The Christian Forgery of ‘The Woman Taken in Adultery’

The Christian Forgery of ‘The Woman Taken in Adultery’

LYINGLY FOUNDED on forgery upon forgery, as has been made manifest by manifold admissions and proofs, the Church of Christ perpetuated itself and consolidated its vast usurped powers, and amassed amazing wealth, by a series of further and more secular forgeries and frauds unprecedented in human history faintly approximated only by its initial forgeries of the fundamental gospels and epistles of the New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and of the countless other forged religious documents which we have so far reviewed. These first relate to the infancy of the Church constitute its false certificates of Heavenly birth and of Divine civil status. They are, as it were, the livery of heaven with which Holy Church clothed its moral nakedness until it attained maturer strength and became adept to commit the most stupendous forgeries for its own self-aggrandizement and for the complete domination of mind and soul of its ignorant and superstitious subjects.[1]     ~Joseph Wheless

 

Introduction

It’s possible that very early Christians continued the barbaric Jewish practice of stoning adulterers. Most Christians believe that from the inception of the Christian religion, Jesus condemned the practice of stoning adulterers, yet based on the best evidence we possess, Jesus said and did nothing to rebuke the stoning of adulterers.[2] Aside from the historical problems which plague the very existence of Jesus – such as the complete absence of contemporary historical sources,[3] religious bias in the available texts,[4] contradictions in the official and apocryphal sources for the historical Jesus,[5] the existence of widespread interpolations (forgeries) within both the historical (Josephus, Antiquities) and canonical (New Testament) literature [6] – seemingly insolvable questions surrounding what Jesus may have said and done abound. Notwithstanding this concession of confusion, there are some things we can say with a reasonable degree of certainty. One such assertion is that Jesus probably did not save a woman from being stoned for adultery.

The Forgery of the Woman Taken in Adultery

The Gospel of “John”, within which we find this tale, is based upon a collection of manuscripts written by an anonymous author toward the end of the first century and later dishonestly attributed to John the Apostle.  Debates grounded in pure speculation and supposition exist over the true identity of this alleged author, yet most historians and credible Christian scholars now agree that the Gospel of “John” was not authored by John the Apostle.[7] One of the reasons most scholars reject the Christian tradition attributing authorship to John the Apostle can be found in the pages of the New Testament. In the Book of Acts (4:13), John the Apostle was described as having been ‘uneducated’ – a man who would have been unable to write his own name, let alone this skilfully written gospel. The most damning piece of evidence against the tradition, however, comes from within the gospel itself. In the Gospel of “John”, the author clearly and unequivocally attributes the authorship of the gospel to the mysterious “disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20-24), and not to himself. It was Irenaeus (180 CE) who seems to have birthed the tradition of Johannine authorship, and he is also responsible for (falsely) attributing the authorship of the other canonized gospels,[8] which at the time where amongst a plethora of circulating gospels, most of which contained teachings that Irenaeus’ triumphant (proto-orthodox) sect of Christianity rejected.[9] Ehrman argues that the Proto-Orthodox Church, which eventually became the Catholic Church, falsely attributed authorship to their four official gospels to ensure their perceived legitimacy, because at the time there were many competing Christian sects.[10] Eusebius, who was Emperor Constantine’s pet priest and historian, successfully secured victory for the proto-orthodox church, which is why we only have four official gospels of the many that existed. Anyway, I digress. So, the Apostle John did not author the Gospel of “John” and this is by no means the extent of the deception surrounding this ancient work. Within “John” can be found ‘The Story of the Woman Taken in Adultery’, in which Jesus allegedly saved an adulterous woman from being stoned to death. This story reads as follows:

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them,  they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”[11]

The depraved Jewish law by which this fictitious attempted murder was justified comes from God’s omniscient instructions enunciated in Leviticus (20:10): If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death. One of the first things that should strike the reader as strange about this story is the absence of the man with whom the woman committed adultery. Where was he? The law clearly states that he is also to be stoned, yet there is no mention of the fate of her forbidden lover. Another problem with the story is that Jesus is overturning his own/father’s omniscient law concerning the punishment for adultery, and according to Numbers (23:19), God doesn’t change his mind. Further, “Jesus” expressly stated in “Matthew” that all of the Old Testament laws still apply, and that should a person encourage others to forgo following the least of these largely ridiculous, barbaric and misogynistic laws, they shall be called last in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:17-20), which would, ironically, include himself among the hell bound. Also, keep in mind that this crime was so heinous to “God” that he included it in his Decalogue (Ten Commandments).[12] Besides all of this textual, theological and historical hilarity, ‘The Story of the Woman Taken in Adultery’ was a forgery (Interpolation) added to the original Gospel of “John” by another anonymous Christian scribe centuries after its composition. In his Critical Introduction to the New Testament, New Testament scholar Holladay remarks:

Probably the most well-known case suggesting a fluid tradition is the story of the woman caught in adultery (7:53–8:11), which is absent in the earliest and most reliable manuscripts. For this reason, it is printed in double brackets in many translations to indicate that it was a later addition to the Gospel.[13]

Further, New Testament scholar Bart D. Ehrman states:

The story of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery is arguably the best-known story about Jesus in the Bible; it certainly has always been a favorite in Hollywood versions of his life. It even makes it into Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, although that movie focuses only on Jesus’s last hours (the story is treated in one of the rare flashbacks). Despite its popularity, the account is found in only one passage of the New Testament, in John 7:538: 12, and it appears not to have been original even there… Despite the brilliance of the story, its captivating quality, and its inherent intrigue, there is one other enormous problem that it poses. As it turns out, it was not originally in the Gospel of John. In fact, it was not originally part of any of the Gospels. It was added by later scribes… That naturally leaves readers with a dilemma: if this story was not originally part of John, should it be considered part of the Bible? Not everyone will respond to this question in the same way, but for most textual critics, the answer is no.[14]

Let us take a moment to consider the immense gravity of what Ehrman has highlighted here. Most trained (Christian) textual scholars do not believe that this famous story should be included in the Bible. Just in case the grave nature of this dilemma hasn’t sunk in for you – most of the most learned scholars of the New Testament say that this story does not belong in the Bible! I sincerely hope that you, the faithful Christian, fully fathom the severity of the implications associated with this problem. Just to put you on the right path, there is a story in the Bible which most of your most learned brethren believe should not be in there. Now, as a Christian you may simply shrug your shoulders and say, “oh well, they could all be wrong” – but what’s more likely? Is it more likely that the majority of Christian scholars who have studied these manuscripts, in their original language, for years and years, are wrong, or is it more likely that you, the poorly-read Christian who hasn’t even read the entire New Testament in English, let alone the scholarship and original manuscripts and textual traditions of the New Testament, are wrong? If you’re actually honest with yourself, I think you’ll have to concede that your holy book has some serious credibility problems.

Conclusion

That such forgeries made their way into a collection of works alleged to be the omniscient “Word of God” should give every believer cause to pause and seriously question the validity of the claim that the Bible is of divine contrivance. But more pressingly and disturbingly, we must ask, does this mean that Jesus didn’t reverse Yahweh’s brutal punishment for adultery? If so, is it still okay for Christians to stone adulterers? Thankfully this forgery and far more enlightened secular laws have intervened to forbid such patriarchal barbarism, but strictly speaking, if Christians are to scrupulously adhere to their texts as the source and foundation of their religion, then yes, it is still acceptable, theologically speaking, for Christians to stone adulterers.  Finally, if we ask ourselves why the forger of this story felt the need to concoct and insert this tale centuries after the composition of “John”, we may be given some justification through reasoned speculation to consider the possibility that some early Christians, still heavily influenced by Judaism, were still punishing adultery by stoning people to death – although it must be conceded that the evidence for this cautious claim is based purely upon speculation and supposition. It could also have been inserted as a direct polemic against the Jewish religion. However, it must also be admitted that it is not beyond the realm of possibility that very early Christians stoned adulterers prior to the invention of this tale, particularly given the gradual growth of Christianity out of the Synagogues that were preaching such punishments.

 

 

End Notes

  1. Joseph Wheless, Forgery in Christianity: A Documented Record of the Foundations of the Christian Religion, Moscow, Idaho: Psychiana Press, 1930, p. 224.
  2. J. Achtemeier. Harper-Collins Bible Dictionary Revised Edition, San Fransisco: Harper-Collins, 1989, p. 535; Carl R. Holladay. A Critical Introduction to the New Testament: Interpreting the Message and Meaning of Jesus Christ, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2005, p. 281; Bart D Ehrman. Misquoting Jesus, San Fransisco: Harper-SanFrancisco, 2005, pp. 63-65.
  3. Marsha E. Ackermann (ed), Michael J. Schroeder (ed), Janice J. Terry (ed), Jiu-Hwa Lo Upshur (ed) and Mark F. Whitters (ed), Encyclopedia of World History. Vol. 1: The Ancient World Prehistoric Eras to 600 c.e, New York: Infobase Publishing, 2008, p. 220; Joe Nickell. Relics of the Christ. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky. (2007). pp. 5-6; Earl Doherty, The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? Challenging the Existence of an Historical Christ, Age of Reason Publications, 2005, pp. 24-25; Bart D Ehrman, Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And What We Know About Them), New York: Harper-Collins, 2009, p. 149.
  4. Approaching History: Bias, cited at: https://www.umass.edu/wsp/history/outline/bias.html, accessed on 29 July, 2017.
  5. Michael Sherlock, I Am Christ, Vol. 1: The Crucifixion – Painful Truths, Boston: Charles River Press, 2012, pp. 113-249.
  6. Bart D. Ehrman, Forged: Writing in the Name of God – Why the Bible’s Authors are Not Who We Think They Are, New York: Harper-Collins, 2011; Bart D. Ehrman, Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 149-150.
  7. Bart D Ehrman, Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And What We Know About Them), New York: Harper-Collins, 2009, p. 111; James M. Robinson, The Gospel of Jesus: A Historical Search for the Original Good News, New York: Harper-Collins, 2005, p. 4.
  8. Bart D Ehrman, Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And What We Know About Them), New York: Harper-Collins, 2009, p. 111.
  9. Bart D. Ehrman, Lost Christianities: The Battle for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, p. 13.
  10. Ibid. pp. 2-7.
  11. The New Testament, John 8:2-11, NRSV.
  12. The Hebrew Bible, Exodus 20:14, NRSV.
  13. Carl R. Holladay, A Critical Introduction to the New Testament: Interpreting the Message and Meaning of Jesus Christ, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2005, p. 281.
  14. Bart D Ehrman. Misquoting Jesus, San Fransisco: Harper-SanFrancisco, 2005, 63-65.

 

 

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