Euthymius Zigabenus and the Pericope Adulterae

A comment on this blog led me to wonder who Euthymius Zigabenus was, and then to write a Wikipedia article on him.   He was a 12th century Byzantine monk and commentator on scripture.

In the process I came across this article by Daniel B. Wallace, My favorite passage that’s not in the bible.  Wallace’s argument for removing the passage in John 7 on the woman caught in adultery from the bible is somewhat confused, but this statement caught my eye:

Bruce Metzger, arguably the greatest textual critic of the twentieth century, argued that “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” (Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Stuttgart, 1971), pages 219-221).

(Metzger reference at more length here).

As ever in such situations, I find myself wondering what this largely unpublished author actually said.  Does anyone know what the reference is?

UPDATE: James Snapp notes here that Metzger’s statement is mistaken, since Didymus the Blind comments on this pericope, Jerome refers to it existing in numerous Greek mss, and so on. 

UPDATE: I think I have found the reference.  It’s in PG 129, in the commentary on the four gospels, col.1280 C-D.  Here’s the Latin version.

Scire autem oportet, quod ea quae ab hoc loco habentur usque ad eum, quo dicitur: Iterum ergo locutus est illis Jesus dicens: Ego sum lux mundi: in exactoribus exemplaribus, aut non inveniuntur, aut obelo confossa sunt, eo quod illegitima videantur et addita.  Et huius argumentum est quod eorum Chrysostomus nullam omnino fecit mentionem (f) : nobis tamen (g) animus est etiam haec declarare, quod utilitate non careant, sicut et caput de muliere in adulterio deprehensa, quod inter haec ponitur.

Rough translation, not very accurate at the end I expect:

But it is necessary to know that the things which are found from this place to that where it is said: Therefore Jesus again spoke of these things saying, I am the light of the world: in the more exact copies, these are either not found, or marked with a star, because they seem illegitimate and added.  And the argument for this is because Chrysostom makes no mention anywhere of this; but for us we must also declare that this, because it is not without usefulness, is the chapter on the woman taken in adultery, which is placed between these.

I hesitate to try to transcribe the Greek from Migne, since I can hardly read it in the copy I have.  Here it is (starts at second paragraph): anyone with more Greek than me care to transcribe it?

Euthymius Zigabenus on the Pericope

Euthymius Zigabenus on the Pericope

24 Responses to “Euthymius Zigabenus and the Pericope Adulterae”


  1. ikokki

    I did a google search on his Greek spelling and came across these interesting links:

    Greek wikipedia article (contains his chapter headings)
    http://el.wikipedia.org/wiki/%CE%95%CF%85%CE%B8%CF%8D%C2%B5%CE%B9%CE%BF%CF%82_%CE%96%CE%B9%CE%B3%CE%B1%CE%B2%CE%B7%CE%BD%CF%8C%CF%82

    According to it Migne includes him in volumes 128-130 with spurious works in 131

    He is also quoted on an Orthodox Wiki Greek article:
    http://el.orthodoxwiki.org/%CE%9C%CF%85%CF%83%CF%84%CE%AE%CF%81%CE%B9%CE%BF_%CF%84%CE%B7%CF%82_%CE%9C%CE%B5%CF%84%CE%B1%CE%BD%CE%BF%CE%AF%CE%B1%CF%82

    and another one on the comma Johaneum:
    http://el.orthodoxwiki.org/%CE%99%CF%89%CE%AC%CE%BD%CE%BD%CE%B5%CE%B9%CE%BF_%CE%BA%CF%8C%CE%BC%CE%BC%CE%B1

    Hope they give more data

  2. ikokki

    http://el.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ευθύµιος_Ζιγαβηνός

    Greek wikipedia article (with chapter titles)

    Zigabinus was published by Minge, volumes 128-130 with 131 being spurious works

  3. ikokki

    el.orthodoxwiki.org/Μυστήριο_της_Μετανοίας
    el.orthodoxwiki.org/Ιωάννειο_κόμμα

    A couple more articles from orthodox Wiki (in Greek). The last one on the comma Johaneum is very interesting because it says what orthodox practice is in spurious parts (= The Orthodox bibles are the liturgical text, not the critical edition, if the text is proven spurious but has entered church service, we use it anyway even though it is spurious)

  4. Roger Pearse

    Thanks ikkoki. I’m having a hunt around Euthymius Zigabenus to see if I can find it.

  5. Roger Pearse

    Thanks for these!

  6. Nick Nicholas

    Χρὴ δὲ γινώσκειν ὅτι τὰ ἐντεῦθεν ἄχρι τοῦ, Πάλιν οὖν ἐλάλησεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγων· Ἐγὼ εἰμι τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου· παρὰ τοῖς ἀκριβέσιν ἀκριβέσιν ἀντιγράφοις ἢ οὐχ εὕρηται ἢ ὠβέλισται. Διὸ φαίνονται παρέγγραπτα καὶ προσθήκη· καὶ τούτου τεκμήριον τὸ μηδὲ τὸν Χρυσόστομον ὅλως μνημονεῦσαί αὐτῶν. Πειρατέον δὲ ὅμως ἡμῖν καὶ ταῦτα διασαφῆσαι· οὐκ ἄμοιρον γὰρ ὠφελείας οὐδὲ τὸ ἐν τούτοις κεφάλαιον τὸ περὶ τῆς ἐπὶ μοιχείᾳ κατειλημμένης γυναικός.

  7. Nick Nicholas

    Oops, dittography… :-)

  8. Roger Pearse

    Thank you so much for doing this!

  9. Stephen C. Carlson

    Metzger’s statement is less helpful than it may first appear. The negation is tightly controlled. “Greek father” of course does not cover Jerome, nor does “comment” refer to a discussion of it by Didymus as part of a different gospel.

  10. Roger Pearse

    Thank you for this note. Hmm, that’s really misleading then. I think most people reading that statement would understand from this that there are no ancient witnesses to it (even if that is not precisely what is said). On learning different, it would not be adequate to discover that it was couched in wording that covered the writer’s backside, but sort of failed to mention these other points. Let’s presume that it was an inadvertance.

  11. Roger Pearse

    Here’s my attempt at a translation from the Greek, using my beta translation tool and Nick Nicholas’ transcription:

    But it is necessary to know that the [passage] from here up to the “And so again Jesus spoke about himself, saying: I am the light of the world”; in the exact copies either it is not found or it is obelised. Wherefore it is shown to be interpolated and an addition; and this [is] the evidence, that Chrysostom did not ever mention it. But I must attempt it nevertheless and make this quite clear; for [it is] not without usefulness but [the passage] about the woman caught in adultery [is] not in this chapter.

    The translation of the last sentence is shaky, I think.

  12. Nick Nicholas

    Πειρατέον δὲ ὅμως ἡμῖν καὶ ταῦτα διασαφῆσαι· οὐκ ἄμοιρον γὰρ ὠφελείας οὐδὲ τὸ ἐν τούτοις κεφάλαιον τὸ περὶ τῆς ἐπὶ μοιχείᾳ κατειλημμένης γυναικός.

    I think your tool is thrown by the lack of copulas!

    But we should try to clarify these matters as well. For the passage on the woman caught in adultery, which is in there [ἐν τούτοις], is not lacking in usefulness, either [i.e. is edifying, is theologically important.]

    So we should try to work out the authenticity of the passage, because the incident of the woman caught in adultery is important.

  13. Roger Pearse

    Ah, thank you Nick! I knew I was having trouble with the last bit. My knowledge of Greek is minimal and is being acquired as I work on this tool.

  14. Jerry Clontz

    This may be tangential to the discussion, however, Codex Fuldensis which is positively dated to AD 546 contains the alduterae pericope. Fuldensis is in Latin. It is thought to be based on Tatian’s diatessaron which existed in several languages including Greek and originated c. AD 180.

    The Constitutions of the Holy Apostles Book II.24 refers to the passage “And when the elders had set another woman which had sinned before Him, and had left the sentence to Him, and were gone out, our Lord, the Searcher of the hearts, inquiring of her whether the elders had condemned her, and being answered No, He said unto her: “Go thy way therefore, for neither do I condemn thee.”” Book II is generally dated to the late third century (Von Drey, Krabbe, Bunsen, Funk)

  15. Roger Pearse

    I don’t doubt that the pericope is ancient, and indeed apostolic, myself.

  16. Tim Wellings

    Could Metzger be echoing what Dr. Brooke Westcott said in his commentary on John?

    “2. The passage is marked by asterisks or obeli in many MSS. which contain it. Euthymius Zigabenus [more correctly, Zygadenus, + 1118], the earliest Greek commentator who writes upon it, observes that it is not found in “the accurate copies” or is obelized in them, and that therefore it is not to be accounted genuine.”

    -The Gospel According to St. John, Brooke Wescott, Page 141

  17. Roger Pearse

    That’s a good thought, and probably he is.

  18. Tim Wellings

    Does that mean Dr. Westcott is off too?

  19. Roger Pearse

    What do you think? (Sorry, but I’m very busy and surely the answer is in the thread?).

  20. peter baugh

    Augustine refers to it, complaining about those who, in excess of zeal to prevent any spirit of permissiveness, attempted to remove it from the text. I would have to do some refresher homework on the subject, but just going from memory, I would guess that possibly, the Ebioites might have attempted this, as they also tried to discredit and reject the Pauline Epistles. This kind of thing happened more widely in the first century than most realize throught the influence of gnostics such as Valentinus and Marcion.

  21. Roger Pearse

    Do you have the passage in Augustine? I always want to see the text itself in such cases!

  22. Jerry Clontz

    One theory is that the Nicolaitans et. al. used this passage to promote the concept that adultery was condoned by Christ. The Nicolaitans were an extremely early heresy and the passage in John may have been suppressed by early editors in order to avoid the polemics caused by the Nicolaitans. The Comprehensive New Testament shows the following cross references to the pericope – notice that Callistus, Jerome, Hippolytus, and Rufinus quote portions of it:

    * John 7:53-8:11, Apostolic[Papias Fragment 3.17]
    * John 7:53-8:11, Apostolic[Papias Fragment 23.1]
    * John 7:53-8:11, Apostolic[Papias Fragment 26.1]
    * John 8:3, Jerome[Against the Pelagians - Book 2.17]
    * John 8:3, Hippolytus[Refutation of all Heresies Book 9.23]
    * John 8:3-11, Eusebuis[Church History - Book 3.39.16]
    * John 8:9, Rufinus[Apology - Book 1.44]
    * John 8:11, Rufinus[Apology - Book 1.22]
    * John 8:11, Callistus[Second Epistle 6.6]
    * John 8:11, Constitutions of the Holy Apostles[Book 2.24]
    * John 8:11, NT-Apocrypha[Freer Logion]
    * John 8:11, NT-Apocrypha[Protoevangelium of James 16.2]

  23. Roger Pearse

    Interesting – thank you!

  24. Stephen C. Carlson

    This is a very late reply, but it should be pointed out that the bulk of the writings of Didymus the Blind were discovered in the 1940s, well after Westcott died.