CFA and Sinaiticus - let's go to the videotape

Steven Avery


Posted on CARM (where posts get purged in a year or two):

Who Darkened Sinaiticus? - colour variance - white parchment Frederico-Augustanus
CFA and Sinaiticus - let's go to the videotape - Steven Avery - 12/28/2015



The question of the many ties of Simonides to the Sinaiticus manuscript is very significant, and can be handled separately. This post has a different purpose, although there will be overlap.


First, the dichotomy of the truthfulness of Tischendorf or Simonides in the harumphs is obviously implied. Simply by the fact that they offer quite different histories and if they both are wrong, which seems to be frequently the case, then it is time to search for the third way. We do that, the authenticity supporters do not. They would take the false position that a dark Simonides means he did not work on the manuscript, an absurd conclusion. It is trivially obvious that it is a false conclusion to say that because Simonides deceived on A, his claims of working on the Sinaiticus manuscript were simply an awkward blind claim, a stab in the dark, of what turns out to be a group of absolutely amazing "coincidences".

The fact that Simonides and Tischendorf were both capable of lying and other manuscript problems (e.g. Tischendorf was an accomplished thief) means very little in this whole scenario. Something quite unusual happened in Sinai. In fact, the calligraphy and manuscript and forgery skills of Simonides are part of the skill-set that can help explain how Sinaiticus arose. And why it has such incredible anomalies such as the very extra-NT Greek books, missing for a millennium and more, produced by Simonides c. 1840s and 1850s coincidentally show up in Sinaiticus.


Let's not forget the basics:

Why did Tischendorf make up such grandiose lies about his finding of the manuscript?

By whom and why was the manuscript darkened?

These are fundamental questions in any reconstruction of events, as a forensic historian.


Once we accept that all sides were capable of lying for convenience, the whole argument that Simonides (and Kallinikos) embellished or misremembered the events of 20 years earlier, or deceived on some secondary point, such as the original motivation and crew behind the creation of the manuscript, becomes only a minor issue.

e.g. Perhaps Simonides wrote virtually all the New Testament and Barnabas (as what we call scribe A) that could easily lead to Kallinikos considering him the scribe of the manuscript. This matches the fact that Simonides wrote a full "Sinaitic" Barnabas in 1843 in addition to the Hermas "coincidence", one of so many.

"The coincidence seems almost more singular than can be accounted for by chance" - James Anson Farrer
We do not have to ultra-parse every comment made c. 1860 about events c. 1840. We do have to get the general picture and make note of special actions, such as Kallinikos nailing the Greek-bumbling thief Tischendorf to the wall as to his manuscript mangling (dismantling the book seen by Uspensky 1845-1850 after having pulled out the 5+ quires in 1844) and thievery and Greek stuttering. (And, let's add, more conjecturally, when we place Simonides as one scribe, that the proposed hieroglyphics are also from scribe A.)

Remember: the fact that Tischendorf lied about 1844 and 1859 does not change the fact that he brought the manuscript out of Sinai. Similarly, if Simonides embellished the events of 1839-1843 to make a shady enterprise look like the purity of Biblical charity, that should not surprise us one bit. Simonides, like Tischendorf, had darknesses. As far as we can tell, neither was walking in a Holy Spirit apostolic holiness and anointing. Both were historically involved with the Codex Frederico-Augustantus and then Sinaiticus ms times and events. Tischendorf was seeking his delusions of grandeur of dozens of titles and honorary names strung together, while he was selling and squirreling away significant manuscripts and leaves that he purloined. Yet he conned much of the textual establishment. Similarly, Simonides had his whole bag of issues.

The coincidences and historical events and physical nature of the manuscript and linguistic evidences give huge support to the Simonides involvement. However, such a manuscript may or may not have been simply a benevolent gesture for the czar. Maybe there was some chicanery involved.

In fact, there was all sorts of unusual goings on with Tischendorf and the Vatican (e.g. Tischendorf in 1871, shortly before his passing at a young age, specifically wrote that he had made a copy of Vaticanus in the 1840s, contradicting his earlier accounts. Beyond that there was the Cardinal heaping praises, virtually kissing Tischendorf's feet, when Sinaiticus was moving along.) And we have the quirky situation of Fenton Hort expecting "rich materials" from Tischendorf in the same years that Sinaiticus was being amazingly "discovered".

Connecting all the dots does become somewhat conjectural, but nothing seems to be on the up-and-up, especially once we realize that the Sinaiticus manuscript (the 90% that went to Russia and then England) was deliberated stained and coloured. And I tend to doubt that the snow-white pristine manuscript would have stood up to continued scrutiny as a proposed heavily-utilized century-by-century 4th century creation.

As to scribes, we know the manuscript had a number of hands in the full OT-NT Hermas and Barnabas production. Simply the facts on the ground, just like the colouring and darkening of the manuscript is a fact on the ground. Thus, in viewing the 1839-43 creation possibility, we can discard the scenario that only one hand did the mass of the manuscript. Which also eliminates all the questions about.. how could a youth do so much copying so quickly? There were 3 or 4 individuals who did the mass of the work, whether in 4th-7th century or 19th century.

And in the 1840s scenario, there was plenty of opportunity through at least 1859, with the manuscript bumping around Sinai and then Cairo, for corrections, squiggles, sections, Arabic and many of the additional various elements that are guessed for various centuries in the more difficult long-term scenario. The strange situation of many correctors can fit more easily the short-term scenario. It is virtually impossible to imagine the unbound and bound, multiple century use, more use and abuse scenario fitting with the pristine CFA or with the New Testament not even missing a part of a column, after a supposed 1500 years of heavy use.


We know that the Sinaiticus ms. was tampered with after 1844 and before 1862. This is easily verified historically and has:


a) physical manuscript backing. All the testimony from 1845 to today concurs that the ms. was like the CFA .. pristine snow-white .. originally, yet the part to Russia was yellowed, stained with age by 1862

b) Uspensky testimony of an almost complete white parchment Bible. The British Library manuscript apologist-handlers thus theorize a quick full rebinding in 1844, without even a smidgen of real evidence.

c) the New Finds evidence. Where parts of what Uspensky took out correlate with what ended in the room. Where the ending of Hermas in the room correlates with the Hermas problems faced by Tischendorf.

d) And there is corroborating historical accusation backing from Kallinikos, a person who clearly knew Tischendorf to a "T", and T's machinations at the monastery. And we know that these accusations and connections and claims of involvement with the manuscript were made before there was any public publication of Codex Sinaiticus as a full Bible or as a manuscript from St. Catherines. And they included the very mangling and colouring and aging of the manuscript that is our evidence (a)


It is time for those who have been somnambulistic about all this to wake up and smell the herb tea or coffee (is that what is in the stains?). Add some lemon-juice. (Teccino was not available at the time.) At the very least, ask for, demand, independent physical testing of the materials and ink of the two parts of the manuscript. The German materials group BAM was planning in April, 2015 to do the first real testing ever on Sinaiticus. (On the German part.) This was cancelled. Let the textual scholars and public ask for 2016.

Meanwhile, there is plenty to do for our textual and linguistic scholars with the material offered by James Donaldson and the 1843 Barnabas Sinaiticus essentially rediscovered by one Chris Pinto. Let's really look at The Tale of Two Manuscripts, and stop burying the scholarship heads in the sand.


Palaeographic Postscript

Reading the handwriting scripts is not a time-symmetrical enterprise. The terminus post quem can be quite accurate. Nobody in 1700 was able to emulate a 1900s handwriting. Thus the 1900s handwriting can tell you that the letter was written no earlier than .. 1900. The terminus ante quem is another story. A good calligrapher can beat up any time limitation proposal. A skilled person in modern times can actually write just like 1611, even the printing of 1611! Or 350 AD. As for the related fields like codicology, Sinaiticus comes out with anomalies galore with the modern theory.


Steven Avery
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