Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Piper's Sermon on a Passage He Doesn't Believe is Inspired

I listened to a fascinating sermon from John Piper entitled "Neither Do I Condemn You" - John 7:53-8:11. It is the story of the woman caught in adultery - "Let him who has no sin cast the first stone..."

It is a remarkable sermon because Piper (for good reason) doesn't believe the story to be part of the inspired record of John's gospel. However, he does believe that the story is true. In other words, the story is probably historically accurate, but it shouldn't be included in the book of John.

In the first part of the sermon, he explains the discipline of textual criticism. In the second part he draws out the lessons from a story that is not actually inspired.

Remarkably, the sermon is both informative and inspiring even though the text isn't inspired!

Here are a few important quotes:

Now the question is: What should I, the preacher, do with this story? Both Don Carson and Bruce Metzger think the story probably happened. In other words, they think this is a real event from Jesus's life, and the story circulated and later was put in the Gospel of John. Metzger says, "The account has all the earmarks of historical veracity" (Textual Commentary, p. 220). And Carson says, "There is little reason for doubting that the event here described occurred" (The Gospel According to John, p. 333).

The most remarkable point of this story is that Jesus exalts himself above the Law of Moses, changes its appointed punishment, and reestablishes righteousness on the foundation of grace. I don't doubt that this is why the story was preserved. It is an amazing story

The story may not belong to John's Gospel. In fact, the story may never have happened. But this point of the story is unshakably true. This is the pervasive message of the New Testament. Jesus exalted himself above the Law. He wrote it! Jesus altered some of its sanctions. He pointed to its main goal of Christ-exalting love. And he reestablished righteousness on the basis of an experience of grace.


Brian Deyo said...

I just listened to this sermon the other day as well. It was a great message from a man genuinely struggling with his mandate to preach the inspired word, but yet also draw out truth from a passage that is probably a real story.

Jill said...

Please help me understand the logic/thinking behind something in Scripture, particularly this story of the woman caught in adultery as told in the book of John, not being inspired by God in light of I Corinthians 2:12-13 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17???


Jill said...

Sorry! But I have another question... What is so different about this particular story vs. other stories that are true, obviously happened, as told throughout Scripture (e.g. Noah's Ark, Jonah, Job, Daniel, the birth of Jesus, Jesus feeding the multitudes, Jesus calming the storm, the death & resurrection of Jesus, etc, etc.)??? According to the passages I referenced in I Corinthians & 2 Timothy, these are ALL inspired even though they are true/really happened.

Mark Vroegop said...

The answer to your question, Jill, is found in looking at a fairly complex arena of Biblical studies called textual criticism.

I'm going to post something further on this today. However, let me summarize it this way for you:

1. The Bible is a collection of copies of manuscripts
2. There are some differences in the manuscripts with some passages included in our translations that have always been debatable as to whether or not they really should be included. A good example of this is how the Gospel of Mark ends. There are two possible endings - a longer version and a shorter.
3. Even though there are differences, no major doctrine is compromised.
4. The evidence, based upon the manuscripts, for the story of the woman caught in adultery seems to be weak. That would suggest that while the story may have happened, it was likely not a part of John's gospel. In other words, a scribe at some point added it.

The passages that cite are certainly true and the Bible is certainly inspired. However, they wouldn't apply to John 7:53-8:11 if they are not really a part of the Gospel of John.

Finally, there is a difference between an event happening / being true and a text being inspired. The Bible is the record of true events, and the record of the true events is inspired - "breathed upon by God."

Piper's conclusion is that the event is true but that John 7:53-8:11 is not inspired.

Here's what he said:

"But that does not give it the authority of Scripture. So what I will do is take its most remarkable point and show that it is true on the basis of other parts of Scripture, and so let this story not be the basis of our authority, but an echo and a pointer to our authority, namely, the Scriptures, that teach what it says."

Jill said...

Thank you for your response, Pastor Mark. That is helpful, though I still have some lingering questions, or rather, I'm just trying to comprehend all this and fully understand: "Finally, there is a difference between an event happening / being true and a text being inspired. The Bible is the record of true events, and the record of the true events is inspired - "breathed upon by God." "

I look forward to reading your post later today to further address all this.