The Pericope Adulterae, the Gospel of John, and the Literacy of Jesus


Although consistently overlooked or dismissed, John 8.6, 8 in the Pericope Adulterae is the only place in canonical or non-canonical Jesus tradition that portrays Jesus as writing. After establishing that John 8.6, 8 is indeed a claim that Jesus could write, this book offers a new interpretation and transmission history of the Pericope Adulterae. Not only did the pericope’s interpolator place the story in John’s Gospel in order to highlight the claim that Jesus could write, but he did so at John 7.53–8.11 as a result of carefully reading the Johannine narrative. The final chapter of the book proposes a plausible socio-historical context for the insertion of the story.
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Biographical Note

Chris Keith, Ph.D. (2008), University of Edinburgh, is Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, London.

Review Quote

This title has won the 2010 John Templeton Award for Theological Promise. "Keith's impressive, thought-provoking study will be of great interest to tholse interested in the Gospel of John, literacy in the Greco-Roman world, and intersections between textual history and Christian origins." – Frances Taylor Gench, in: Biblical Interpretation 20 (2012) "This book presents an impressively researched, inquisitive, and careful discussion of its primary focus (the Pericope Adulterae), its primary field (John’s Gospel), and its primary point (the social significance of portraying a grapho-literate Jesus)." – Rafael Rodríguez, Johnson Bible College, Knoxville "[Dieses Werk] befasst sich auf erfrischende und kreative Weise mit einer textgeschichtlich seit Erasmus von Rotterdam umstrittenen Perikope. [...] Es wird nicht nur in den Stand der Forschung über eine textgeschichtlich und theologisch-ethisch umstrittene Perikope, [..] umfassend und kompetent eingeführt, sondern es werden auch frisch und mutig neue Hypothesen auf argumentative Weise vorgetragen." – Ulrich Busse, in: Theologische Literaturzeitung 135 (2010) "...a most worth-while volume that will be a benefit not only to those in textual criticism, but also those more broadly in the field of New Testament studies and early Christian history. [...] Overall, Keith’s volume is an excellent contribution to the study of the PA and no doubt will alter the direction of future research on this passage.[...] an excellent resource for New Testament scholars. Not only does it make an impressive (and convincing) contribution to our understanding of the PA, but it illumines other important areas of early Christianity along the way." – Michael J. Kruger, in: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 2011 ( full review)

Table of contents

Table of Contents Foreword (Helen K. Bond) Preface Abbreviations Introduction: The Most Popular Story in the Gospels Chapter One: A History of Research on John 8.6, 8 Chapter Two: Speaking of Writing: καταγράφω and γράφω in Hellenistic, Jewish, and New Testament Contexts Chapter Three: Writing and Gradations of Literacy Chapter Four: Scribal Literacy in the New Testament World: The Scribes (and Pharisees) as Text-Brokers Chapter Five: The Pericope Adulterae at John 7.53–8.11: The Location Chapter Six: The Pericope Adulterae at John 7.53–8.11: The Preceding Context of John 7 Chapter Seven: The Pericope Adulterae at John 7.53–8.11: The Narrative Chapter Eight: The Pericope Adulterae at John 7.53–8.11: The (Divine) Grapho-Literacy of Jesus Chapter Nine: The Historical Context for the Insertion of the Pericope Adulterae into the Gospel of John: A Proposal Conclusion: The Pericope Adulterae in the Early Church Bibliography


All those interested in text criticism, the New Testament, the Pericope Adulterae, the Gospel of John, early Christian book culture, literacy in the ancient world, and New Testament backgrounds.