Revised on May 25, 2020

“Yahweh’s promises are promises unalloyed, [like] natural silver which comes from the earth seven times refined”—-Psalm 12:6 NJB

The phrase “Let him who has no sin cast the first stone” (paraphrased from John 8:7 KJV), has become entrenched everyday speech and in popular culture, for one thing due to the immense popularity of the KJV.  The vast majority of Christians, including Pastors, do not know, and are totally unaware in fact, that the account of the woman caught in adultery in John 7:53-8:11 was not part of the original Bible! People just “know”, in their “hearts” they think, that Jesus really said these words, since they’ve heard this story all of their lives, and sermonized in churches. The phrase at John 8:7 is often used to let others know not to take sin too seriously, and not to “judge” others. It is often quoted by those who want to excuse their own deliberate sin, which they know the Bible condemns.

woman caught in adultery
The vast majority of Christians do not know that the account of the woman caught in adultery was not part of the original Bible!

However, the evidence against this account is extensive and wide-ranging. It is omitted by a truly diverse group of ancient Greek manuscripts, including P66, P75, B, Sinaitic, L, N, T, W, 0141, 33, 157, 565, 1241, 1333, 1424, and many, many others. Both A and C probably did not contain it. Other manuscripts that do contain it mark it off with asterisks or obeli. In ms. 225 it’s after John 7:36, but in others it’s after 7:44. In f13 it’s after Luke 21:38. All of this alone is more than enough proof that the passage is a fake! But there is even more, much more. When a text “moves around” in manuscripts like this account does, it is strong evidence of its later origin, and efforts by scribes to put it where it seems to “fit”. The manuscript evidence alone is 100% against this text being original.

The vocabulary and style of writing in these 12 verses is very different from the rest of John’s writings, which is another clue as to the suspicious nature of the passage. Then there is the fact that when these 12 verses are removed from the text, as modern translations are increasingly doing, the flow of the text from John 7:52 to 8:12 fits perfectly. The story is completely foreign to John’s account of the events regarding Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem (John 7:45-8:20) by interrupting the flow of the text.

Then, there is the problem with the story itself. Since adultery cannot be committed alone, the question arises, “Where was the man, her partner in the act”? Jesus, being no dummy, would likely have called attention to this fact. There is no indication of any repentance on the part of this woman, or any hint of her attitude, in this account. Contrast this with the repentant attitude of the sinful woman at Luke 7:36-50, that Jesus encountered.

The account of the woman caught in adultery in John 7:53-8:11 is justified by many, even in the scholarly community, as being the recording of an actual historical event in the life of Jesus, even though it has no genuine Biblical support. The adulterous woman story is used as much as any of the legitimate Biblical accounts, often with sincere ignorance, to support the Biblical teaching of being merciful. However, the Bible has more than enough true, genuine scriptures about mercy without these 12 verses (Exodus 34:6,7; Matthew 5:7; 18:21-35; Luke 10:25-37; James 3:13

Aside from the account’s Biblical illegitimacy, a much worse and more serious problem is that the adulterous woman account is often used to excuse sinful actions. Christians under the New Covenant are no more excused from sin than they were under the Old Law Covenant. “Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 12:28,29 NIV). So the claim that God in the Old Testament was stricter, meaner, and more rigid in dealing with our sins than the merciful, loving, forgiving Jesus in the New Testament is absolutely false. The story at John 7:53-8:11 has helped to fuel this myth. God does not change (Malachi 3:6). To use this account, even in a sincere way, is a mistaken misrepresentation of God and Jesus in the Bible.

The Bible, from beginning to the end, warns several times about ‘adding anything to the words of the Bible’ (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:5,6; Revelation 22:18,19). Obviously, this principle was flagrantly violated, and the spurious addition was put into the famous KJV at John 7:53-8:11, and there were also additions to other places in the Bible. But these tamperings and additions have been uncovered by the discovery of numerous ancient, more accurate Biblical manuscripts, and modern Biblical textual scholarship methods to arrive at the original Biblical text. Spurious additions have now been eliminated from the most current Greek Master Texts, and the modern translations that are based on them. God said He would preserve His word and he has! “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever” (2 Peter 1:24,25 NIV). Satan tried to corrupt the Biblical text, but his corruptions have been exposed and weeded out. We would do well not to bring them back in, for example, by using this spurious account of the woman caught in adultery in any kind of legitimate way, as though it was part of “All Scripture [that] is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). 

4 thoughts on “WHY AVOID THE WOMAN CAUGHT IN ADULTERY STORY? (John 7:53-8:11)

  1. I took your advice and obtained a NIV Bible and found that a lot of verses I memorized as a youth in Sunday school were missing!I thought I got a badly misprinted copy so I bought a NASB Bible instead and found the same verses missing

    All the missing verses were the words of Christ such as Matt. 18:11, Mark 11:26 etc.

    I have not been in church in decades and wanted a new Bible to replace my 40 year old version.

    So, according to you, the word of God is fluid then and changes from year to year like the the 1978/1984 NIV version used the gender-specific terms and the 2011 revision does not ?

  2. No, the Bible refers to “God’s everlasting word that can’t be destroyed”, so we can be certain that God has accurately preserved his word (1 Peter 1:23-25 GWT). Why the “changes” then? Actually, the omitted words were never in the original writings of the Bible in the first place, but were added many years later as copies were made. This was in violation of God’s principles, not to add to, nor take away from, his Word (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:5,6; Revelation 22:18,19). The discoveries of much older, and more accurate, Bible manuscripts has brought about these restorations to what is now considered to be the accurate representation of the original Bible text. Praise God for it!

    1. I beg to differ from your answer. I’m sorry but I sense an assumption In your statement that the Oldest Manuscripts available ‘Now’ is the ultimate proof for accuracy. How do you defend that the manuscripts or sources used by the Tyndales, Geneva Bible etc never had those missing verses ? May be they used manuscripts much older than the Oldest ones available now. Byzantine text in my opinion is more accurate than the Alexandrian as they are geographically closer to where the Gospel authors are originally from.

      1. The verses John 7:53-8:11 do not appear in any Greek manuscript until the 5th century. The so-called “Textus Receiptus” Greek text (TR), composed by Desiderus Erasmus in 1516, includes these spurious verses, because Erasmus did not have access to any Greek manuscripts prior to the 10th century. The Tyndale Bible and the Geneva Bible were both based on the TR, and they include those verses. These 12 verses show up after John 7:53 in some manuscripts, after John 7:44 in others, and the end of John in others, and after Luke 21:38 in one manuscript. This, in and of itself, is A Priori evidence against it. The vocabulary and syntax of these 12 verses is very different from the rest of John. The account flows very well when the 12 verses are omitted, but is abruptly and unnaturally interrupted when they are included. The older Alexandrian texts are considered to be more accurate in general because they are closer in time to the originals.

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