The Authenticity of John 7:53–8:11

Our sermon for Sunday, July 5 is from John 8:1-11. There is doubt among biblical scholars whether this was written by the the Apostle John, whether it was written by John but has been misplaced (in some early manuscripts is follows John 7:36 and in others it follows John 21:25; and in still others it comes after Luke 21:38), or whether these verses should be included in the Bible at all. For a more detailed discussion, see my post on The Reliability of the New Testament. But for the purposes of our message this Sunday, I simply want to acknowledge the concern and let you know that there are reasons for retaining the passage.

  1. Papius, himself a disciple of the Apostle John, seems to have known of this account (see Eusibius’s Ecclesiastical History III, xxxix, 17).
  2. The early church leaders, Ambrose and Augustine, commented on this passage and defended it as authentic.
  3. Later Reformation scholars such as Calvin, Zwingli and Melanchthon agreed that the passage was authentic.
  4. More recently, scholar William Hendriksen commented, “Our final conclusion then is this:  though it cannot now he proved that the story formed an  integral part of the fourth Gospel, neither is it possible to establish the opposite with any degree of finality. We believe, moreover, that what is he recorded really took place, and contains nothing that is in conflict with the apostolic spirit. Hence, instead of removing this section from the Bible it should be retained and used for our benefit. Ministers should not be afraid to base sermons upon it!”

My personal conclusion is that, while these verses may not have been original to their location in the gospel of John (and that, too, is up for debate), that they are an authentic, apostolic witness to an event in Jesus’ ministry that, as John Calvin states, should be used for our spiritual benefit.

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