Bible Studies/Textual Criticism


Mr. Mealy I can't recall ever asking you this question before, but i may have. When scholars translating the bible from Greek to English say that 1John 5:7, Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-811 are not in the most accurate and oldest manuscripts; Alexandrian(325-360 AD?)but how do they feel about Early Church fathers quoting those verses years before the 4th century.

If early church fathers quoted them earlier, that would be extremely important attestation that the reading was in existence in their time. The issue with 1 Jn 5:7-8 and Jn 7:53-8:11 is that the earliest church fathers who quote the texts where those passages supposedly belong do not provide evidence that those passages were present in the NT mss available to them.

E.g. as for 1 Jn 5:7-8, Irenaeus (202), Clement of Alexandria (215), Tertullian (220), Hippolytus (235), Origen (254), Cyprian (258), Dionysius (265), Hilary (367) and many others down through Jerome (420) and Augustine (430)and beyond quote the passage as it stands in Bibles based on the best currently available manuscripts--without the trinitarian formula. The earliest Christian writer to attest to the trinitarian formula here is Varimandum in 380--nearly two hundred years after the writing of Irenaeus. From what I can tell, not one of the earliest (uncial) manuscripts has it, including 01 (Sinaiticus), A B K P Ψ (Greek letter Psi).

For Jn 7:53-8:1, once again, Clement of Alexandria (215), Tertullian (220), Origen (254), Cyprian (258), Chrysostom (407), and many others quote John's Gospel in a way that makes it clear that they did not have the addition in their copies. The earliest ms to contain it is Uncial D, Bezae (6th century). Ambrosiaster (380) is aware of it, however, and so is the Didascalia (3rd century). So it has been around a long time as a tradition of an event in the ministry of Jesus. But that does not at all prove that John wrote it when he wrote his Gospel. The truth is that both the vocabulary and the style of that passage are very different from John's native vocabulary and style. To a person who knows Greek, the difference is unmistakable. So based on both external and internal evidence, it is pretty much certain that this passage was not written by John. It is an edifying story, and it may well have happened, but it was first recorded in writing by someone other than John.

The longer ending of Mark is better attested. Irenaeus (202), Tertullian (220), and perhaps Justin Martyr (165), had it in their copies of Mark. It was also in Taitian's Diatesseron (second century). On the other hand, Clement of Alexandria (215) and Origen (254) did not have it, and Eusebius (339) says it is not mss available to him. See for more on this. I personally think the ending of Mark at 6:8 is almost impossibly strange, but I also think vv. 9-20 look like they were composed as a kind of prosthetic ending for a book whose last page or pages were missing. I have no problem with people seeing this section as canonical -- as long as they don't insist that all true believers must pick up snakes, because that's what Jesus says believers will do (Mk 16:18). These are examples of signs that will testify to the power of God in Jesus, not instructions on what you have to do in order to be counted as a believer in Jesus.

Bible Studies

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


J. Webb Mealy


Qualified to answer questions about the New Testament, including ones that require expert knowledge of Greek, New Testament History, and New Testament Theology. Particular area of expertise is New Testament eschatology (teachings on the end of the world), the Book of Revelation, and the Gospel and epistles of John. Questions about English translations--how they are arrived at, whether they are accurate, and whether there are alternative possibilities. Textual criticism.


Have taught the Bible and New Testament to lay people for 20 years. Translator of the Spoken English New Testament (, author of After the Thousand Years: Resurrection and Judgment in Revelation 20 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992). Senior Biblical Studies Editor, Sheffield Academic Press, 1990-1995.

Instructor, Seminary of the Street, Oakland, CA

See my online publication,, which gives an easy-to-understand but thorough introduction to the Christian Good News. See, home of the Spoken English New Testament, the most accurate available translation of the New Testament into natural contemporary English.

PhD, Biblical Studies, Sheffield, UK MA (Honors), Humanities, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY BA (Cum Laude), Religious Studies/New Testament, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA

Awards and Honors
Research Paper, "Tracing the Rise of Modalism in Rome," named best graduate paper of the year, Western Kentucky University, 1981

©2017 All rights reserved.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]