Question of the Week: What is the controversy about the beginning of John 8?
Verses: John 7:53-8:8, 2 Timothy 3:16-17
The controversy about the beginning of John chapter 8 is that because it does not appear in the majority of early manuscripts, it may have been a later addition to the text and doesn’t belong in our bibles. There are good scholars on both sides that debate this issue respectfully. However, since absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, this claim isn’t why it’s controversial. There are two ways to test the Bible, what the majority of the copies say and what the earliest copies say. The earliest manuscripts are preferred because it’s closer to the originals, but the majority text is how we have tested whether or not the Bible has been changed over time. The evidence against John 8 is that on top of its absence in the earliest texts, in later copies it appears in different places. Some even put it in the gospel of Luke instead of John, and others include it later in the gospel of John. However, the evidence for it belonging in our Bibles is that the early church father Eusebius quotes it as a part of the gospel of John in his writings. Eusebius lived before the earliest complete greek manuscript of the Bible was written. Why it was excluded from some bibles is entirely speculative, but it ultimately comes down to this. If it doesn’t belong in our Bibles and is removed, no major doctrine of Christianity goes with it. If it does belong in our Bibles, as Eusebius affirms, then the Bible remains the same. Whichever position you take, it doesn’t make any difference. The key is that we’re honest about even controversial topics rather than censoring them. God’s word is an anvil that has worn out countless hammers of criticism, and we can have confidence that based on the evidence, it is true in its claim to be the inspired, preserved, and authoritative Word of God.
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