7:53–8:11. Almost all textual scholars agree that these verses were not part of the original manuscript of the Gospel of John. The NIV states in brackets that “The earliest and most reliable manuscripts do not have John 7:53–8:11.” The style and vocabulary of this passage differ from the rest of the Gospel, and the passage interrupts the sequence from 7:52–8:12. It is probably a part of true oral tradition which was added to later Greek manuscripts by copyists. For more discussion on the subject and an exposition of the passage, see the Appendix before the John Bibliography.
Edwin A. Blum, “John,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck; vol. 2; Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 2302–303.
The Story of the Adulteress (7:53–8:11)
Five questions need to be considered before commenting on this story: (1) Is it Scripture? (2) Was it written by John? (3) Is it ancient and true, that is, historical? (4) Is it canonical? (5) If it was not originally part of John’s Gospel, why is the material placed before 8:12 in most English Bible versions? Questions 1 and 4 are closely related but are not identical. As to question 1, the consensus of New Testament textual scholars is that this section was not part of the original text. For Protestants who accept that judgment, this fact settles the issue of canonicity (question 4): the passage is not part of the biblical canon. However, for Roman Catholic scholars canonicity means that this passage is authoritative because it is in the Vulgate. So even though the passage may not have been part of John’s original manuscript, Catholics nevertheless accept the passage as having God’s authority because the Vulgate includes it. Question 2, on the passage’s Johannine origin, is also tied to question 1. Not only do many Greek manuscripts lack these verses, but those that do include them often mark them with asterisks or obeli. In addition various ancient Greek manuscripts include the passage in five different locations (after John 7:36, after 7:44, after 7:52, after 21:25, and after Luke 21:38). Both the textual evidence and stylistic data in the passage indicate that this is non-Johannine material.
Most commentators answer question 3 (Is it historical?) by yes. If this judgment is correct, then this is a rare extrabiblical authentic tradition about Jesus. John alluded to other things Jesus did (John 21:25) so this story may be one of those events. The answer to the fifth question seems to be that the material was placed before 8:12 in most Bible versions because the contents of this section relate well to two statements of Jesus in chapter 8 (“I pass judgment on no one” [8:15], and “Can any of you prove Me guilty of sin?” [8:46]).
7:53. This verse shows that this story was a continuation of some other material. The original connection is now lost.
Edwin A. Blum, “John,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck; vol. 2; Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 2346.