Is the Pericope Adulterae Lucan?

by James Dowden

1. Boring PSA

Blogging’s been non-existent for the last fortnight or so thanks to your author’s going and getting married. It may continue to be a little sparse, but some posts just have to be made, even if they’ll be very preliminary in nature, briefer than usual, and without accents and breathings on the Greek.

2. Get on with it

I’ve just read an article by Kyle R. Hughes about Lucanisms in the Pericope Adulterae (conventionally, but thoroughly bogusly labelled as John 7.53-8.11).

I see a few problems with these alleged Lucanisms.

Firstly, there is the issue that Luke and Acts are written in relatively good Greek compared to the rest of the New Testament. Comparing any well-written Greek to the New Testament will therefore resemble the works addressed to Theophilus more than, say, Matthew or Mark or Paul (or, μη γενοιτο, John of Patmos). It’s not necessarily remarkable that some unknown author uses ορθρου, rather than a genitive absolute with a verb meaning “to dawn”; or indeed the “having sat down, he taught” construction — these are just examples of good Greek style. Somewhat relatedly, απο του νυν is characteristic of the LXX as well — for instance, it appears four times in Isaiah and twice in Tobit — if one were to try to write good Biblish Greek, this is exactly the sort of phrase one would throw in. To put it plainly, I am not seeing anything that is specific to a Lucan community, as opposed to a general highly-literate Christian millieu of the early centuries (and, indeed, a major point of the story is suspiciously to point out that Jesus too was literate).

Secondly, some of the supposed Lucanisms are features on which Luke and Acts do not cohere well. Luke and PA use the genitive ορθρου (at dawn), whereas Acts goes for the clunky prepositional phrase υπο τον ορθρον. Likewise, Luke and PA indeed favour δε, but Acts’ sweetheart conjunction is τε.

Thirdly, there is the issue that Lucan special material’s distinctive vocabulary coheres statistically (see Dave Gentile’s recent work) with the vocabulary units that Luke uses to redact Mark. The simplest explanation for this is that the author of the L source is the same person who redacted Mark to form Luke. Looking for a literary L source may well be a mirage, and that PA’s appearances in Luke in the manuscript tradition are all in clearly secondary locations is highly suggestive that it does not originally belong to the same collection of material.