The Pericope Adulterae

I’ve been dialogging with Doug over at Metacatholic a bit about his posts on the pericope adulterae.

In his first post, he argued that it should still be part of the canon.

While I fully agree on its lack of authenticity as a part of the fourth gospel, I entirely disagree with Tim (and note some evidence of early retellings of this story) on its canonicity, since as far as I’m concerned there is ample evidence of the church having read it as scripture for a very long time.

I responded with a comments:

So what you’re saying then is that we have an open canon? Becuase that’s what I’m hearing.

Exactly what criteria would you then propose for texts to be scripture? Or is anything the church uses fair game?

Of course, I didn’t think he was suggesting an open canon, that was a bit of a rhetorical flourish in my search for some clarity.

And he replied:

No, Mike, I don’t think this is an open canon. And while I wouldn’t quite say “anything the church uses” I do think there’s a case for saying anything the church has long and widely read as scripture is scripture.

To which I replied:

The next reasonable question, then, is how long is long enough? Does the long ending to mark make it into the canon? I’ll go get my snake.

That little dialogue brought about another post from Doug on the subject, “Not the Original Text.” I appreciate his attitude in this post. There is a lot with these passages that is unclear. Doug concludes that while these passages should be considered scripture, they should not be considered gospel [edit: i.e. they should not be considered part of the gospel narratives in which they occur.]

I not entirely sure what I think of this, especially since neither of these passages would have been used in the lectionary until the late 2nd century (perhaps later?). I have no reason to believe that these passages were viewed as scripture by churches that existed before they were inserted into the text and for those later churches who did not have access to such texts.