Simonides reports on Sinaiticus before the supposed red cloth Tischendorf discovery

Steven Avery

Originally placed on CARM:

Simonides reports on Sinaiticus before the supposed red cloth Tischendorf discovery
Steven Avery - Dec 29, 2015

However, the post is a bit understated. Combined with the coincidences and white parchement Tale of Two Manuscripts, and Barnabas 1843, this is one of the most fundamental expositions that Simonides worked on Sinaiticus. Here it is verified that Simonides is reporting on his involvement and the Tischendorf machinations before any Sinaiticus information is public.


One of the issues that concerned me before I learned more about the Codex Frederico-Augustanus and Codex Sinaiticus and Simonides and Tischendorf situation (as can be seen in my post on TC-Alternate of Nov, 2011) was why Simonides waited till after the publication of Sinaiticus to make his claims. However, all of that is actually in reverse. Simonides clearly made the claims of authorship even before Tischendorf had his phantom red cloth find:

Journal of Sacred Literature
John Eliot Hodgkin - Jan 23, 1863

Simonides ... the identity of the Codex Sinaiticus with the Codex Friderico-Augustanus was well known to him, and had often been commented on by him long before he sent his letter to tho Guardian, any omission of the description of its imperfect state in that letter was not owing to his ignorance of this identity.

It is now just three years since Simonides first committed to writing in England (in a letter to Mr. Charles Stewart, dated 4th (16th) January, 1860) his version of the history of the Codex Sinaiticus. He had his own reasons, I suppose, for not letting the whole public into the secret at an earlier period than last autumn, but the facts of his early claim are well known to his friends, and upset almost all Mr. Wright's theories. It was not till be saw in Mr. Newton's hands the facsimile of the Codex Sinaiticus, published by Tischendorf, that he felt as perfectly assured as he has since done that the MS. was his own work, and his letter to Kallinikos in 1861, asking for a further confirmation, seems to me to have been the natural act of a man desirous of making assurance doubly sure, before committing himself publicly to an assertion which he knew would call forth expressions of disbelief and derision.

William Aldis Wright (1831-1914) made this one of his big points against any possibility of Simonides involvement in the production of the Codex Sinaiticus. Yet rather than being an argument against the basic question of Simonides involvement (a Johnny-come-lately vindicative attempt taking advantage of many amazing coincidences) it turns out to be a strong verification that Simonides was involved with the manuscript. Since Simonides raised the question way before Tischendorf had any fame or fortune from Sinaiticus. In fact, before Tischendorf even claimed to have been shown the full red cloth manuscript at Sinai (one of the tissuedorfs.)

This is strong enough, since John Eliot Hodgkin (1829-1912), engineer and book curator, was an honourable man who spoke and wrote carefully, and there was no counter to this in the literature. There was lithographic support from 1850s correspondence, as noted by Farrer, and those were part of the debate.

For any doubters, the early assertions of Simonides are also verified in the family letters of Tischendorf:

The Discovery of the Codex Sinaiticus as reported in the personal letters of Konstantin Tischendorf
Jeffrey-Michael Featherstone

Alexandria, 17 January 1859 p. 281
The Prussian consul and Russian consul (from Cairo] are old acquaintances of Tischendorf. The Russian vice-consul in Alexandria tells Tischendorf that during the past year the Russian consulate has done much in favour of the Sinai monastery: Good preparation ! All correspondence from the Synod in Petersburg goes through the Russian vice-consulate, and there is nothing to arouse suspicion. The goal of his journey is known at least here in Alexandria, but there is no connexion here with the monastery. He has heard again of the stories told by Simonides. He is in a hurry to go to Cairo and then further on to his goal.

So there were "stories told" by Simonides by 1858, or earlier, before any Sinaiticus publication, even before the red cloth fabric fabrication. Contextually, historically, it is quite clear that the "stories" have to do do with the authorship and provenance of the manuscript at St. Catherines. This was being shared before there was much to gain (if there would ever be any gain in such an account that would have to be based on fantastic coincidences) since the manuscript was not an international cause c?l?bre. Simonides had simply told his friends that there was something fishy going on, based on the Codex Frederico-Augustanus and/or the monastery knowledge he had gained.

This was one of many pieces of the puzzle that helped changed my overall perspective from 2011 to 2015.

Steven Avery
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Steven Avery

other early references

From the Chris Pinto Sinaiticus CD - Part 2 - 9:30

"Simonides seems to have spoken about the date of Sinaiticus prior to September, 1862 .. Tregelles knew of this theory before then." - Elliott ... He spoke of it to J. E. Hodgkin in 1860 and in a letter to Sir Thomas Phillipps on August 2, 1861"

Chris points out that there was an attempt to talk to the scholarly community before going public.

Note that the references in the post above takes this early discussion much earlier, and it becomes clear that Simonides was discussing the Sinaiticus manuscript .. before it was publicly known as the big New Testament and Barnabas and Hermas find of Tischendorf.
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Steven Avery

This gives us a better fix on the early date of Simonides speaking of the ms. per Tregelles.

Simonides seems to have spoken about the date of Sinaiticus prior to September 1862, in so far as Tregelles knew of this theory before then. He spoke of it to J. E. Hodgkin in 1860 and in a letter to Sir Thomas Phillipps on August 2nd 1861. (See British Library Add MS 52502A folio 348 and the Phillipps Robinson MS. collection in the Bodleian Library). Elliott p. 26

Journal of Sacred Literature (1863)

You have thus a short and clear account of the Codex Simonideios, which Professor Tischendorf, when at Sinai, contrived, I know not how, to carry away; and, going to St. Petersburg, published his discovery there under the name of the Codex Sinaiticus. When, about two years ago. I saw the first facsimiles of Tischendorf 10, which were put into my hand at Liverpool, by Mr. Newton, a friend of Dr. Tregelles, I at once recognised my own work, as I immediately told him.

Elliott mangles the name, adds the footnote:

10. These must be the portions of Luke XXIV which Tischendorf appended to his Notitia Editionis Codicis Bibliorum Sinaitici (Leipzig, 1860).

(That footnote is in the Christian Remembrancer account.)

The Christian remembrancer (1864)
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Steven Avery

another 1859 tidbit

Placed first on the thread:

compromising parchment science and professional integrity

Ironically, in his Memoir, Simonides used the superb conservation of Sinaiticus to argue that forgeries that he created could be thousands of years old even though the parchment or papyrus was in great shape. And how did he know the Sinaiticus parchment was in such superb shape in 1859? .... :) .... the answer is obvious ... the same reason that Tischendorf was concerned about the Sinaiticus "stories" when he was going to heist the manuscript. Personal involvement. Crafty fellow, that Simonides, he would use one dubious piece to support another.

Plan to bring over the quote.
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Steven Avery

Hort mentions the Simonides claim to have written Snaiticus

Hort also mentioned the Simonides claim before the 1862 letter and publications. Some people have wrongly claimed that Simonides did not say anything until the 1862 facsimile was out.

Life and Letters of Fenton John Hort - v.1 (1896) p. 450 -

"he undoubtedly has found genuine and valuable MSS ... Simonides .. says he forged Tischendorf's Sinai MS"
Fenton Hort - December 19 1861
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