Sinaiticus 101

Steven Avery


Sinaiticus was supposedly discovered by Constantine Tischendorf in his visits to St. Catherine's Monastery in 1844 and 1859. There were two parts to the taking of the codex:

1) 1843 43 leaves Sinai -> Leipzig (Codex Friderico Augustanus)

2) 1859 347 leaves Sinai --> Russia (Codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus)

A Tale of Two Manuscripts

What this thread will do is simply explain the basics of the history.



The situation changed radically in 2009 when the manuscript was placed online. Chris Pinto caused a lot of notice with Tares Among the Wheat in 2011, which revisited the Simonides-Tischendorf elements. He caused some notice, even among those of us who had been well conditioned to consider Sinaiticus as authentic, the standard textual view.

Also helpful was the ability to do internet research which unfolded many elements such as the Uspensky "white parchment", details on Simonides, Morozov, manuscript conditions, and much more.

People interested in the studies found that they could collaborate over the net, iron sharpeneth.


Tischendorf as early as 1846 quickly pushed for the CFA ms. to be dated as fourth century. What was behind this dating was issues like the shapes of the letters and notations in the ms. The actual condition of the parchment was barely mentioned and rarely seen.

The Weakness of Palaeographic Dating - Non-Symmetry
(coming soon)

There was not much discussion of this dating at the time. The manuscript is, quite obviously, not that old, since it is a pristine white parchment. Tischendorf published a facsimile and most all the scholars worked off the facsimile. The facsimile emphasized textual issues, and the handwriting style, and ignored the physical manuscript problem.

In fact, the situation was very strange. Tischendorf developed scenarios throughout the centuries where the ms was handled continually. Yet the actual ms. simply did not have expected colour and condition and age. To avoid this being noticed and discussed, the emphasis was put on the printed edition.

Sinaiticus through the centuries in the 4th century paradigm


Porfiry Uspensky saw the ms. in 1845 and 1850. His accounts of the ms, published in 1856 and 1857, is essentially a falsification of the Tischendorf history.

Porfiry Uspensky views Sinaiticus in 1845 and 1850


In 1859 Tischendorf heisted the bulk of the ms. out of Sinai. One report says straight theft, the standard history says a bogus "loan". However, those issues, while fascinating in their own right, are secondary to this review.

Tischendorf now had a New Testament text (also Barnabas and part of Hermas) and very aggressively pushed for the 4th century date. In a way that can be seen as psycopathic. Tischendorf, once again, rushed to publish a facsimile in 1862 and drew all the attention to what was published, rather than the actual physical manuscript.

Tischendorf kept the actual manuscript close by, his personal fiefdom, and wildly attacked any questioning of the date, even those who simply argued for 5th or 6th century. This unbalanced non-scholarship view can be seen in the title of one of his books - Waffen der Finsterniss wider die Sinaibibel - (Weapons of Darkness against the Sinai Bible).


Meanwhile, in England, a Greek scholar with a checkered rep, Constantine Simonides said .. wait a minute. We made that Bible in Mt Athos c. 1840 and had it sent to Sinai. Who is Tischendorf kidding?

And his claims had a lot of backing. He had been in the right places at the right time with the right skills and the right connections to accomplish this task. The contacts he had with Kallinikos from Sinai clearly knew all the ins and outs of the ms. that would be simply impossible to know if this claim had been a petty ad hoc attempt to embarrass Tischendorf, as some claimed.

The Simonides Background, Skills and Coincidences
(coming soon)


Tischendorf's allies countered the Simonides claims. Simonides seemed to want to spin the history a bit. Later he turns up in St. Petersburg, Tischendorf country, working on Russian documents. You never know.


So where does this leave us? What are the specific problems with the Sinaiticus history.

a) the ms. has no provenance.

Sinaiticus appears as a textual shining knight for Tischendorf out of nowhere, and is used to totally radicalize Bible theory (Tischendorf totally changed his GNT and later Westcott-Hort needed it as the boy wonder ms. to support the Vaticanus batman) and to achieve huge laurels, honors, position and lucre for Tischendorf.

b) the dating of the ms. by script, notes and doctrinal readings is invalid. Any ms. can be copied later. Any replica or forgery attempt makes such dating schemas null and void. The ms. was never examined properly, and even today has never had tests on the materials and ink.

c) one group of defenses of its authenticity are soft probability arguments, usually based on "how could Simonides, or the Athos Rustlers, come up with this and that on the ms?" In the larger context, the bumbling ms. with a number of Alexandrian corruptions is easy to understand.

d) another group of defenses are based on saying that Simonides was not the model of veracity in his account. This may well be very true, but neither was Tischendorf, who created huge fabrications to support his story. Bascially as a forensic historians we have to go behind the verbiage, and work with the "facts on the ground".

Now let's go to the Sinaiticus Problems.

1) the ms part that went to St. Petersburg in 1859 was darkened, coloured and stained, in the 1850 period. This is 100% clear by examining both the ms pictures and data, all the new information, and it is 1005 congruent with the historical narrative. In fact, that staining was specifically pointed out in the early 1860s, in the Simonides controversies!

2) the ms. both parts, have features that are totally incompatible with the proposed 4th century date and the travel and then heavy usage in the desert clime. While this is easier to "see" with the CFA part in Leipzig, it is also true for the Brit part. Flexible, supple, alive, minimal flaking, good conservation, "exceptional". The reason for the exception is simple, the ms was produced a couple of hundred years ago on fine white parchment. While 90% of it was stained, that did not change the basic problems of even the coloured part of the ms. not showing its supposed age.

3) the historical narrative fits Simonides involvement in production excellently. The alternative theory of his simply coming up with a petty vindictive attempt to embarrass Tischendorf is a total disaster.

Every single section above is expanded in this web-site and on and the vlogs of David Daniels, which are especially helpful on the colouring.

There are many aspects we did not go into above. As an example, the motives and relationships between Simonides, the Athos crew, Tischendorf,
Jesuits, the Pope's crew and textual criticism unbelief are a complex area. We can search out and consider various possibilities. None of them really directly affects 1-2-3 above.
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