Essay New Testament Studies

Understanding the Praetorium of Philippians 1:13

ABSTRACT: Paul understood Praetorium as the Imperial Guard centralized in Rome, not a palace or building.



Praetorium as a Building

Flaws of the Palace View

Praetorium as the Imperial Guard

Praetorium, Provenance, and Purpose



Key to understanding the provenance and purpose of Philippians is one historical term. This single word can potentially altar the reader’s exegesis of Paul’s inspired epistle. Philippians 1:13 contains this Pauline anomaly, praetorium, “so that it has become known throughout the whole praetorium and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ.” The term, often translated as “palace guard,” “imperial guard,” or “governor’s palace,” is, “one of the cruxes of this letter and impinges on the question of Paul’s location at the time of writing.”[1] More specifically, “the (Greek) phrase ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ πραιτωρίῳ, “among the whole imperial guard,” uses πραιτώριον, a loanword from the Latin praetorium.”[2] If praetorium specifies the Praetorian Guard – the Roman emperor’s personal, elite soldiers – the provenance of Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome can be affirmed.[3] Along with a mention of “the saints of Caesar’s household” in Philippians 4:22, the reference to praetorium in 1:13 sufficiently refutes theories that Paul’s correspondence with Philippi originated from Ephesus or Caesarea Maritima. But this task is more than a mere academic exercise, for great theological weight rests upon the traditional rendering of praetorium, as used in this thoroughly Roman epistle.

In order to assert a non-Rome provenance, one must argue praetorium refers to a building (henceforth the “palace view”). This paper will explicate the dissenting palace view before revealing its flaws, and offering the “imperial guard” position as far more theologically, historically, and biblically consistent. Finally, it will be shown how one’s understanding of this single term affects his interpretation of Philippians as a Christian hortatory letter of friendship.[4]

Praetorium as a Building

The ongoing debate over the provenance of Paul’s prison epistles, and thus Philippians, is crucial for identifying bias in one’s interpretation of Philippians 1:13. If one assumes a Roman provenance, Paul’s use of praetorium is best translated “imperial guard”. Yet any other theory of provenance essentially and necessarily limits praetorium to designate a royal building. Keener explains, “Some commentators have suggested that “palace” or “praetorium” here may refer to a provincial governor’s residence, such as the place of Paul’s detention in Caesarea (Acts 23:35).”[5] By this reckoning, praetorium must be understood as a metonym, “The phrase ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ πραιτωρίῳ signals a metonym, a spatial descriptor to indicate the people (τοῖς λοιποῖς πάσιν) who had access to the πραιτώριον.”[6]

Those arguing for the palace view understand praetorium as being used broadly in the Julio-Claudian period. It must be acknowledged that praetorium has a wide lexical range, with abounding extra-biblical evidence of its usage. It originally denoted a general’s tent or his staff or council.[7] Subsequently, the term was variously adapted to signify the residence of a provincial governor, a pleasure villa, official road-side rest-house, or emperor’s residence.[8] In a permanent fort, praetorium was distinguished from the principia – with the former designating the commander’s house and the latter a headquarters building.[9] Aside from this diversity of possible designations regarding physical buildings, praetorium, “is also regularly used for the forces or services of the Praetorian Prefect.”[10]

Recognizing the extra biblical data, one must give even greater credence to the canonical context of Scripture. How did the New Testament authors understand and utilize πραιτώριον? Those ascribing to the palace view conclude Paul’s usage of πραιτώριον in Phil 1:13 mimics Luke’s designation of the same term in Acts 23:35. In this Lukan text, πραιτώριον clearly refers to the residence of a provincial governor. Taking Acts 23:35 plainly, Luke clearly relates that Paul is facing an impending trial before Felix, who, “(gave) orders for him to be kept in Herod’s Praetorium.” Here the Latin loan word πραιτώριον is used in the dative πραιτωρίῳ, being the subject of the possessive genitive τοῦ Ἡρῴδου, thus the reading “πραιτωρίῳ τοῦ Ἡρῴδου.” Seven of the eight uses of πραιτώριον in the New Testament are similarly translated into English as the subject of a possessive not specified in the Greek, “the governor’s headquarters” (Mt 27:27; Mk 15:16; Jn 18:28 NASB, ESV), “his headquarters” (Jn 18:33, Jn 19:19 NASB, ESV). Suffice it to say that seven of the eight uses of πραιτώριον in the New Testament indisputably reference a building. This leaves Philippians 1:13 as the only anomalous usage and sole instance within Paul’s letters.

If the palace view of πραιτώριον is to be accepted in Philippians 1:13, very little limitation can be offered regarding provenance for Paul’s letter. One may posit any locale within the Roman Empire – assuming the praetorium represented some administrative subsection of a complex or building. Those functioning within a “headquarters building” would necessarily be tied to a provincial government role, owing to another significant verse, Philippians 4:22, “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.”[11] Paul’s reference to Caesar’s household (τῆς Καίσαρος οἰκίας), so often linked to 1:13, certainly refers to the familia Caesaris.[12] If Paul’s location is understood as static during his penning of Philippians, the praetorium and “those of Caesar’s household” must be understood as existing in the same municipality.

Where the palace view is espoused, it is commonly suggested that slaves and freedmen within Caesar’s household were spread throughout the empire. These individuals would be serving governmental functions – and thus necessarily tied to a Roman praetorium building.[13] Interestingly, only a Roman provenance for Paul’s Epistle is untenable where πραιτώριον is understood as a palace. Lightfoot explains, “While ‘prætorium’ is a frequent designation of splendid villas, whether of the emperors or others, away from Rome, the imperial residence on the Palatine is not once so called. Indeed the word seems to have suggested to a Roman the idea of a country seat… In Rome itself, prætorium would not have been tolerated.”[14] In other words, praetoriums such as those at Jerusalem (Mt 27:27; Mk 15:16; Jn 18:28, Jn 18:33, Jn 19:19) and Caesarea (Acts 23:35) were the seats of local rulers who derived their power from the emperor. The imperial residence on Palatine Hill in Rome would not be equated with headquarters located elsewhere in the empire.

Of secondary significance to the palace argument is Colossians 4:10–15, wherein Paul lists an extensive group of helpers alongside him in his imprisonment. As a prison epistle, this letter is thought to have the same provenance as Philippians. Scholars have thus questioned how a detained Paul could have such an abundance of assistance while imprisoned. Due to this circumstance, some have concluded that Paul was imprisoned in Asia or Syria-Palestine (specifically Ephesus or Caesarea Maritima).[15] Either provenance would certainly explain the large number of coworkers, given Paul’s ministries in both locales. Paul simply did not have the same influence in Rome.[16] In addition, Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea for two years (cf. Acts 24:27) and held perhaps his most impactful, personal Asian ministry at Ephesus (see Acts 20:17–38).

Flaws of the Palace View

Several critical assumptions must be made to hold the palace view of praetorium in Philippians 1:13 and the associated conclusion of non-Roman provenance. It should be stated at the outset that a wide variety of scholars adopt this non-traditional view, including some conservative scholars who affirm biblical reliability.[17] Nevertheless, it bears mentioning that dismissal of Roman provenance, and thus the imperial guard conclusion, commonly stems from source-critical biases. More specifically, a rejection of congruity between the undisputed Pauline Epistles and Acts (as well as the pastoral epistles) is typically assumed.[18] While this certainly does not represent every scholar asserting non-traditional provenance, it’s often critical scholars who have no desire to synthesize all the new Testament data.

A timeline considering Acts and the Pastorals suggests two Roman imprisonments. In contrast to this orthodox assumption, many critical scholars deny that Paul ever made it to Rome.[19] It remains to be shown that a synthesis considering all 27 New Testament books as of equal historical value presupposes a Roman imprisonment that best fits Paul’s bondage as described in Philippians. Here it will prove beneficial to briefly relay the orthodox, traditional timeline of Paul’s arrival in Rome.

In Acts, Luke recorded the life and ministry of Paul as essentially progressing toward his ultimate imprisonment in Rome. After three missionary journeys, Paul set his mind on Jerusalem – understanding he would be persecuted and arrested (cf. Acts 20:22–23). The Apostle was indeed arrested in Jerusalem, and would then spend two years in custody at Caesarea Maritima (cf. Acts 24:22–27). Because of his appeal to Caesar, Paul assures a capital trial in Rome (Acts 25:11; 26:32; 28:19). The Apostle then finds himself under house arrest in the capital city, “And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him,” (Acts 28:16). Luke further records that Paul was “wearing a chain” (cf. 28:20). And finally, Acts ends abruptly with Paul still imprisoned, “He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance,” (28:30–31).

Since critical scholars largely reject this narrative, they feel no obligation to factor in a Roman imprisonment in Paul’s timeline. Acts 28 in particular is often rejected as spurious.[20] Without being bound to correlate Acts 28 with Philippians 1:13 and 4:22, these scholars simply suggest a different provenance that concurs with Paul’s self-testimony in the undisputed letters. This is especially prevalent in the prominent offering of Ephesus as the place of writing, which is more easily concluded without Luke’s testimony. Alternatively, the less commonly held Caesarea Maritima provenance finds corroboration with Paul’s two-year imprisonment found in Acts 24. Since scholarship appears to be moving toward Ephesian/Asian provenance, this view will be considered over others.[21] The historical reliability of the New Testament will heretofore be assumed.
Ephesian provenance for Philippians is lacking in several key respects. To start, the Acts narrative relates two instances where Paul was imprisoned for a sufficient period of time to account for his language in the Macedonian letter. Paul’s suffering and imprisonment are central themes in Philippians. Paul expresses his situation repeatedly by the phrase “δεσμούς μου” (Lit. “my chains”); in Philippians 1 vv. 7, 13, 14, and 17; “in my imprisonment,” “my imprisonment is for Christ,” “by my imprisonment,” “afflict me in my imprisonment.” It’s widely acknowledged that Paul is awaiting a capital trial while writing this, as his life-or-death language makes clear (cf. 1:19–25).

These verses alone correlate well with the house arrest situation of Acts 28. Luke records Paul himself describing his first Roman imprisonment as, “τὴν ἅλυσιν ταύτην περίκειμαι (lit. “wearing this chain”). There is striking similarity between Paul’s bondage in Philippians and that of Luke’s Acts 28 narrative. Luke’s account further specifies that Paul’s bondage took place in “his own hired dwelling” wherein he “welcomed all who came to him” (Acts 28:30). This bears a striking correlation with Paul’s successful prison ministry detailed in Philippians 1:13 and 4:22. If it can be shown that Philippians 1:13 and 4:22 are best explained by a Roman provenance, the correlations go even deeper.

Paul in Philippians 1:13 recorded his successful witness to the Praetorium, who, if understood to be the imperial guard, are also apart of Caesar’s household (4:22). Further, it has been noted that based on a less reliable textual tradition, Acts 28:16, “Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him,” speaks specifically of a soldier within the praetorian guard.[22] Even if the textual variant is rejected, the current reading of Acts does not preclude that this soldier was a part of the Praetorium. Both the Lukan and Pauline texts bear significant similarities and no major diverging details. The wholistic narrative unity of Acts and Philippians must therefore be maintained. The student of Scripture should presuppose unity within the text, rather than dismissing certain books, chapters, or verses that don’t fit an arbitrary or presupposed narrative. Holloway rightly dismisses the Ephesian provenance theory as the work of redaction critics.[23] Further, to suggest Paul faced a drawn-out imprisonment in Ephesus, while awaiting a capital trial, dismisses the biblical witness which would suggest otherwise.[24]

Another weakness of the palace view lies in the grammar of Philippians 1:13 and 14. Holloway contends,

The whole expression reads ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ πραιτωρίῳ καὶ τοῖς λοιποῖς πᾶσιν, “in the whole πραιτώριον and all the rest,” where “and all the rest,” given Paul’s usage elsewhere, is most naturally interpreted as a reference not to other buildings but to other personnel, something like “and everyone else.” This would imply that πραιτώριον similarly is a reference to personnel. This interpretation makes excellent sense of 1:14, where Paul continues, “and the majority of the brothers in the Lord, etc.” Taken together, vv. 13–14 would then describe the effect of Paul’s imprisonment first on persons outside the church (v. 13) and then on persons inside (v. 14).[25]

Those “outside the church” are best understood as Romans within this same circle as the praetorium, who were forced to accompany Paul. Therefore, καὶ τοῖς λοιποῖς πάσιν must be more closely linked to ὅλῳ τῷ πραιτωρίῳ in Philippians 1:13. The second phrase, “all the rest” necessarily precludes the palace view of praetorium.[26] Paul clearly speaks of personnel, not buildings here. To be sure, this accords with the central thrust of his letter – that even through trials and chains, the Gospel was still advancing to the top echelons of society. If praetorium here is not understood as metonymy, the connected phrase “all the rest” would be rendered unintelligible. One could scarcely imagine the Gospel writers or Luke utilizing this phrase in conjunction with Herod’s Palace, for example. As will be argued in defense of the imperial guard view of praetorium, Philippians 4:22 is central to understanding the present text.

Praetorium as the Imperial Guard

Lightfoot has most convincingly defended the position that Praetorium, as utilized in Philippians 1:13, signifies a body of men.[27] He argues, “…more frequently it denotes the prætorian regiments, the imperial guards. This in fact is the common use of the term.”[28] Evidence of this common usage abounds in Latin inscriptions and literature.[29] One early Greek example utilizing the Latin loaner word is found in Josephus, “…and the very emperor’s guards seemed under the like fear and disorder with private persons, the band called pretorian, which was the purest part of the army, was in consultation what was to be done at this juncture.”[30] Latin historians from Tacitus to Pliny similarly appropriated this word.[31]

This imperial guard was first established by Augustus in Rome and adjacent municipalities.[32] Tiberius would then bring all these elite soldiers to Rome, giving them a permeant camp.[33] The praetorians were well paid, highly respected, and influential.

Grammatically, the use of “all the rest” makes little sense alongside a translation rendering preatorium as “the governor’s headquarters.”[34] If the palace view is to be followed, the translation of Philippians 1:13 must be rendered, “So that is had become known throughout the whole governor’s headquarters and to all the rest…” At best this leaves tremendous ambiguity in identifying the broad, undefinable “all the rest”. Again, if “governor’s headquarters” is taken as a metonym, the phrasing would still be awkward and unnatural.[35] Taking this position would also divorce Philippians 1:13 from 4:22, verses that are better understood in harmony. To be sure, one could not confidently assert that those in a provincial governor’s headquarters belonged to Caesar’s household. When the letter is understood holistically and interpreted as a single unit, Paul’s appeal to a far-reaching Roman ministry best stratifies the textual evidence. Caesar’s personal, imperial soldiers, with about 9,000 total in Rome, would be given the task of defending Paul – who was awaiting a high profile capital trial (1:13).[36] These elite bodyguards would by necessity belong to Caesar’s household (4:22),

They were the emperor’s elite bodyguard under the praetorian prefect. Viewed as clients of the emperor (thus part of his household), they were kept loyal with the highest pay in the Roman military; they were also kept loyal by the leadership of a prefect who could never legally become emperor (being a knight rather than a senator).[37]

Holloway offers one final clue for the present conclusion, “The hyperbolic rhetoric of 1:13—“in the whole πραιτώριον and all the rest,” where both “whole” and “all” are emphatic by position—also supports a reference to the Imperial Guard, which by this time was at least six thousand. Roman governors, on the other hand, typically had relatively small staffs.”[38] The impact of Paul’s language, which serves to emphasize his successful Gospel ministry in Rome, would be dulled if Praetorium refers to a colonial palace.

Michael Flexsenhar’s conclusion that Paul was too unimportant a prisoner to warrant tying up Nero’s most valuable bodyguards must be rejected at this point. This conclusion is simply conjecture, that again undermines Acts and the historical realities of Paul’s movement, the Flexsenhar, Michael. “The Provenance of Philippians and Why It Matters: Old Questions, New Approaches1.” Journal for the study of the New Testament 42, no. 1 (September 2019): 18–45.radical Jewish opposition he faced, and his opportunity to defend himself before Felix, Festus, Herod Agrippa, and Bernice. (Acts 24–26).[39] Paul certainly caused great tension within the Empire, and especially in the notoriously volatile Judea. And even the waves of this far-reaching ministry were subsumed under the far greater Christ-movement. Ultimately, even Flexsenhar admits some prisoners were worthy of being guarded by the Empire’s most elite.[40] He just doesn’t consider Paul important enough, or his trail significant enough, to enjoy the emperor’s involvement. This judgement call is far too subjective and arbitrary, without any real methodology offered for how the emperor may have allocated his praetorian guard. Addressing Acts 25:11–12, F. F. Bruce emphatically concludes, “Having made his appeal to the emperor, Paul was the emperor’s prisoner (although he preferred to think of himself as “the prisoner of Christ Jesus”), and while he waited for his case to be heard, he “was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him” (Acts 28:16).”[41]

Numismatology has also helped scholars better understand Rome’s relation to Philippi and the colony’s experience with the Praetorium. The existence of the Praetorian guard is witnessed on coinage dating to the time of Claudius or Nero. The editors of RPC have dated RPC 1651 to the time of these Julio-Claudian, emperors based on metallurgical studies.[42] This coin, which commemorates Augustus’ victory over Mark Antony at the battle of Actium in 31 BC, has the reverse legend COHOR PRAE PHIL for “Cohort Praetorium Philippi”.[43]  It’s been suggested that Augustus himself sent retired praetorian guards to Philippi, a province quickly becoming a haven for veterans.[44] RPC 1651 thus affirms that Philippi was aware of the Praetorium in the time of Paul, when these coins were in circulation. It has additionally been suggested that the coin itself celebrates Augustus’, “settlement at Philippi of a cohort of praetorians when he refounded the colony in 30 BCE.”[45] If this coin was indeed minted during the reign of Claudius, as all evidence seems to suggest, Paul’s reference to the imperial guard in Philippians 1:13 takes on incredible significance. Burnett states in RPC, “The types of the larger presumably refer to the battle of Actium (VIC AVG) and the settlement of veterans from the praetorian cohort at Philippi (COHOR PRAE PHIL).”[46]

With RPC 1651 circulating in Paul’s time, the Philippians present in Macedonia would be familiar with the Latin inscriptions and imagery on their coins. They would transact daily with these very pieces of copper, seeing the clear inscription Praetoria and acknowledging its relation to Philippi. One might conclude this is exactly why Paul uses the terminology of “the whole Praetorium” in Philippians 1:13.[47]Any suggestion that this coin, fraught with the imagery of war banners and Victoria, refers to an administrative palace must be rejected. It is far more likely that the Philippians understood Praetoria, the Latin loan word for Praetorium, to mean the imperial guard. Holloway concludes, “It not only dates the striking of the coin close to the time of Paul’s letter but, more importantly, attests to Philippi’s continuing pride in its praetorian foundations, a fact that Paul, now a prisoner of the Guard, would presumably to be alluding to.”[48]

Vincent summarizes the imperial guard position of Philippians 1:13 thusly, “The unquestionable fact that ‘prætorium’ was used to denote the prætorian guard makes it unnecessary to assume that the apostle in this passage refers to any place, and furnishes a simple explanation and one entirely consistent with the narrative in Acts 28.”[49] The coherence of Paul’s imprisonment narrative under the watch of imperial guards best synthesizes the biblical data. It must lastly be shown why alternate understandings of praetorium provenance are untenable. Bo Reicke convincingly argues that, “the word (πραιτώριον) was not used for the personnel of a governor either in Greek or in Latin.”[50] This would severely handicap the conclusion that πραιτώριον is simply a metonym, applicable to a wide range of administrative or provincial personnel. Regarding 1:13 potentially speaking of Ephesus, Reicke further states that the governor of Ephesus was a proconsul, not a propraetor.[51] The author also rejects a Caesarean provenance, stating, “Auxiliary troops under the supervision of the procurator were stationed here (Caesarea), but none of the élite soldiers of the praetorium.”[52]

Praetorium, Provenance, and Purpose

Although scholarship is far from a consensus on the matter, there’s sufficient reason to conclude Paul wrote Philippians from Rome. Some of the earliest attestations to Roman Province include that of the Marcionite Prologues, “According to the Prologues, Paul wrote to the Colossians from Ephesus, already in chains (iam ligatus), and to the Philippians from prison in Rome.”[53] Concurring with this conclusion are Philippians 1:13 and 4:22, as detailed above. While it’s certainly true that Paul’s proximity to the praetorian guard tells us something about provenance, it’s also significant what an assumed Roman provenance tells us about the praetorium. Indeed, if Paul was writing from Rome, the reader can better understand his purpose in mentioning the Praetorium at all. Surely great significance must be ascribed to Paul’s claim of evangelizing some of the Roman Empire’s most elite and powerful individuals. This is absolutely crucial to the main contentions and intentions of this apostolic letter. Paul’s witness to the imperial guard, who were included in Caesar’s household, highlighted his focus on heavenly citizenship, joy amidst suffering, and a radical gospel focus.

Philippi’s history as a Roman colony, and even its founding under Philip II of Macedonia, all highlight the military foundations of this colony. From Macedonia to Julio-Claudain Rome, some of the world’s most powerful leaders purposefully packed Philippi with significant military figures – including soldiers from the Praetorian guard. And Rome was especially generous in granting this Macedonian colony the title and benefits of Roman citizenship. That Paul wrote from Rome itself, the heartbeat of Philippi and her citizens, thus carries significant importance.

Reicke comments, “The Roman capital also provides the background for those images used by Paul in Philippians which refer to the political realm. This is true in the case of the exhortation to a worthy evangelical behaviour as a citizen (πολιτεύεσθε, Phil. 1:27), as well as of the reference concerning the true, heavenly commonwealth (πολίτευμα, 3:20).”[54] The Philippians understood who Paul was as a Roman citizen, imprisoned for the gospel.[55] Paul was willing to suffer all things for the Gospel. His allegiance was not to Rome, but to Christ. Paul was a citizen of heaven. This message, which Paul calls the Philippians to emulate (3:17), becomes all the more powerful given Paul’s situation in Rome, under the praetorium. The Apostle evangelized even Rome’s most elite soldiers, the empire’s top citizens. The proud Romans citizens of Philippi would have recognized Paul’s courage, drive, and submission to God’s will. As is apparent by their coinage, the Philippians were fully aware of the praetorian guard. It was a source of pride, in that the praetorium was the progenitor of their own Roman identity in many ways.

Regarding joy and suffering, Paul faced unjust trial and restrictive imprisonment in the kingdom he rightfully belonged to. The Apostle was able to confidently assert, 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). He saw even his chains as an opportunity to reach others with the gospel, that “most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (v. 1:14). The Christians in Philippi were facing the same persecution under the same Roman yoke,For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have” (vv. 1:29–30). Undoubtedly the Philippians, within the context of their thoroughly Roman colony, faced persecution by Pagan Romans.[56] Yet there was hope. God sovereignly planned to use even Paul’s suffering for His glory, evidenced by the Apostle’s incredible opportunity to witness to Rome’s elite,

“It is in this light that the Philippians would hear Paul’s triumphant note about the whole Praetorian Guard—the emperor’s own select troops—coming to know about the gospel through Paul’s imprisonment. So also with the final word of the letter (before the concluding grace-benediction), “all the saints (in Rome) greet you, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household”—who themselves join you in saying “Jesus is Lord.” The gospel, with its proclamation of a heavenly Lord who had become the incarnate Savior, had penetrated the household of the (merely earthly) Roman “lord and savior,” who stands ultimately behind “the same struggle” both Paul and the Philippians are currently experiencing.”[57]

Much would be lost if praetorium in Philippians 1:13 is not understood as the emperor’s personal guard, centralized in Rome. Paul’s gospel appeals, empathetic statements, and focus on heavenly citizenship would be deprived of their personal force. Further, the Apostle’s permeating appeal to the struggles and benefits of life as Roman citizens would be lost if an Asian or Syria-Palestinian provenance is asserted. Ultimately, Paul’s desire for this unique letter – a Christian hortatory letter of friendship – would become far less clear if God was not truly using the Apostle’s suffering to reach the highest levels of Rome.[58] Reciprocal, empathetic motifs of friendship are what pervade this epistle. Paul encourages his Philippian friends as fellow Christians, not fellow Romans, by showing how God had placed him before even “Caesar’s household” and “the imperial guard.” All this was to advance the Gospel as a worthy citizen of heaven.


[1] Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), 113.

[2] Mark J. Keown, Philippians, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, ed. H. Wayne House, W. Hall Harris III, and Andrew W. Pitts (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017), 190.

[3] This is the conclusion most notably defended by Lightfoot. Commenting on Philippians 1:13, he noted, “‘throughout the prætorian guard,’ i.e. the soldiers composing the imperial regiments. This seems to be the best supported meaning of πραιτώριον.” Joseph Barber Lightfoot, Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament (London: Macmillan and Co., 1913), 88.

[4] Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 32.

[5] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Php 1:13.

[6] Michael Flexsenhar, “The Provenance of Philippians and Why It Matters: Old Questions, New Approaches,” Journal for the study of the New Testament 42, no. 1 (September 2019), 36.

[7] Ian Archibald Richmond, “Praetorium” in The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 2nd ed, ed. N. G. L. Hammond and H. H. Sculland (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), 874.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Flexsenhar, “The Provenance of Philippians,” 19.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid., 23.

[14] Lightfoot, Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, 100.

[15] See Michael J. Hugh for Ephesian provenance view: Michael, J. Hugh, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, The Moffatt New Testament Commentary, ed. James Moffatt (London: Hodder and Stroughton, 1928). And Gerald Hawthorne for the Caesarean Provenance view: Gerald F Hawthorne and Ralph P. Martin, Philippians, Rev. ed. (Word Biblical Commentary 43. Dallas: Word Books, 2004), 43–44.

[16] Paul first arrived in Rome c. 60 AD for his first imprisonment. Although he had not previously ministered in Rome, a church was already established there (Acts 28:14–15).

[17] See Hugh, Philippians, 1:13 and Hawthorne, Philippians, 43–44.

[18] Michael Flexsenhar, “The Provenance of Philippians and Why It Matters: Old Questions, New Approaches,” Journal for the study of the New Testament 42, no. 1 (September 2019): 18–45.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Paul A. Holloway, Philippians: A Commentary, ed. Adela Yarbro Collins, Hermeneia—A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2017), 21.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid., 21–22.

[26] Lightfoot, Philippians, 99-101.

[27] Ibid., 101–102.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, trans. William Whiston (Project Gutenberg, 2001), 19.3.1.

[31] Lightfoot, Philippians, 102.

[32] Marvin Richardson Vincent, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles to the Philippians and to Philemon, International Critical Commentary (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1897), 16–17.

[33] Ibid.

[34] See note under “Flaws of the Palace View” above.

[35] Ben Witherington III, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Company, 2011), 79.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Php 1:13.

[38] Holloway, Philippians, 22–23.

[39] Flexsenhar, “The Provenance of Philippians,” 18–45.

[40] Ibid.

[41] F. F. Bruce, Philippians, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (Peabody, MA: Baker Books, 2011), 41.

[42] A. Burnett, M. Amandry, P.P. Ripolles, Roman Provincial Coinage, vol. I (The Julio-Claudians) (London: British Museum Press, 1992), 308.          

[43] Ibid.  

[44] Theodore John Cadoux, “Philippi” in The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 2nd ed, ed. N. G. L. Hammond and H. H. Sculland (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), 816.

[45] Holloway, Philippians, 88.

[46] Ibid., 308.

[47] Ibid., 88.

[48] Ibid., 88.

[49] Marvin Richardson Vincent, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles to the Philippians and to Philemon, International Critical Commentary (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1897), 52.

[50] Bo Reicke, “Caesarea, Rome, and the Captivity Epistles,” Apostolic History and the Gospel: Biblical and Historical Essays Presented to F.F. Bruce, ed. W. Ward Gasque & Ralph P. Martin (Exeter: The Paternoster Press, 1970), 284.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Niles Dahl, “The Origin of the Earliest Prologues to the Pauline Letters,” Semeia 12: The Poetics of Faith, Part 1: Rhetoric, Eschatology, and Ethics in the New Testament (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 1978), 246.

[54] Reicke, Caesarea, 285.

[55] After being wrongfully beaten and imprisoned in Philippi, Paul asserted his privilege as a Roman citizen (cf. Acts 16:37). This displays Paul’s understanding of the prerogatives of Roman Citizenship and longstanding willingness to face injustice for the Kingdom. Further, the Philippian official’s response speaks to their understanding and respect of Roman citizenship (cf. Acts 16:38–39).

[56] As opposed to the common persecution from Jews, who had a miniscule presence in Philippi (cf. Acts 16).

[57] Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 32.

[58] Ibid. 34.


Backgrounds, Surveys, and Introductions

DeSilva, David Arthur. An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods & Ministry Formation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004.

Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. 2nd ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014.

Köstenberger, Andreas J., L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L. Quarles. The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament. 2nd ed. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2016.

Carson, D. A. and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Magie, David. Roman Rule in Asia Minor to the End of the Third Century after Christ. 2 Vols. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950.

Concordances, Dictionaries, and Encyclopedias

Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996.

––––––. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2001.

Freedman, David Noel. Anchor Bible Dictionary. 6 Vols. 1st ed. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

Silva, Moisés, ed. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis. 5 vols. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014.

Bauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Edited by Frederick William Danker. Translated by William Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich. 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Blass, Friedrich, and Albert Debrunner. A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Translated by Robert W. Funk. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961.

Hammond, N. G. L. and H. H. Sculland. The Oxford Classical Dictionary. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970.

Hornblower, Simon, Anthony Spawforth, and Esther Eidinow. The Oxford Classical Dictionary. 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.


Hawthorne, Gerald F and Ralph P. Martin. Philippians. Rev. ed. Word Biblical Commentary 43. Dallas: Word Books, 2004.

Lightner, Robert P. “Philippians.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures 2. Edited by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985.

Bruce, F. F. Philippians. Understanding the Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011.

Bruce F. F. The Books of Acts. New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988.

Melick, Richard R. Jr. “Philippians, Colossians, Philemon.” The New American Commentary 32. Edited by David S. Dockery. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1991.

Polhill, John B. “Acts.” The New American Commentary 26. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1992.

Reumann, John. Philippians. Anchor Yale Bible 33B. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008.

Fitzmyer, Joseph A. The Acts of the Apostles. Anchor Yale Bible 31. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008.

Hansen, G. Walter. The Letter to the Philippians. Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009.

Anders, Max. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians & Colossians. Holman New Testament Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999.

Silva, Moisés. Philippians. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992.

Bock, Darrell L. Acts. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007.

Martin, Ralph T. Philippians. Tyndale New Testament Commentary 11. Edited by Leon Morris. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987.

Marshall, I. Howard. Acts. Tyndale New Testament Commentary 5. Edited by Leon Morris. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1980.

MacArthur, John. Philippians: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2001.

Metzger, Bruce M. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 2nd ed. German Bible Society: Stuttgart, 1994.

Fee, Gordon D. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995.

Witherington III, Ben. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Socio-Rhetorical Commentary Series. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011.

Witherington III, Ben. The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Socio-Rhetorical Commentary Series. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997.

Whitacre, Rodney A. John. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series 4. Edited by Grant R. Osborne. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999.

Fowl, Stephen E. Philippians. The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2005.

Fee, Gordon D. Philippians. The IVP New Testament Commentary. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999.

Bockmuehl, Markus. The Epistle to the Philippians. Black’s New Testament Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1997.

Thompson, James W. and Bruce W. Longenecker. Philippians and Philemon. Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2016.

Vincent, Marvin. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles to the Philippians and Philemon. International Critical Commentary. Edited by Samuel Rolles Driver, Alfred Plummer, and Charles Augustus Briggs. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1897.

Barrett, C. K. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, Volume 2. International Critical Commentary. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1998.

Holloway, Paul A. Philippians: A Commentary. Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2017.

Keown, Mark J. Philippians: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary. Evangelical Exegetical Commentary. Edited by H. Wayne House, W. Hall Harris, and Andrew W. Pitts. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017.

Reumann, John H. P. Philippians. Anchor Yale Bible. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008.

Hawthorne, Gerald F. and Ralph P. Martin. Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 43: Philippians. Rev. Ed. Word Biblical Commentary. Thomas Nelson: Edinburgh, 2004.

Peterson, David G. The Acts of the Apostles. Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009.

Schnabel, Eckhard J. Acts. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012.

Keener, Craig S. Acts: An Exegetical Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014–2015.

Lightfoot, Joseph Barber. Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament. London: Macmillan and Co., 1913.

Michael, J. Hugh. The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians. The Moffatt New Testament Commentary. Edited by James Moffatt. London: Hodder and Stroughton, 1928.

Journals and Dissertations

Gasque, W. Ward., Ralph P. Martin, and F. F. Bruce. Apostolic History and the Gospel: Biblical and Historical Essays Presented to F. F. Bruce on His 60th Birthday. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970.

Bruce, F. F. “St Paul in Macedonia.” Academic Journal Article (1979): 337–354.

Burnett, A. M., Amandry, P.P. Ripolles, Roman Provincial Coinage, vol. I (The Julio-Claudians). London: British Museum Press, 1992. Reprinted with corrections 1999, reprinted 2006.

Dahl, Nils. “The Origin of the Earliest Prologues to the Pauline Letters.” Semeia 12: The Poetics of Faith, Part 1: Rhetoric, Eschatology, and Ethics in the New Testament. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 1978.

Flexsenhar, Michael. “The Provenance of Philippians and Why It Matters: Old Questions, New Approaches.” Journal for the study of the New Testament 42, no. 1 (September 2019): 18–45.

Reicke, Bo. “Caesarea, Rome, and the Captivity Epistles.” Apostolic History and the Gospel: Biblical and Historical Essays Presented to F.F. Bruce. Edited by W. Ward Gasque & Ralph P. Martin. Exeter, UK: The Paternoster Press, 1970.

Translated Volumes

Eusebius. “Ecclesiastical History, Books 1–5.” In the Fathers of the Church 19. Edited by Roy Joseph Deferrari. Translated by Roy Joseph Deferrari. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1953.

Jerome. “Against Palagians.” In Dogmatic and Polemical Works. Translated by John N. Hritzu. Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1965.

Rufinus. History of the Church. The Fathers of the Church 133. Translated by Philip R. Amidon. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2016.

Herodotus. The Persian Wars. 8 Vols. The Loeb Classical Library: English. Translated by A. D. Godley. London: Heinemann, 1922.  

Appian. Roman History, Volume I. Loeb Classical Library. Edited and translated by Brian McGing. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2019.

Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Translated by William Whiston. Project Gutenberg, 2001.

Culture Society

The Church’s Role in a Global Pandemic

How can Scripture guide the believer, congregation, and church leaders through the COVID-19 pandemic?

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Nearly one year into the Coronavirus pandemic and the Church seems more fractured than ever. Vitriolic rhetoric amongst believers has become the new norm. Purporting Christian liberty, some have taken a stand against governing authorities, while maligning societal convictions on health and safety. With this vocal minority gaining momentum in Christo-American culture, its difficult to remain unaffected, silent, and neutral.

I myself have faced persecution from fellow believers, simply for following COVID guidelines. I’ve been crushed by church leaders, mentors, and professors who suggest mask wearing is tantamount to ignorant compliance to an oppressive system. I’ve lost friendships, merely because of my desire to obey Scripture – to love others, submit to governing authorities, and obey my church elders. To say this pandemic has unalterably affected my future would not be an overstatement. The Lord has allowed me to experience these trials, so that I myself might humbly treat others with greater respect and dignity. That I would respect the convictions of others and resolve to never put a stumbling block in the way of a brother or sister. And to take seriously my Christian witness amongst a world that is beginning to associate Christ with conspiracy, rebellion, science denial, and inhumanity.

In upcoming posts, I will provide biblical insight into the church’s role in a global pandemic. Key to this analysis will be a systematic observation of scriptural principles, reaching beyond arguments for Christian freedom. Several facets of church praxis will be considered:

  • Is the Church’s gospel witness marred by rebellion against governing authorities?
  • How does the church best care for her neighbors and the flock?
  • What is the root and solution to infighting over COVID regulations and guidelines?
  • Does Christian freedom and liberty inform our response to social distancing/mask mandates?
  • What is the pastor’s role in addressing COVID-19? Is a church leader qualified to downplay or deny the Pandemic?
  • How can Gospel unity be achieved between the libertines and the subservients?

In examining the church and COVID-19, I will offer my own experience with libertine philosophy and praxis – namely at Grace Community Church and the Master’s Seminary – in contrast with the subservience of my home church, Cornerstone Moorpark. I hope to shine light on this dilemma of divergent convictions faced by many students, congregations, and families.

Textual Criticism

The Inauthenticity of the Pericope Adulterae

Why John 7:53-8:11 should be excluded from the New Testament Canon

Introduction: The Pericope Adulterae – A Textual Anomaly

             In virtually all of today’s modern Bible translations, the aptly named Pericope Adulterae can be found in John 7:53–8:11. Yet evidenced by the cautionary brackets placed around the story, its canonicity has been pushed to secondary status. Although a majority of scholars and text-critics deny the words ever came from the Apostle John’s pen, the contentious Pericope nevertheless abides. This paper will seek to reaffirm the inauthenticity of the Pericope Adulterae by utilizing the methodologies of textual and literary criticism. More specifically, the story of the adulteress woman will be shown as warranting no connection to the Apostle John. Historical attestation to the text itself will be scrutinized and its authorship examined, before addressing the superfluous attestations of literary and theological concurrence. By way of conclusion, this author will argue that the Pericope Adulterae, if it can be established as inauthentically Johannine, should be excised from Scripture completely.

External Evidence: A Late Interpolation of the PA

            Historical attestation of Johannine authorship for the Pericope Adulterae (henceforth PA) is markedly minimal. The modern student of Scripture quickly recognizes the jarring brackets surrounding this story, where it currently rests in John’s Gospel. This fenced off passage is ominously accompanied by the cautionary note, “The earliest manuscripts do not include 7:53–8:11.” As will be shown, this warning alone represents sufficient reasoning to reject the PA as non-canonical. The PA must be thoroughly scrutinized via textual criticism to reveal its origins as inauthentically Johannine. Examining the manuscript evidence will reveal that this story was interpolated between John 7 and 8 sometime in the early fourth or late third century. After addressing the manuscript evidence, the earliest attestations to the PA within Latin and Greek church traditions will be considered.

Greek Manuscript Evidence

That “many of the earliest [Gospel of John] manuscripts don’t include 7:53–8:11” is perhaps an understatement, used to justify continuing the circumspect inclusion of PA into John’s Gospel. Regardless, the scant manuscript support for the Pericope has been widely cited as the fatal blow for any question of its authenticity. It has been noted that none of the second- and third-century Greek papyri containing portions of John’s Gospel have the Pericope Adulterae.[1] Two notable witnesses, Papyrus Bodmer XIV and Papyrus Bodmer II, contain the relevant section of John, without any sign of the questioned Pericope.[2] Other early Greek manuscripts exist, but with missing or otherwise obstructed sections where the PA is traditionally found.[3]

The earliest Greek witness of PA’s inclusion into John’s Gospel can be found in the Greek and Latin diglot, Codex Bezae. This manuscript, however, has been the subject of much debate. It is the opinion of this author that Bezae, dating to approximately AD 400, has been rightly criticized as anomalous and often erroneous. Indeed, the text contains many interpolations besides the PA. The reader should follow the Alands’ example in recognizing Bezae as insignificant outside of validating textual traditions from more reliable sources.[4] In Bezae, then, we have the first evidence of an abnormal interpolation of PA into a Greek manuscript. This is by no means normative for the first four centuries of Greek New Testament scribal efforts. No reliable, universally accepted early Greek manuscript contains the story of the adulteress.

From Asia to Alexandria: The Attestation of Didymus and Papias

            Moving away from Greek external evidence against the Pericope, one must now examine the far more affirmative Latin tradition pointing toward inclusion. To be sure, later Latin scholars and theologians, from the fourth century onward, display a willingness to accept PA into the canon of Scripture. Several significant church fathers must be examined – Didymus, Jerome, Ambrose, and Augustine.

The most significant of our attestations to the PA is not from a Latin father, but rather Didymus the Blind (c. 388–89). This Alexandrian theologian had a direct connection with the Latin father Jerome, who was his pupil in Alexandria.[5] Rufinus, who translated Eusebius’s works from Greek into Latin, was also a student of Didymus. As will become apparent, these connections to Didymus are incredibly important for understanding the history and acceptance of the PA.[6] Regarding Didymus, Donaldson notes,

In his Commentary on Ecclesiastes, Didymus uses the Pericope Adulterae (John 7:53-8:11; §85), which he says is present in certain (copies of the?) Gospels (εν τισιν ευαγγελιοις), to illustrate the statement that even if a servant has cursed a master, the master is not innocent of having wronged others. While Didymus offers no opinion on the authenticity of the passage, he feels free to cite it as though it is authoritative Scripture.[7]

Ehrman argues that Didymus’s claim regarding the PA being found “in certain Gospels” and literary positioning necessarily link the story to the context of John 7 and 8.[8] This, of course, represents only those manuscript(s) available to Didymus in fourth century Alexandria, which he utilized for his commentary on Ecclesiastes. Because Didymus utilizes the PA to further explicate right versus hypocritical judgement in Ecclesiastes 7:22, Ehrman is confident Didymus understood the story in a Johannine context. Put simply, he contends that utilizing the PA in this instance would be nonsensical unless the greater Tabernacles Discourse of John 7–8 is recognized.[9] This conclusion requires one to submit that the PA was present in John’s Gospel manuscript(s) within Alexandria (and thus in Greek) even before Bezae. Despite the contentions of Ehrman, no such manuscript exists. If the Alexandrian-to-Latin link can nevertheless be maintained, one can argue for an early fourth or late third century interpolation of the PA into John 7 and 8.

Ehrman takes Didymus’s ambiguous, plural “gospels” to also refer to The Gospel of the Hebrews.[10] That Didymus merely refers to manuscripts or copies of “gospels,” is a conclusion wholly rejected by Ehrman.[11] While his suggestion of an early interpolation of the Pericope into John is lacking evidence, it becomes more convincing once one understands the link between Didymus, Jerome, and Rufinus. Your author proposes a mediating position, which qualifies Ehrman’s Didymus connections, while rejecting his extrapolated two-source theory. More specifically, that the Gospel of Hebrews is the original written source of the PA, which was only later interpolated into the Gospel of John. This narrative translocation plausibly transpired in an early fourth or late third century Greek manuscript – likely originating from Alexandria. Since the Gospel of Hebrews may indeed represent its original manuscription, it should be acknowledged as the sole non-oratory source of the PA.[12] Even Ehrman contests that, elsewhere in his writings, Didymus displayed familiarity with this non-canonical gospel.[13] If, then, it can be shown that the PA belonged to the lost gospel, the story’s current position within the Gospel of John must be completely rejected.

            By way of analysis, evidence points toward Didymus’s utilization of the PA, in the context of his commentary on Ecclesiastes 7, as inseparable from its present Johannine location. This does not mean the Alexandrian theologian was unaware of other traditions or “gospels” purveying this same narrative. As virtually all scholars agree, it is likely that Didymus was familiar with either oratory tradition regarding the PA, or the Gospel according to the Hebrews specifically.[14] This hypothesis is further supported by the witness of Papias (c. AD 95–110), who, according to Eusebius (c. AD 324), was familiar with a story regarding a woman accused of many sins being brought before Jesus, “and he (Papias) has set forth another story about a woman who was accused before the Lord of many sins, which is contained in the Gospel according to the Hebrews.”[15] Certainly this early attestation could refer to the PA. Many scholars have reached this conclusion.

Notably, there remains ambiguity in the reference to the Gospel of Hebrews. Eusebius may have been recalling that this story, known in Papias’s Expositions of the Lord’s Sayings, was found/recognized by Eusebius himself in the Gospel according to the Hebrews. Otherwise, the historian is stating that Papias actually found this story in the Gospel of Hebrews. The former reading seems more plausible contextually.[16] Given that Eusebius grants very little space for addressing Papias’s works, it’s clear he only included the most consequential details. Why would he, as some suggest, merely reference Luke 7:36–50, which was already an accepted canonical account?[17] Observing this passage from Luke, there are certainly parallels – A woman guilty of many sins (v. 47), who was accused before Jesus by the Pharisees (v. 39). Still, Eusebius would have certainly made reference to any synoptic or Johannine parallels. Moreover, Eusebius heads this section with “another story”, suggesting it was not a familiar narrative.[18] Eusebius seems to be affirming the historicity of an account Papias passed on from source a (likely oratory witness) as corroborated with the same story appearing in source b (the Gospel of Hebrews). Ehrman highlights that Eusebius only recorded traditions Papias had passed down from the oral witness of certain ‘elders’ (associates of the Apostles).[19]

Didymus and the Didascalia: The Two-Source Theory

Ehrman concludes that the Papias account represents the same historical narrative recorded in the Didascalia Apostolorum (c. AD ~230).[20] The Didascalia, which is similar to the extant Didache, clearly refers to the PA,

For if thou receive not him who repents, because thou art merciless, thou sinnest against the Lord God, because thou dost not obey our Lord and God in acting as He acted; for even He to that woman who had sinned, her whom the elders placed before him and left it to judgment at His hands, and went away; He then who searcheth the hearts, asked her and said to her, “Have the Elders condemned thee, my daughter? She saith to him, No, Lord. And our Saviour said, Go, and return no more to do this, neither do I condemn thee.”[21]

Notable here is the PA tradition being carried on, supposedly at an early third century date, without any reference to the Gospel of John. In fact, this account is quite dissimilar to the present John 7 Pericope. Yet this story was clearly viewed as historical and authoritative, given its use for church instruction here. Ehrman believes this version (concurring with that of Papias) represents one of two disparate early PA narratives, later conflated and interpolated into John.[22] Under this theory, it is understood that Papias directly received and recorded one PA story, which was incorrectly identified by Eusebius with a second PA story found in the Gospel according to the Hebrews.[23] This would assume the two narratives had divergent details which Eusebius simply ignored.

One might argue, as Ehrman has, that Papias and the Didascalia Apostolorum account for the oldest, most historical PA.[24] This leads to a conclusion that Didymus, the Gospel according to Hebrews, and Eusebius were all familiar with an entirely different PA narrative.[25] Finally, Ehrman presents his theory, “Is it possible that Didymus and the Didascalia actually preserve two originally distinct stories which were conflated into the traditional version of the PA only after they had circulated independently in different Christian Communities?”[26]

            Ehrman’s pervasive theory fails on several counts. First, his infamously conjectural methodology is on full display here. One wonders how Ehrman makes such great cognitive leaps in his text-critical endeavors. For example, he submits that Didymus offers a paraphrased account and Eusebius a mere allusion to Papias’s full story in Expositions of the Lord’s Sayings, yet he still draws his main contentions from the details (or lack thereof) in each recounting! His molding of each PA appearance to fit his two-source bias is arbitrary and contrived. In addition, Ehrman’s conclusion on an early dating of the Didascalia Apostolorum is similarly conjunctural.[27] There’s no compelling evidence to believe the Didascalia preserves an older, historical version of the PA. Regarding other potential manifestations of the PA, some have dubiously suggested phrasal parallels between the “Johannine PA” and the second century Infancy Gospel of James or Papyrus Egerton 2.[28] These links are nearly impossible to maintain and thus find little explication in modern scholarship.[29]

            Therefore, only three early attestations to the PA are extant – in Didymus’s commentary on Ecclesiastes, Papias’s Expositions of the Lord’s Sayings, and the Didascalia Apostolorum. None of these accounts claim this story is canonical. It can further be held that all three narratives represent the same story, in opposition to the outdated two-source theory of Ehrman. This is the most logical conclusion, given that the PA is almost universally acknowledged as originating from a nearly lost oral tradition and the nonextant Gospel of Hebrews. Due to the transient nature of both sources, it should not be assumed that the PA would maintain complete fidelity. This is certainly an important acknowledgement for the Christian who understands the story to be uninspired. God had no reason to sovereignly preserve it – and the text naturally faced additions and degradation.[30] The onus is on Ehrman to provide solid, nonconjectural proof of two sources. For even he admits all the aforementioned accounts bear notable similarities.

Finally, and most importantly, neither text is inherently Johannine. Even Ehrman would submit to this conclusion.[31] These rather early instances of the story’s circulation highlight that the PA is not completely apocryphal. Rather, it seems to have been acknowledged as a truthful story of the Lord’s life, perhaps only found in the Gospel of Hebrews. Didymus and the Didascalia Apostolorum seem to imply this was the case. Regardless, no Christian witness testifies to the Johannine inclusion of the PA until the late fourth century.[32] Though the text was included after John 7:52 in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate, it remains to be shown that such an inclusion was contentious.

The Latin Church Fathers and PA’s Late Acceptance

            To conclude this section on the historicity of the PA text itself, one must recognize the Latin fathers’ zeal in affirming the pericope as authentically Johannine. Jerome, writing around AD 415, noted, “In the Gospel, according to John, there is found in many of both the Greek as well as the Latin copies, the story of the adulteress who was accused before the Lord.”[33] This came nearly forty years after Jerome resolved to include the Pericope in his Latin Vulgate.[34] Certainly Jerome wasn’t referring to Codex Bezae (c. AD 400) alone. It’s clear Jerome utilized even older Greek manuscript(s), likely those estimated to have existed in Alexandria in the early fourth, late third century AD. One must necessarily conclude that by the fourth century, the PA was found within John, though its inclusion was already contentious. It must be noted that the story appeared in a small fraction of Greek manuscripts but found wider assimilation into the Latin tradition. Jerome thus wittingly chose to translate those Greek manuscript(s) containing the PA.

Augustine, writing around 401, said of the Pericope,

Some hostile to true faith, fearing, as I believe, that liberty to sin with impunity is granted their wives, remove from their Scriptural texts the account of our Lord’s pardon of the adulteress, as though He who said: ‘From now on, sin no more,’ granted permission to sin, or as though the woman should not have been cured by the Divine Physician by the remission of that sin, so as not to offend others who are equally unclean.[35]

Again, this quote reaffirms that by the fourth century, the PA was contentiously present in some manuscripts of John’s Gospel. That a variety of manuscripts existed both with and without the story is readily apparent. Should one assume the PA was excised from John due to scribal misgivings regarding Jesus’ leniency on sexual sin? While we might observe the sexual ethic of Augustine’s time was strict and valued chastity and fidelity, this historical, redaction criticism claim is frankly a baseless theory.[36] Early textual excision would be apparent from the manuscript evidence.

As it currently stands, there is no sign that any early Greek copyist was familiar with the adultery narrative in a Johannine context. Another fourth century witness to PA was supposedly mounted by Ambrose, which will not be treated here due to the account’s spurious nature.[37] It bears mentioning that this Ambrose imitator, writing sometime after AD 397, affirms that PA was, by this time, both found in a Gospel and viewed as difficult to accept, precisely because of Jesus’ forgiveness of an adulteress.[38] Punch, who himself cannot fully affirm Ambrose’s authorship of Second Apology, comments, “Ambrose seems concerned that the PA could lead some to view Jesus as being too lenient on sexual sins and perhaps even as making a mistake.”[39] This displays what has already been affirmed – that the Pericope Adulterae was found within the Gospel of John by the fourth century, yet not without debate regarding its authenticity.

As has been shown, the Latin Fathers almost unanimously viewed the PA as subversive in its sexual ethic. Does this represent a history of purposeful excision due to a strict moral framework within the church? This so called “suppression theory”[40] fails under scrutiny when one acknowledges various passages not excised from the text of John. Certainly, if there was an aversion to leniency regarding female sexual sin, scribes would have first removed John 4:1–45. Herein we find a blatant picture of Christ ministering to the Samaritan woman, who was herself an adulterer. Many such targets for redaction are only limited by the imagination. Further, the rigorous and defined philology of scribes counts against this theory, “Such an editor may have chosen to mark copies of John with the passage in some way—and indeed, such marks do accompany the pericope in later Byzantine manuscripts—but deletion was outside of the scope of established critical methods.”[41]

A thorough examination of the Pericope’s historicity and a synopsis of currents in text-critical analysis has revealed that the story of the adulterous woman was never original to John’s Gospel. While the external evidence is certainly conclusive, arguments based on the internal witness must nevertheless be addressed. Those arguing for inclusion of the PA most commonly appeal to the story’s contribution to John’s narrative flow and congruence with Johannine literary and textual cues.

Internal Evidence: Johannine Dissimilarities

While the interpolation of the Pericope Adulterae is clear from its meager historical record, many questions remain regarding this passage. Most prominently, what is the source of this textual anomaly and where does it belong? While nothing pins the Pericope between John 7 and 8 necessarily, one must inquire about the origin, historicity, and canonicity of the narrative itself. These issues will henceforth be taken up, with a conclusion regarding the canonicity of this anomalous account.

The PA’s Anomalous Rhetorical Style

One perplexing feature of the PA is its appearance outside of John 7:53–8:11 in several notable manuscripts. The story has been found after John 7:36, after John 21:34 or 24, and even after Luke 21:38.[42] Although these manuscripts are exceptions, the “floating” nature of this account further suggests interpolation. Thus, one might rationally conclude that a copyist wittingly chose the present context of John 7:53 precisely because of the Pericope’s contextual parallels. But most interesting here is the early appearance of this stray narrative in Luke. As Brown suggests of the Pericope, “in general the style is not Johannine either in vocabulary or grammar. Stylistically, the story is more Lucan than Johannine.”[43] This has led more than one scholar to posit Lukan authorship for the PA.[44] Even the previously mentioned use of the PA in the writing of Didymus has been argued by Donaldson to exhibit Lukan characteristics.[45]

Literary Concurrence

            Thus far, the disparate elements of the Pericope Adulterae have been analyzed to highlight the incongruity of this narrative within John’s Gospel. Textual criticism alone strongly suggests the Pericope is not original. With the addition of decidedly unusual textual elements, Johannine authorship is nearly impossible to maintain. Scholars, desiring to move beyond these two lines of attack, have suggested the Pericope Adulterae is abruptly introduced and does not fit within the Tabernacles Discourse of 7:1–52. Further, there is a clear connection with 8:12ff, suggesting a continuation from 7:52. Specifically, the phrase “Again Jesus spoke to them” in 8:12 most apparently links back to Jesus’ living water discourse in 7:37–38. This imagery, previously utilized by Jesus, is that of water drawing associated with the Feast of Tabernacles.

Similarly, in 8:12 Jesus is found proclaiming, “I am the Light of the World” – drawing upon the symbolism of lamplit nights during this same celebration.[46]

Reflecting back upon the methodologies of text criticism, it is worth noting that PA contains 14 words unique to John, being used nowhere else in his Gospel.[47] By some accounts, the author of PA appears to use phraseology and terminology quite unusual for John’s Gospel, yet almost certainly mimics Johannine features as well.[48] The evidence is far from being rendered inconclusive, however. For one, the unusual and frequent use of verbal κατα-prefixes has been variously noted as the strongest example of non-Johannine terminology being employed.[49] Finally, only two distinctly Johannine style characteristics have been noted in the entire Pericope.[50]

            Although there is a convincing narrative continuation from 7:52 to 8:12, it cannot be decisively asserted that the PA is completely out of place narratively. Beasley-Murray explains, “If we ask why it (PA) was set in its present place, the answer must be a genuine sense of fitness of context. The theme of judgment is strong in chaps. 7–8; the story could well be regarded as illustrative of 7:24 and 8:15–16; and we note the opposition of the Pharisees to Jesus in 7:46–52 and 8:13.”[51] Similarly, Klink comments, “Yet in spite of this text-critical mystery, this pericope plays a significant role in the developing narrative, serving as a conclusion to several burgeoning issues in chapter 7 and as the climactic episode to the section, “The Confession of the Son of God” (5:1–8:11), by clearly showing to the Jewish authorities the authority of Jesus.”[52]

By way of deduction, one may thus suggest that this interpolation was purposefully placed within a fitting context. It’s not a far stretch to conclude this same interpolator attempted to mimic Johannine style characteristics to further blend the PA into its current context.[53] To simply assert the adultery narrative is completely unfitting within this context is too assumptive and cavalier a conclusion. Brown, who strongly argues the Pericope Adulterae is a later insertion, nevertheless submits, “From the standpoint of internal criticism, the story is quite plausible and quite like some of the other gospel stories of attempts to trap Jesus (Luke 20:20, 27).”[54]As has been shown, text-critical and syntactical analysis have sufficiency placed the onus on those holding the minority view to support their claims.

That the PA appears in so many varied forms is further evidence of the text’s adaptation and interpolation into a Johannine context. One may conclude all the evidence points toward scribal zeal to preserve a Jesus tradition, regardless of the historicity of said narrative. From the fourth century (or perhaps late third century) onward, this well-known account was interpolated into John from either oratory tradition or the elusive Gospel according to the Hebrews. The interpolation theory of the PA finds further evidence in scribal attempts to fit the story into ten disparate locations within John and Luke.[55] Of all of these interpolations, ultimately the context of John 7 and 8, the Tabernacles Discourses, was found most fitting and enjoyed the greatest deal of later duplications. 

Conclusion: A Timeline for the PA

            In conclusion, the text-critical evidenced for the inauthenticity of Johannine authorship for the Pericope Adulterae is too strong to be ignored.[56] Not only is the Pericope completely absent from all pre-fifth century AD manuscripts, it appears within extant manuscripts in at least nine different locations in John’s Gospel, and one in Luke.[57] Many copyists who later included this Pericope did so with hesitancy, distinctly marking John 7:53–8:11 to highlight its potential inauthenticity.[58] Regarding church tradition and attestation, Metzger notes, “No Greek Church Father prior to Euthymius Zigabenus (twelfth century) comments on the passage, and Euthymius declares that the accurate copies of the Gospel do not contain it.”[59] Admittingly, Didymus the Blind’s Commentary on Ecclesiastes, and the reference to the PA therein, means Metzger’s claim is outdated. This is far from a tragic development, however. Rather, as has been shown, the lineage of the PA can now be directly traced from the Gospel of Hebrews and oratory tradition to its current location in John’s Gospel. One must submit that the Apostolic father Papias attests to the PA’s circulation among the ‘elders’ (close associates of the Apostles).

The Imperfect Preservation of the Non-Canonical PA

This same exact historical moment in the life of Jesus was later confirmed by Eusebius as being recorded in the early but lost Gospel of Hebrews (c. AD 150). The popularity of this tradition and the Gospel of Hebrews itself was especially prevalent in Alexandria. Alexandria was home to Didymus the Blind, who taught both Jerome and Rufinus. Both scholars preserved the conclusions of their Greek mentor and teacher regarding the PA.[60] Jerome carried on Didymus’s claim that “certain gospels” contained the PA, by defending the narrative’s inclusion into John’s Gospel. As will be shown, Rufinus connected all previous iterations of the PA into one central, historical Jesus story.[61]

Yet by both accounts, the Johannine placement was far from unanimously accepted and represented an emergent interpolation attested by a minority of manuscripts. That any inclusion into the canon was absent until the early fourth or late third century is attested to by the non-existence of this narrative in all Greek manuscripts before the fifth century. When Jerome stated this deviant reading was contentious, he certainly affirms that his fourth or fifth century reader would be surprised by its inclusion in the Vulgate. Finally, the willingness of Rufinus to specify Papias’s account as absolutely referring to the PA in his translation of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History (c. 401), shows that one PA narrative was known to exist in both late John manuscript(s) and the Gospel of Hebrews.

Rufinus writes, “He (Papias) includes at the same time some story about the adulterous woman accused by the Jews in the Lord’s presence. That passage is also found in the gospel which is called “according to the Hebrews.”[62] Two significant conclusions are drawn from this expansion and specification of Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History. First, Rufinus wouldn’t have altered Eusebius’s “woman who was accused before the Lord of many sins” to “adulterous woman accused…” unless he was familiar with the PA as it stood in the Gospel of Hebrews and certain manuscripts of John. Correspondence with the Gospel of John is inferred on two points – the clear verbal allusion to the still extant “Johannine” PA and Rufinus’ association with Didymus.[63] Much like Jerome, Rufinus must have been aware of the PA’s existence in “certain gospels.” As has been argued, this phrase of Didymus most plausibly refers to the Gospel of Hebrews and a minority of Greek manuscripts of John’s Gospel.

From here, Latin Fathers such as Augustine took up the task of vehemently defending Johannine authenticity. Thus, the interpolation of PA must have happened in a Greek manuscript – and having never been fully accepted by the Greek Fathers as anything but an oratory tradition and Gospel of Hebrews narrative – was only later defended by zealous Latin Fathers. The link from Didymus to the Latin Fathers has been thoroughly represented. How can one be certain the Greek Father’s weren’t accepting of even the stray interpolation of the PA into John? Didymus’s own teacher, Origen, moves from 7:52 to 8:12 in his commentary on John’s Gospel, with nary a mention of the PA.[64] Thus, especially stunning in PA research is that the earliest church fathers explicitly knew of the PA, yet never considered it canonical.[65]

One final point of contention is raised regarding the literary style of this pericope. While some argue this passage bears the marks of Johannine authorship, the majority highlight its highly unusual vocabulary, which seems almost Lukan. The Pericope is so anomalous, in fact, that the fringes of modern scholarship have spilled ink to defend its Lukan or even Markan authorship.[66] Even if the literary style’s ambiguity leads one to suggest a Johannine style, varied due to the unusual subject matter, one must concede that a forger would easily emulate Johannine characteristics given such a small canvas.[67]

            It is the contention of this author that the sheer magnitude of the aforementioned evidence alone demands the Johannine authorship of the Pericope Adulterae be rejected. The student of Scripture need not probe further into the contextual elements wherein the Pericope currently stands in modern Bibles. Many have suggested the story of the adulterous woman fits well within the context of Jesus’ Tabernacle discourse. This, however, proves nothing about the Johannine authorship of the account. Surely scribes located what they believed to be the most fitting spot for this interpolation, which explains why other copyists disagreed and found Luke 21:38 a more fitting context. 

            The Pericope Adulterae should not be included anywhere in the book of John and should be omitted from the canon of Scripture entirely. While the story’s origins and authorship remain ambiguous, one can be certain the passage was not penned by any of the four Gospel writers. Most scholars and textual critics have arrived at this very conclusion, though very few have suggested the Pericope be abrogated completely.[68] Many are satisfied with the story’s containment within cautious brackets or it’s questioned authenticity being relegated to a mere footnote. While the designation of this text must not divide the Church, there is no logical justification for its inclusion.

Concluding Implications for Theology and Ministry

One must submit the PA is not detrimental to the narrative flow of John’s Gospel, nor does it propose theological difficulties. If anything, as has been shown, the text fits well and even highlights God’s Gospel of grace. Yet this interpolation intrudes upon God’s inspired, inerrant Word, as recorded by the Apostle John. John’s masterful, God-breathed account serves the sovereign purposes of his Lord – regardless of our thoughts on the narrative or literary structure. In other words, If God, and His servant John, did not intend the Pericope Adulterae to be found anywhere within the Fourth Gospel, it should not be there. To interpolate even the most elegant, fitting, and historical story from an apocryphal gospel would rightly be considered an unspeakable evil.[69] Protestant Christendom has thus refused to include even “deuterocanonical” books within or “between” the Holy Scriptures, separating from the tradition venerating disposition of Roman Catholicism.

All uninspired stories of our Lord must be wholly separated from our inspired text. To wittingly entertain extra-canonical interpolations sets a dangerous precedent regarding the verbal-plenary inspiration of Scripture and contextual, literary, and socio-historical unity of individually purposed apostolic letters. Köstenberger, in his commentary on John, takes an approach to the Pericope Adulterae that is distinct among his contemporaries. He argues that this story should be completely excised from Scripture and not taught from the pulpit. The scholar thus stands in solidarity with Origen, who in his third century commentary on John, passed over 7:53 to 8:11 entirely.[70] While evangelical Christian scholars must continue studying New Testament apocryphal literature, such traditions must not be preached from the pulpit and thus ascended to “secondary” canonical status.


[1] Tommy Wasserman, “The Strange Case of the Missing Adulteress,” in The Pericope of the Adulteress in Contemporary Research, Library of New Testament Studies 551, eds. David Alan Black, Jacob N. Cerone, and Chris Keith (Edinburgh: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016), 37.

[2] Bruce Manning Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, rev. ed. (New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), 187.

[3] Wasserman, “The Strange Case of the Missing Adulteress,” 38.

[4] Barbara Aland and Kurt Aland, The Text of the New Testament: an Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Textual Criticism, 2nd ed., trans. E. F. Rhodes (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989) 110, 244.

[5] William L. Petersen, “ΟΥΔΕ ΕΓΩ ΣΕ [ΚΑΤΑ]ΚΡΙΝΩ: John 8:11, the Protevangelium Iacobi, and the History of the Pericope Adulterae,” in Sayings of Jesus: Canonical and Non-Canonical: Essays in Honor of Tjitze Baarda, eds. William L. Petersen, Johan S. Vos, and Henk Jen de Jonge (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 199.

[6] Ibid. Petersen makes the connection between Didymus the Blind and his two students, Jerome and Rufinus. He suggests the witness of all three of these men be taken together when tracing the history of the PA’s acceptance. Petersen also makes a connection between Eusebius and Rufinus – the latter being responsible for correlating Papias’s vague story of Christ in Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord with the PA.

[7] Amy M. Donaldson, “Explicit References to New Testament Variant Readings among Greek and Latin Church Fathers” (PhD diss., University of Notre Dame, 2009), 113.

[8] Bart D. Ehrman, “Jesus and the Adulteress,” New Testament Studies 34 (1988): 28. Ehrman views the Pericope Adulterae as explicitly instructing that anyone with any sin must never judge another sinner. With this interpretation, Didymus’s use of the passage to support leniency on hardworking slaves, regardless of their countenance or attitude, would thus be nonsensical. Ehrman’s contention is therefore that Didymus must have been alluding to the greater Tabernacles narrative of John 7–8, specifically regarding the discourses on right versus hypocritical judgement (Jn 7:22–24; 50-52).

[9] Ibid., 26–27.

[10] Ibid., 30; 37.

[11] Ibid., 26. Ehrman argues that ευαγγελιοις contextually refers to “books that contain Gospels.”

[12] Peterson, who utilizes form-critical parallels between the PA (as presented in John 7) and the Protoevangelium of James, even supports this conclusion. His contention, however, differs from that of his contemporaries. Based on several assumptions: (1) an early second century date for both the Protoevangelium and John’s Gospel, (2) that the Protoevangelium’s long history of textual variants and interpolation is insignificant, (3) and a rejection of a wide swath of scholarship that has observed and wittingly dismissed these parallels. All three of these assumptions represent major deviations from accepted scholarship. Johannine authorship of the Gospel of John and a first century date for this canonical book must be maintained. The historical development and corruption of the pseudonymous, apocryphal Protoevangelium cannot be ignored. And the extrapolations of Peterson’s form-critical method must be rejected. Indeed, Peterson is willing to entertain a hypothesis that the Gospel of John utilized the Protoevangelium, or that both works interpolated phraseology from a common, earlier source (such as “Q”). These conclusions are untenable and rightfully glossed over in New Testament scholarship. Petersen, “ΟΥΔΕ ΕΓΩ ΣΕ [ΚΑΤΑ]ΚΡΙΝΩ”, 204–219.

[13] Ehrman, “Jesus and the Adulteress,” 28.

[14] Wasserman, “The Strange Case of the Missing Adulteress,”, 34.

[15] Eusebius, “Ecclesiastical History, Books 1–5,” in The Fathers of the Church 19, ed. Roy Joseph Deferrari, trans. Roy Joseph Deferrari (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1953), 206.

[16] Ehrman, “Jesus and the Adulteress,” 29.

[17] Petersen, “ΟΥΔΕ ΕΓΩ ΣΕ [ΚΑΤΑ]ΚΡΙΝΩ”, 210.

[18] Ehrman, “Jesus and the Adulteress,” 29.

[19] Ehrman, “Jesus and the Adulteress,” 29.

[20] The Didascalia is only extant in the Apostolic Constitutions, dated to AD 380 and heavily modified/expanded. Ehrman, “Jesus and the Adulteress,” 33.

[21] Margaret Dunlop Gibson, trans., The Didascalia Apostolorum in English, vol. II (London: Cambridge University Press, 1903), 39–40.

[22] Ehrman, “Jesus and the Adulteress,” 30.

[23] Ibid., 33.

[24] Ehrman, “Jesus and the Adulteress,” 35. The author of the Didascalia and Papias are thought by Ehrman to have both come across this story in Syria and Asia Minor, where it supposedly circulated.

[25] Ibid., 34.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Chris Keith, “The Pericope Adulterae: A Theory of Attentive Insertion,” in The Pericope of the Adulteress in Contemporary Research, Library of New Testament Studies 551, eds. David Alan Black, Jacob N. Cerone, and Chris Keith (Edinburgh: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016), 91.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Petersen, “ΟΥΔΕ ΕΓΩ ΣΕ [ΚΑΤΑ]ΚΡΙΝΩ”, 210, Citing D. Lührmann, “Die Geschichte” (supra, n. 26), pp. 289-316. D. Lührmann argues the PA developed over time, gaining more details until reaching the Johannine account we have today.

[31] Ehrman, “Jesus and the Adulteress,” 37–38.

[32] Keith, “The Pericope Adulterae,” 93.

[33] Jerome, “Against Palagians,” in Dogmatic and Polemical Works, trans. John N. Hritzu (Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1965), 2.17.

[34] Jennifer Knust, “‘Taking Away From’: Patristic Evidence and the Omission of the Pericope Adulterae from John’s Gospel,” in The Pericope of the Adulteress in Contemporary Research, Library of New Testament Studies 551, eds. David Alan Black, Jacob N. Cerone, and Chris Keith (Edinburgh: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016), 65. – Jerome placed his translation after John 7:52, in about AD 384.

[35] Augustine, “Adulterous Marriages,” in Treatises on Marriage and Other Subjects, The Fathers of the Church 27, ed. Roy Joseph Deferrari, trans. Charles T. Huegelmeyer (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1955), 107–108.

[36] Knust, “Taking Away From,” 88.

[37] John David Punch, “The Piously Offensive Pericope Adulterae,” in The Pericope of the Adulteress in Contemporary Research, Library of New Testament Studies 551, eds. David Alan Black, Jacob N. Cerone, and Chris Keith (Edinburgh: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016), 26. Further, Ambrose’s direct relationship with Augustine necessitates that even if one ascribes this account to the Bishop of Milan, he would simply be mirroring the same tradition Augustine later affirmed.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Knust, “Taking Away From,” 88.

[41] Ibid., 83.

[42] Punch, “The Piously Offensive Pericope Adulterae,” 22.

[43] Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel according to John (I–XII): Introduction, Translation, and Notes, Anchor Yale Bible 29 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), 336

[44] Chris Keith, “Recent and Previous Research on the Pericope Adulterae (John 7.53–8.11),” Currents in Biblical Research 6.3 (2008): 384–6.

[45] Donaldson, Explicit References to New Testament Variant Readings, 447.

[46] George R. Beasley-Murray, John, Word Biblical Commentary 36 (Dallas: Word Books: 1999), 127.

[47] Andreas J. Köstenberger, John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic: 2004), 245.

[48] Ibid., 246.

[49] Punch, “The Piously Offensive Pericope Adulterae,” 15–16.

[50] Klink, John, 387.

[51] Beasley-Murray, John, 144.

[52] Edward W. Klink III, John, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Clinton E. Arnold, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016), 386.

[53] Alan F. Johnson, “A Stylistic Trait of the Fourth Gospel in the Pericope Adulterae?” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 9 (1966) 91–96.

[54] Brown, The Gospel according to John (I–XII), 335.

[55] Köstenberger, John, 248.

[56] Metzger reached a similar conclusion, “The evidence for the non-Johannine origin of the pericope of the adulteress is overwhelming.” Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 187.

[57] Klink, John, 387.

[58] Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 189.

[59] Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 188.

[60] Petersen, “ΟΥΔΕ ΕΓΩ ΣΕ [ΚΑΤΑ]ΚΡΙΝΩ”, 199.

[61] Ibid.

[62] Rufinus, History of the Church, The Fathers of the Church 133, trans. Philip R. Amidon (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2016), 140.

[63] Petersen, “ΟΥΔΕ ΕΓΩ ΣΕ [ΚΑΤΑ]ΚΡΙΝΩ”, 199.

[64] Knust, “Taking Away From,” 79–80.

[65] As attested to by Eusebius, Eusebius, “Ecclesiastical History,” 206.

[66] Johnson, “A Stylistic Trait of the Fourth Gospel in the Pericope Adulterae?” 94.

[67] Ibid., 96.

[68] Köstenberger seems to be the one exception here. Unfortunately, his commentary on John has been removed from circulation due to plagiarism. Köstenberger, John, 249.

[69] See Revelation 22: 18–19.

[70] Köstenberger, John, 249.


Backgrounds, Surveys, and Introductions

Aland, Barbara and Kurt Aland, The Text of the New Testament: an Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Textual Criticism. 2nd ed. Translated by E. F. Rhodes. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989.

Brown, Raymond Edward. An Introduction to the Gospel of John. Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library. New York: Doubleday, 2003.

DeSilva, David Arthur. An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods & Ministry Formation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004.

Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. 2nd ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014.

Köstenberger, Andreas J., L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L. Quarles. The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament. 2nd ed. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2016.

Concordances, Dictionaries, and Encyclopedias

Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996.

––––––. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2001.

Freedman, David Noel. Anchor Bible Dictionary. 6 Vols. 1st ed. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

Silva, Moisés, ed. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis. 5 vols. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014.


Beasley-Murray, George R. John. 2nd ed. Word Biblical Commentary 36. Dallas: Word Books, 1999.

Blum, E. A. John. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures 2. Edited by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985.

Boice, James Montgomery. The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999.

Borchert, Gerald L. John 1-11. New American Commentary 25a. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996.

Brown, Raymond Edward. The Gospel According to John. Anchor Yale Bible 29. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007.

Carson, D. A. The Gospel According to John. Pillar New Testament Commentary. Edited by D. A. Carson. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991.

Gangel, Kenneth O. John. Holman New Testament Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000.

Hendriksen, William. Baker New Testament Commentary: John. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1953.

Keener, Craig. The Gospel of John: A Commentary. 2 vols. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012.

Klink, Edward W. III. John. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Edited by Clinton E. Arnold. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016.

Kruse, Colin G. John. Tyndale New Testament Commentary 4. Edited by Leon Morris. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003.

MacArthur, John. John 1-11. MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2006.

Metzger, Bruce M. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 2nd ed. German Bible Society: Stuttgart, 1994.

Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to John. Rev. ed. New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995.

Ridderbos, Herman Nicolaas. The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary. Translated by John Vriend. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997.

Whitacre, Rodney A. John. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series 4. Edited by Grant R. Osborne. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999.

Journals and Dissertations

Black, David Alan, Jacob N. Cerone, John David Punch, Tommy Wasserman, Jennifer Knust, Christ Keith, Maurice A. Robinson, Larry Jurtado. The Pericope of the Adulteress in Contemporary Research. Library of New Testament Studies 551. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 2016.

Donaldson, Amy M. “Explicit References to New Testament Variant Readings among Greek and Latin Church Fathers.” Ph.D. diss. University of Notre Dame, 2009.

Ehrman, Bart D. “Jesus and the Adulteress.” New Testament Studies 34 (1988): 24–44.

Johnson, Alan F. “A Stylistic Trait of the Fourth Gospel in the Pericope Adulterae?” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 9 (1966): 91–96.

Keith, Chris. “Recent and Previous Research on the Pericope Adulterae (John 7.53–8.11).” Currents in Biblical Research 6.3 (2008): 377–404.

Petersen, William L. “ΟΥΔΕ ΕΓΩ ΣΕ [ΚΑΤΑ]ΚΡΙΝΩ: John 8.11, the Protevangelium Iacobi, and the History of the Pericope Adulterae.” In Sayings of Jesus: Canonical and Non-Canonical: Essays in Honor of Tjitze Baarda. Edited by William L. Petersen, Johan S. Vos, and Henk Jen de Jonge; Supplements to Novum Testamentum 89. Leiden: Brill, 1997: 191–221.

Translated Volumes

Augustine. “Adulterous Marriages.” In Treatises on Marriage and Other Subjects. The Fathers of the Church 27, edited by Roy Joseph Deferrari, translated by Charles T. Huegelmeyer. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1955.

Eusebius. “Ecclesiastical History, Books 1–5.” In the Fathers of the Church 19, edited by Roy Joseph Deferrari, translated by Roy Joseph Deferrari. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1953.

Jerome. “Against Palagians.” In Dogmatic and Polemical Works, translated by John N. Hritzu. Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1965.

Margaret Dunlop Gibson, translation. The Didascalia Apostolorum in English 2. London: Cambridge University Press, 1903.

Rufinus. History of the Church. The Fathers of the Church 133, translated by Philip R. Amidon. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2016.

Book Review

Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views – A Response to William Lane Craig’s Middle-Knowledge View

William Lane Craig is perhaps the most prolific modern philosopher to purport the middle knowledge view of divine foreknowledge today. In Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, Craig displays this prowess by categorically defending Molinism. Among the other competing understandings of divine foreknowledge, the middle knowledge view stands out for several reasons. First of all, it expands the omniscience of God, while highlighting His relation to man as immanently personal yet distinctly transcendent. In addition, and perhaps most significantly, the Molinist view best corroborates the existence of creaturely free will alongside divine providence.

Observing the whole of Craig’s chapter in Four Views, one finds a constant and consistent application of Christian philosophy. Indeed, the author begins his section by addressing the concept of counterfactuals – a term not used in the Biblical text yet highly important throughout Scripture. These statements represent possibilities, of what would be if a certain action were taken. Thus understood in theology, counterfactuals represent real options a free creature would have taken if he or she were placed in a certain circumstance. God’s knowledge of these counterfactuals is understood by the Molinist as existing logically prior to the creative decree – in between God’s natural knowledge and free knowledge. Thus, this “middle knowledge” informs God of the decisions creatures would make if placed in circumstances, and allows him to actualize a world wherein the sum of freely made creaturely decisions ultimately allows God to accomplish His purposes. As William Lane Craig defines it, middle knowledge best synthesizes divine providence with human free will.

I would argue that William Lane Craig offers the best understanding of divine providence via Molinism. In addition to the solid logic previously expounded, the objections to middle knowledge seem unconvincing. Dr. Craig specifically addresses the grounding argument, wherein the truth of counterfactuals is disregarded as being without basis. Yet, as the author explains, this objection is far from sound. Perhaps counterfactuals are simply possibly true, or exist in the mind of God. One need not assert their existence as necessary, abstract objects. In the area of theology, arguments linking God’s foreknowledge to fatalistic preordination are simply implausible when one addresses, as Craig does, logical versus chronological priority. Very few solid objections against Molinism have surfaced, and the middle knowledge view is far from heretical.

In my opinion, the most convincing portion of Dr. Craig’s chapter is his defense of counterfactuals within Scripture. The author presents several circumstances, such as David’s experience with Keilah, wherein God himself clearly offers a counterfactual statement (cf. 1 Sam. 23). Certainly this validates the truth of such statements. Moreover, it seems to show the reality of human responsibility and reality of free will, wherein creaturely decisions truly affect future procession. God’s suggestion that Keliah would offer up David to Saul if David stayed in the city cannot be explained away by mere hyperbole. God allows David to choose between leaving or staying, knows the outcomes of each choice, and foreknows what David will actually choose. As Craig explains, the Bible does not explicitly address “divine middle knowledge” but it does indeed suggest the validity of this extension to God’s omniscience.

Finally, the practicality of a middle knowledge view cannot be dismissed. As previously mentioned, this view best synthesizes human free will with divine providence. Stemming from this conclusion is an exceptionally qualified theodicy. By God’s middle knowledge, one is able to recognize the Creator as wholly sovereign yet not responsible for the free actions of human beings. Thus, the responsibility for evils within our world are the result of our God-given ability to make truly free decisions. Even so, we know God has actualized a world wherein His plan will be fulfilled. Several additional theological issues can be better defined according to middle knowledge, such as God’s ability to answer all prayers and biblical inspiration.

Philosophy Theodicy Uncategorized

The Logical Problem of Evil: A Molinist’s Response

Logical Problem of Evil

Interpreting the Premises

In 1955, J.L. Mackie posited that a logical contradiction exists between the following three propositions:

1)      God is omnipotent

2)      God is omnibenevolent

3)      There is evil in the world[1]

The crux of Mackie’s argument, then, is that God cannot exist if evil exists, and evil exists – therefore, God does not exist. Immediately apparent in this are the numerous assumptions made within the propositions. Most prominently, and as Mackie himself would accept, the deity in question must be the greatest conceivable being, to borrow Anselmian terminology. This author will indeed proceed per the biblical conclusions of perfect being theology, rejecting the less orthodox assumptions of process theology and the Irenaean theodicy of John Hick.

To begin assessing the faulty conclusion of Mackie, it will prove beneficial to dissect the propositions offered. Most importantly, it is evident (even to Mackie himself) that some set of additional or hidden premises must be accepted in order to prove the three propositions given above are truly contradictory. More specifically, if one holds that the statements, (1) an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God exists and (2) evil exists, are logically incompatible, further explanation of these terms must be provided. For to simply assert the above conclusions is to assume a specific understanding of “omnipotence”, “omnibenevolence”, and “evil”. Here we again arrive at the problem with assumed dogmas and inadequate philosophies. For clearly Mackie presents a view of God reminiscent of Descartes’ conclusion wherein even the laws of logic do not pose a limit on God. Related to this “hidden premise” is the conception of omnibenevolence wherein if God is indeed maximally good, then He would desire a world free of evil. Since God is simultaneously omnipotent (and under the Desacartian assumption, not limited by logic), He would actualize a world without evil. Assuming God can create any world He desires necessitates an undisclosed premise based on logic foreign to the incompatibilist, as it remains to be shown.

Free Will Defense

Alvin Plantinga first offered the free will defense, in response to J.L. Mackie’s logical problem of evil. Highlighting the assumptions and premises presented in the previous section, Plantinga successfully deconstructed the proposed contradiction. In his own words,

The heart of the Free Will Defense is the claim that it is possible that God could not have created a universe containing moral good (or as much moral good as this world contains) without creating one that also contained moral evil. And if so, then it is possible that God had a good reason for creating a world containing evil.[2]    

To expound upon this argument, it must simply be possible that humans have libertarian free will for the premises regarding the nature of God’s omnibenevolence and omnipotence to be proven as not necessarily true.[3] More specifically, the assumptions that God can create any world He desires (by virtue of His omnipotence) and would favor a world free of evil (per His omnibenevolence) are not necessarily true.

To be sure, the possibility of libertarian freedom is quintessential for this argument, which immediately undermines Calvinistic determinism. But again, binding our definitions of omnibenevolence and omnipotence to necessarily conform to the conclusions of any one dogma, such as those of Calvin and Descartes, does nothing to disprove the possibility of God and evil existing simultaneously. Further, the remaining natural evil present in the actualized world could possibly be the result of Satan and his cohorts expressing their own free will.[4] As Mackie himself admitted, this defense offered by Plantinga does indeed eliminate the logical problem of evil. What we must address now, however, is the probabilistic or evidential problem of evil. It will prove beneficial, however, to first expound upon the seemingly theoretical nature of Plantinga’s defense, to show the same logic of possibilities might move us closer to probability in the area of a well-defined theodicy.

Possible and Feasible Worlds

Following the reasoning of incompatibilism, one can successfully postulate the inherent goodness in God’s creating beings with true, libertarian free will. Indeed, it seems antithetical to suggest God would create mere automatons, programmed to perform the function of worship, especially when He already has creatures bound to this duty.[5] It appears our value to God is perhaps greater than the angels who we will “judge”.[6] In any case, it seems all the more meaningful to have humans who freely choose to worship God, even when faced with the opposing pull of sinful desires. On the negative side, creaturely free will also negates any suggestion that God might somehow be responsible for evil. If one takes a deterministic worldview – wherein God determines the actions of creatures – it is well-neigh impossible to escape the implications of such direct causation.

With the virtues of an incompatibilist view established, the crucial task of discerning reasons why God actualized this specific world remain. According to the Molinist, God discerns all the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom according to contingent circumstances. The collective whole and ultimate procession of these counterfactuals thus makes up the gamut of possible worlds God could actualize.

Now, it should be assumed that the greatest conceivable being would wittingly chose to actualize a world wherein His purposes would be accomplished. Further, I would offer that given His reasoning for creating man in particular, God would logically bring about a world that would bring Him the greatest amount of glory. Given the reality of free will, this must be explored further. A world wherein everyone chooses only good certainly might be possible for God to actualize, though it is likely not feasible. We might imagine that such a world contains five creatures, all of which live five minutes after being created – a scenario with significantly less glory being given to God compared to the actual world. One must further assume that God’s reasoning is far more inscrutable, and the nature of “infeasible” far more complex to a perfect being. In addition, it doesn’t appear beneficial to adapt the view of Leibniz wherein God is viewed as actualizing the greatest possible world. Rather, one might assume He actualized a best possible world that was feasible for Him and will ultimately achieve His purposes. To adopt Leibniz’s logic here would lead one to an infinite quantitative progression in goods, wherein an end is logically unlocatable. To conclude this section, is a possible explanation for the existence of evil utilizing the middle knowledge view, “God could not have created a world that had so much good as the actual world but had less evil, both in terms of quantity and quality; and, moreover, God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting the evil that exists.”[7] It is now the task of this writer to address the evidential problem of evil using inductive reasoning. 

Works Cited

[1] J. L. Mackie, “Evil and Omnipotence” In Mind, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1955), 200-212.

[2] Alvin Plantinga, God, Freedom and Evil, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 31.

[3] William Lane Craig, J. P. Moreland, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 1601-04.

[4] Plantinga, God, 58.

[5] Cf. Isaiah 6:2-3. Revelation 4:8.

[6] Cf. 1 Corinthians 6:3, see also, Hebrews 1:4.

[7] Craig, Foundations, 1609.

Philosophy Theodicy

The Problem of Evil: A Molinist’s Theodicy (Pt. 1)

Throughout the millennia, philosophers and laypersons alike have struggled with the existence of evil. Augustine passed on a dualistic vision of morality reminiscent of his former Manichaeism, wherein the body is essentially evil while the mind good. This elevation of the mind, intellect, and reason proved pervasive – bleeding into the Catholicism via Aquinas and defining European society by popular literary artists such as Dante. Evil and suffering have thus historically been viewed in the post-Greco world as a product of man’s inability to transcend the physical.

Given our modern setting, new challenges have arisen where atheism has been offered as an acceptable and complete worldview and naturalism permeates a society inclined toward monistic thought. In this climate, philosophers like Nietzsche are welcome to categorically deny distinctions between “good and evil”, at least as they exist in traditional thought. Moreover, Judeo-Christian values and duties are mocked as simplistic and illogical, due to the still pervasive influence of Aristotelian asceticism, Calvinistic determinism, Descartes’s extension of divine omnipotence, and so forth. Common association of these philosophies with theism in general have caused many to back away from, or unapologetically ridicule, Christianity. It is thus crucial for the Christian to develop a fuller theodicy, expounding upon both proper theology, philosophy, and logic.

In modern times, the derision and rejection of religion continues. The issue is not so simply dismissed by the Christian as through an appeal to wrongheaded yet pervasive philosophies. Rather, these enduring issues involve complex emotional struggles with tangible evil and personal suffering. Within our world exists not only moral evils, explained by some fault in humanity, but also the seemingly gratuitous natural evils devastating the masses. At the base of this problem lies the question, why would God allow evil? Or more personally, why has God allowed me to suffer thus? To properly formulate a theodicy, one must address not only the logical problem of evil, but also the evidential or probabilistic. In upcoming posts, this author will differentiate between these facets of this quandary and explicate their validity from a Christian worldview, all the while utilizing logic and philosophy.