that the story was a part of the gospel all along. That’s not very honest of those bibles.