Saturday, 11 April 2015

András Handl: Tertullian on the Pericope Adulterae (John 7,53-8,11)

The longest and most mysterious New Testament interpolation is without doubt the Pericope Adulterae (PA) in the Gospel of John. Although scholars have puzzled about it for centuries, many questions still remain unanswered.
At first glance, Tertullian does not appear as being very helpful in this matter: not even with a single syllable did he refer to the PA. It is not surprising that his entire work has only been little involved in the discussion because he never addressed the story of the woman caught in adultery. But why? After all, he devoted a complete "treatise" to the topic of adultery and fornication! It is widely recognized that the De pudicitia is composed as a forensic oratory (genus iudiciale) but its implications are only rudimentarily taken into account. A rhetorical analysis shows that if he knew the passage, he could not have afforded to ignore it. Consequently, Tertullian did not remain silent about the PA because of a lack of interest. Rather, the PA was simply unknown in Carthage at his time!
In this talk, I will not only reconsider the reason for the abstinence of the PA in the works of Tertullian, particularly in De pudicita, but also emphasize the importance of the PA`s "Sitz im Leben" at the beginning of the 3rd century AD: The escalated controversy on adultery and fornication in Carthage as well as in Rome, plays a key role for the wider recognition and promotion of the story of the woman caught in adultery.

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