If you look at the footnotes in most contemporary study Bibles, you will find that the story of Jesus forgiving the adulterous woman in John 8:1-11 is bracketed.
Most great New Testament scholars think that this story was not written by the Apostle John. They believe that the story was told over and over and was eventually placed in the Gospel of John centuries later.
For example, the English Standard Version Study Bible says, “There is considerable doubt that this story is part of John’s original Gospel, for it is absent from all of the oldest manuscripts. But there is nothing in it unworthy of sound doctrine. It seems best to view the story as something that probably happened during Jesus’ ministry but that was not originally part of what John wrote in his Gospel. Therefore it should not be considered as part of Scripture and should not be used as the basis for building any point of doctrine unless confirmed in Scripture.”
So, is it appropriate to use this scripture in a message on a Sunday morning? I think so. I believe we can use it as an illustration of truths that are clearly taught elsewhere in scripture.
Then Piper asks what most every preacher asks, “Now the question is: What should I, the preacher, do with this story?”
Piper reports, “Both [New Testament] 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, 220). And Carson says, ‘There is little reason for doubting that the event here described occurred’ (The Gospel According to John, 333).
Piper continues, “Perhaps. I would like to think so. Who doesn’t love this story? 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.”
This conversation absolutely the veracity of the John 8:1-11 story brings up another issue, namely, should questions about the integrity of a particular Biblical text cause us to doubt the trustworthiness of the entire Bible?
Here’s a great response to that question from the website “Got Questions?”
“Because we’re talking about certain editions of the Bible being ‘wrong’ in certain ways, we should include a few words on the inerrancy of Scripture. The original autographs are inerrant, but none of the original autographs are extant (in existence). What we have today are thousands of ancient documents and citations that have allowed us to (virtually) re-create the autographs. The occasional phrase, verse, or section may come under scholastic review and debate, but no important doctrine of Scripture is put in doubt due to these uncertainties. That the manuscripts are the subject of ongoing scholarship does not prove there is something wrong with God’s Word; it is a refining fire—one of the very processes God has ordained to keep His Word pure. A belief in inerrancy underpins a reverent, careful investigation of the text.”