Picking out the later interpolations

For random boundaries the maximum deviation from the nearest page boundary is ½ page and the mean is ¼ page. Experience elsewhere suggests that the mean deviation of genuine boundaries will be no more than 0.25 of a ¼ page unit, and the maximum tolerable deviation 0.60 of this unit. The latter represents 0.15 page from the nominal section size, i.e. mean_page_size × number_of_pages_in_section. The mean page size of the gospel turns out to be approx. 795 letters, so each section should be within plus or minus 119 letters of the mean. Thus for example a single-page section should be within the range 676 to 914 letters.


At 109 letters , this verse is too long to belong either to the water into wine episode (847 letters) or the cleansing of the temple (818 letters). It looks like editorial material, and is aptly described by Marsh as an interlude. [1]


This also is one of Marsh's interludes. [2] According to Brown it contains evidence of editorial redaction. [3]


This verse is too small to affect the page pattern, but it is clearly a late interpolation.
The Greek word for "although" (καιτοιγε) occurs only here in the New Testament, which is unusual for a document displaying such a limited vocabulary. Also the verse states that Jesus did not baptize, contradicting 3:22. Perhaps the interpolator was trying to portray Jesus as superior to John the Baptist here.


As it stands, the story of the blind man in 9:1-41 is a little too long at 3315 letters. But 9:38-39a is omitted by two of the best textual witnesses. Brown gives several reasons for suspecting the originality of these verses. [4] Moreover the blind man's kneeling, as if treating Jesus as divine, detracts from the carefully planned frame of the gospel as a whole: "..... the Word was God" (1:1) matched with "My Lord and my God" (20:28).


The section 12:1-11 is sufficiently close to the standard page size with or without this verse. However the verse is unnecessary because the point of the story has already been reached. [5] The fact that the wording is closer to Matthew than to Mark tends to confirm the suspicion that the verse was interpolated, perhaps at the same time as 20:23 (see below).


18:19 implies that Annas was the High Priest, contrast vv. 13 and 24.
It is no use trying to resolve this contradiction by a minor re-arrangement of the order of a few verses as evidenced, for instance, by a few relatively late textual witnesses. [6] For any such shifts involve units which are much smaller than any plausible sheet size, so they could not have come about by accident. On the other hand there is no rational motive for altering the order of the text in a supposedly logical original.
However removing 18:13b (πρωτον ..... καιαφα),14,24,28b (απο του καιαφα) totally eliminates Caiaphas from the passage and leaves a plausible account. These interpolations appear to have been a somewhat clumsy attempt to reconcile 11:49, which said that Caiaphas was the High Priest, with the original 18:13, which said that Annas was the High Priest. "father-in-law" (v.13) is unattested elsewhere. [7] Having transferred the role of High Priest from Annas to Caiaphas, the editor had to try to find a plausible explanation for Annas' involvement.
Our proposal appears to leave the evangelist contradicting himself with regard to the name of the High Priest: Caiaphas (11:49) or Annas (in the original 18:13). Presumably the respective accounts were based on differrent sources with different names for the High Priest. [8] But the evangelist appreciated the problem and tried to leave a way out by adding "in that year" in both cases.


The implied criticism of Thomas in v. 29 loses much of its sting if the other disciples had already seen Jesus' hands and side. Verses 20-21a, which Haenchen attributes to the Redactor, [9] appear to have been interpolated into the text in order to give the other disciples the 'privilege' of seeing Jesus' hands and side. The double greeting is artificial. The editors seem to have repeated ειρηνη υμιν in order to effect a smooth transition back into the original text. [10]


These two verses belong together, for the actions of v.23 require the authority and discernment imparted in v.22. However both verses are anomalous. In v.22 there is no definite article preceding 'holy spirit". In v.23, only here in the gospel is αφιημι used to mean "forgive". These verses were interpolated by an editor wishing to enhance the authority of the disciples along the lines of Matt 16:19.


This chapter is widely regarded as a late addition because 20:30-31 looks distinctly like an ending, and there are differences in the Greek compared to chapters 1-20. [11] It may have been composed primarily in order to change the image of Peter presented in the earlier chapters. [12]


Even with the omission of 20:20-21a and 20:23, at 1063 letters the last episode starting at 20:19 is too long. But was 20:30-31 the original ending of the gospel as is universally assumed by critical scholars?
The gospel has been aptly described as a drama. [13] Each episode is a scene in the Johannine play. The label fits superbly until we come to the last two verses of chapter 20, when we are suddenly brought back to earth with a reminder that we are reading a book. But 20:28-29 was an entirely suitable ending, c.f. Fortna's comment: "This paradoxical superiority of faith-without-seeing is the point of the story of Thomas..... with which the gospel comes to its dramatic close."   [14] The editor who added 20:30-31 had already lost sight of the gospel as a play, treating it as any other gospel "book".

Notes for this page

1. J.Marsh, Saint John(Pelican; London; SCM, 1968) p. 85
2. J.Marsh, Saint John(Pelican; London; SCM, 1968) p. 87
3. R.E.Brown, The Gospel according to John (i-xii) (AB; GArden City; Doubleday, 1966) p.446
4. R.E.Brown, The Gospel according to John (i-xii) (AB; GArden City; Doubleday, 1966) pp. 375-376
5. B.Lindars, The Gospel of John (NCB; London; Oliphants, 1972) p.418
6. B.M.Metzger,  A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London; United Bible Societies, corrected edn., 1975) pp. 251f.
7. C.K.Barrett, The Gospel according to St. John(London; SPCK, 2nd. edn., 1978) p. 525
8. That one of John's sources should have erroneously indicated that the High Priest in office during the trial of Jesus was called "Annas" should be no surprise. Josephus lists no less than five High Priests with similar names.
9. E.Haenchen,  A Commentary on the Gospel of John, 2 : Chapters 7-21 (ET: Hermeneia; Philadelphia; Fortress, 1984) p.210
10. E.Haenchen,  A Commentary on the Gospel of John, 2 : Chapters 7-21 (ET: Hermeneia; Philadelphia; Fortress, 1984) p.211
11. D.C.Duling & N.Perrin,   The New Testament: Proclamation and Paranesis, Myth and History (Fort Worth, Texas; Harcourt Brace, 3rd. edn., 1994) p.410
12. J.K.Elliott,  Questioning Christian Origins (London; SCM, 1982) p.124
13. B.M.Metzger & M.D.Coogan,  The Oxford Companion to the Bible (Oxford; OUP, 1993) p.373
    E.D.Freed, The New Testament: a Critical Introduction (London; SCM, 2nd. edn., 1994) p.335
14. R.T.Fortna,   The Fourth Gospel and its Predecessor (Edinburgh; T&T Clark, 1988) p. 246