Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Egerton 'Gospel' - Earliest Evidence for Jn 8:1-11?

After nearly a century of intense study of the Egerton 'Gospel'fragments, the dust has pretty much settled about the actual nature ofthe document. It is probably not an unknown '5th gospel', but rather an interesting piece of creative writing, a 'harmony' of sorts of at least three canonical gospels (possibly by a student, or practicing writer/preacher).

It is now virtually admitted that the 'author' used canonical John among other documents (and not vice versa for instance), based upon the nature of the internal evidence in the document.This has made the Egerton papyrus perhaps one of the earliest significant textual witnesses to the existance and circulation of theGospel of John.

However, the use of John being reasonably settled, little thought has apparently been spent upon its possible importance as a witness to the early existance (and location in John) of the Pericope de Adultera. Admittedly, the evidence is very slender and tentative.

But it is a remarkable coincidence, that two phrases are placed in close proximity, in the correct order (the same as in the Pericope), namely,

"rulers...the crowd..."

"Teacher! (didaskale)" ...

"Go...and sin no more!"

In particular, the combination of "Teacher"...(cf. Jn 8:4) and "Sin no more" (Jn 8:11) are eerily reminiscent of the Pericope de Adultera.

But if we admit that the Egerton author had John in front of him already, the next question might be, not whether he himself connected the conversation of Nicodemus ("Rabbi" Jn 3:2) with that of the cripple in Judea ("Sin no more" Jn 5:14), but rather,

"Did the Egerton author use the Pericope de Adultera as an enclosing template for his Leper story?"

Note especially that in John's Gospel Nicodemus uses 'Rabbi', not 'Didaskale', and so Jn 3:2 is less plausible as the source for the 1st statement in the Egerton fragment.

This 2nd century 'harmonizer' uses 'Didaskale' elsewhere as well, making it a kind of trademark for the Egerton work, so this is perhaps not so unusual in itself. Yet...Whatever may be said of the 'softness' of the connection, it must be admitted that the only place in the Entire New Testament, and even among the hundreds of non-canonical 'gospels', where these two phrases come together in this order in close proximity, is the Pericope de Adultera, John 8:1-11.

The Egerton Papyrus and related articles are online here:

Egerton Papyrus Homepage <-- Click Here.