why the James Keith Elliott book tells you very little about Sinaiticus authenticity

Steven Avery

Quite surprisingly, a 1982 book by James Keith Elliott is often referenced as if it is the authoritative work on the question of Sinaiticus authenticity. This post will briefly summarize its major deficiencies. Even in 1982, important material was missed, but today we have a wealth of new and important information. And thus we will show how the book is close to totally irrelevant in seeking to understand Codex Sinaiticus is 2016 (and on to today.)

One aspect of the book is discussed here:

Stanley E. Porter summarizes James Keith Elliott to have 10 authenticity reasons.



Here are two questions I recently asked on CARM, that can help get to the heart of some of the Simonides issues:

1) If Simonides knew nothing about Sinaiticus, how could he report the artificial colouring of the manuscript about which he knew nothing of the provenance, colour and condition?

2) And, when we discover in 2009-to-today that the actual ms condition fits his report to a "T" (by matching the difference in the TWO PARTS of the manuscript, an absolutely amazing and powerful corroboration, not available till now) ... why not acknowledge the obvious truth?

Yet questions like these can not even be remotely addressed by James Keith Elliott. To be fair, he was not even aware of the colour disparity, so his analysis at best can be sketchy.

Moreover, Elliott was unable to look at the issues as a forensic historian, and asked the wrong questions. (He fell into the normal trap that if there were holes in the Simonides explanations, his story should be rejected, a standard not used for the Tischendorf myths.)

And as a researcher, Elliott had failed at one critical point: nothing from the James Anson Farrer Literary Forgeries was included. This was the most important Simonides discussion in the century before the 1982 writing, and Elliott missed it totally. (I recently wrote to Elliott, asking why it was omitted, was he aware of the book? .. no response.)

Added below:
A second inquiry in Feb 2018 did receive a nice response.
Elliott wrote that he did not know of the work at the time.


Steven Avery

PS. When the above received fuzz and buzz I rewrote it to make the question simpler.


Look at the two parts of the manuscript.

a) the 1844 Leipzig is white parchment (even snow-white, per Dobschutz in 1910). All 86 pages are given the same colour number.

b) the 1859 British Library is yellow, with variance from leaf to leaf (even an abnormally "exceptional" amount of variance)

In the composite picture you can see the exact leaves of 1844, the two sections. They immediately.stand out in the sea of yellow.

c) colouring of the 1859 manuscript by hand would produce that exact effect, and colouring of the manuscript by hand was pointed out by Simonides ..

d) this accusation of colouring was made WITHOUT, supposedly, Simonides seeing anything of the manuscript, other than, possibly, the uncoloured part in Leipzig, 1856.

Is there any part of A-B-C-D with which you disagree?


If not, we have the conclusion that Simonides was working with "inside info" .. or he simply made a one in a gazillion stab in the dark, with no rhyme or reason. And if he was working with inside info, and the manuscript was coloured, every part of the current vulgate version of the ms should be scrapped, and we start fresh.

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Steven Avery

Preface - (emphasis added) - updated April, 2018

It was largely because of the discovery of this manuscript that the Textus Receptus which had held sway since 1514 lost its preeminence as the Greek New Testament and that a new translation of the bible was undertaken. This was the Revised Version of 1881.

Very true. This was a ms. that was "too good to be true", from the perspective of Tischendorf and Hort.

Minor point: the preeminence of the TR was a bit later than 1514. Elliott was likely referring to the 1516 first edition of Erasmus, but preeminence did not come till after Tyndale and Luther in the 1520s and 1530s, and then the Stephanus 1550 edition. And the Trent counter-Reformation attempts of the 1540s.

This monograph attempts to show how the contemporary newspapers and journals analysed the stories of Simonides and Tischendorf. By letting the original correspondence speak for itself I hope we are enabled to understand not only the background to the affair but also to sample the tone of the exchanges. We also obtain a fascinating glimpse into the personality not only of Simonides but also of Tischendorf himself.

Since this material is generally on the internet today, the bulk of the book is today more a minor help in collation. When I did read the book about a year ago, I was surprised how little it contributed to what I already knew. On this thread, I will plan on placing elements not easily found elsewhere.


Codex Sinaiticus p. 9

When we come to the suspicions about the Tischendorf story and the accusations of theft, we do have an interesting quote:

Even F.J.A. Hort, the famous textual critic, in a letter to The Guardian, 13th August, 1862, says that

"parts of Tischendorf's language about his own discovery have been thought by some to leave room for suspicions" p.15

Excellent! This should be added to the narrative, it is not available online. And it would be worthwhile to see the full letter. Online is the Simonides response of Aug 18. And Glenn Conjurske and Elliott reference this letter of the 13th, plus there is a related bit in the later-published Hort correspondence. A separate thread is planned for the Hort material.

early comments of Fenton Hort on Simonides, Tischendorf and Sinaiticus

Similarly, the next is a nice quote tidbit:

The Literary Churchman, 1st. September, 1863, asks of Tischendorf

"clear and full account properly accredited by the evidence of others of all the details of his discovery first of the Codex Friderico - Augustanus and secondly of the Sinaiticus".

Without this information The Literary Churchman felt unable — with some justification given the magnitude of Tischendorf s claims—to go along wholeheartedly with Tischendorf. p. 15-16

The next quote is an important addition.

A letter to The Guardian, 26th August, 1863, by J. E. Hodgkin makes a plea to the editor of that paper to investigate the story of Tischendorf:

...May I ask you to use your exertions to obtain from Tischendorf a minute account of his successive discoveries of the two portions of this MS. Am I mistaken in saying that no details of discoveries whatever were offered with the Codex Friderico-Augustanus, at the time of publication. And is not a much more connected and detailed account to be looked for than has yet been published (in English, at least) of the various stages in the discovery and deportation of the remainder of the volume?
...It is somewhat remarkable that when inquiries were made in February, 1861, at Mount Sinai, by the Rev. W. W. Woollcomb, of Salford, about the Biblical MS. sent thence by Tischendorf to the Emperor, the reply of the librarian was "that he knew nothing about the matter, that he never heard of any MS. being sent to the Emperor, or brought away by Tischendorf 4 ".
Mr. Woollcomb was not able to give him detailed information as to the characteristics of the Codex, and all attempts to identify it, by its connection with the name of Tischendorf, were unsuccessful.
4. This reply may have been occasioned by ihe monks' embarrassment at the way they had treated the MS. p. 16

This Woollcomb research fits better with the Tischendorf theft narrative discussed on other threads. And it also fits well with the monastery knowing about the dubious provenance of the ms. William Wyatt Woollcombe (1813-1886) is being referenced.

The "ancient catalogue" claim combined with the rubbish claim of Tischendorf leads to various questions. Then after a Literary Churchman section with some questions p. 17 (I do not plan to post new sections about the 1859 and later situation, unless they have salient info.) Elliott basically says that Tischendorf was lying:

The account of Tischendorf is evidently made up p. 17
The difficulties created by Tischendorf’s own story of the discovery of the manuscript and high claims made for it inevitably made those who heard Tischendorf s initial reports somewhat sceptical. p. 31

Elliott never really probes into why Tischendorf was lying so much.

No manuscript [of the New Testament] hitherto has been heard of without an omission or without a flaw. Its very perfection is a difficulty. p. 19

This is the Literary Churchman from 1862. The first known "too good to be true" comment (an argument that was important with Archaic Mark).

This section of Elliott in p. 19 and 21 is good, showing many solid concerns and objections, and will be addressed separately. (The authenticity of Alexandrinus is on p. 20)

On p. 21-22 Elliott totally mangles Uspensky, getting the facts all wrong. He mentions Burgon in a footnote on p. 22.

p. 24 - Bradshaw

I had been anxious to know whether it was written in even continuous quaternions throughout, like the Codex Bezae, or in a series of fasciculi each ending with a quire of varying size, as the Codex Alexandrinus, and I found the latter to be the case...


Simonides p. 26

... the claim by a wily Greek, Constantine Simonides, notorious in Europe as a forger, that he himself had written the manuscript in 1840. This announcement was first made in writing in a letter to The Guardian before the imperial edition of Sinaiticus had been circulated. However, 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). p. 26

In fact, Tischendorf was nervous about the Simonides stories even before the "discovery" in 1859.

Elliott never really addresses the knowledge of Simonides, which is a fundamental part of historic forensics.

p. 29 Codex
Simonideios, Elliott has Codex Simonides

On p. 32, we have an unusual section, which is on the net as well:

Now a man is not to be put down by being barked at and called ill names and at first sight Dr. Tischendorf seems to blame. But let us remember, that he has published in detail his reasons for his opinion of the age of the Codex and it would have been mere waste of time to have repeated them. They may be seen, for example in the Notitia Codicis Sinaitici which Dr. Simonides has read. They are endorsed by the suffrages, which, we repeat, have been unanimous, of all the great critics who have been invited to examine the <<Codex>> or who have inspected the facsimile, the accuracy of which Dr. Simonides himself attests. p.32

Who specifically are the unanimous great critics? And inspecting the facsilmile is not examining the ms. And what did Simonides say was accurate, he said the ms. was coloured and mangled.

Similarly on p. 33, where Tischendorf acknowledges the text as heretical.

"and contains many readings which must appear gross heresies in a copy destined as a present to the orthodox emperor"

One irony, when defending against it being an Athos creation, with Simonides involved, Tischendorf notes the "gross heresies". When they are pointed out by Uspensky, Noroff and Tischendorf start ranting against Uspensky and trying to defend the Sinaiticus text.

Simonides certainly took good care, during his long stay at Leipsic, not to say that he was the writer of this much prized treasure of the University library, where he was a constant visitor since, in that case, a place would doubtless soon have been found for him in a lunatic asylum. p. 33

Simonides and Tischendorf must have been pretty close if Tischendorf knew how often he went to the Leipzig University Library .. this fits the idea that they had an ... agreement, in earlier days, and maybe in later days as well.

Compare the Tischendorf claim to the much more vague reference from the Christian Remembrancer:

he might have seen the original leaves when at Leipsic, in 1856:

This next section from p. 34 looks helpful, as to the meeting which Tischendorf ducked:

In the following year Tischendorf published a pamphlet <<Die Anfechtungen der Sinai Bibel>> (Leipzig 1863) which begins with what The Literary Churchman review of 1st July 1863 [said was] <<a flippant tirade against Simonides>> which is <<mere banter and ridiculte and does not advance anything in the shape of legitimate argument against Simonides>>. The Literary Churchman in fact had been proposing throughout the controversy that the two men meet. For example in the issue of 16th January, 1863 we read:

We venture to propose at once that Dr. Tischendorf be invited to meet M. Simonides, and challenge him to the proof of his <<authorship>> of the now supposed <<Sinaitic MS>>.We are willing to be of any use in convening a meeting on the subject, if MM. Tischendorf and Simonides will inform us of their desire to effect it. We shall be glad to receive communications at once from all who can assist us in bringing matters to an issue. p. 34

But this came to nothing. The Tischendorf apologetic (attack) books Anfechtungen and Waffen der Finsterniss wider die Sinaibibel are truly an embarrassment, and are never properly considered in the historical accounts.

The Literary Churchman had another astute comment about the unbala
nced Tischendorf (Elliott, always a bit of a dupe and part of the misdirection, was only concerned with whether the Literary Churchman was truly neutral, an irrelevancy):

“… we are not prepared, at this moment, to say, with Dr. Tregelles, that the statements of Simonides are <<as false and absurd as possible>>. Tischendorf applies these terms <<false and absurd>> just now to Tregelles himself: and indeed the proverbially furious way in which critics abuse one another, and the pettiness of their jealousies have had much illustration of late. way in which critics abuse one another, and the pettiness of their jealousies have had much illustration of late. In the interest of Literature, it is our business at least to be calm. It will not do for the journalists to lose their temper. There are so many quiet questions which may be asked on this whole subject, that we cannot understand the anger of some who have been writing about it.” p. 34-35

On p. 35, there is an accurate assessment from the LC:

... This statement of Dr. Tregelles, therefore, disqualifies him from being accepted as a witness in such a matter as this now before us his passions are excited.

Allowing that it would be more accurate to say that the value of his testimony is lessened.

p.37-38 has a short Simonides initial letter that is not online.

P. 39, Elliott begins some analysis

a) General Reaction

p. 39-40 goes into the 1860 letter to Stuart, which will come up later on p. 55-56, and is considered an 1862 cover-up

p. 40-41 go into the Memoir, especially the references to the years around 1839-840 and to the Tischendorf discovery

p. 46 has from Hodgkin

"This was written by Simonides at the time to Mr. C. Stewart. And the letter, which contains (besides the passage quoted) also the account of the writing the pseudo Sinaitic Codex, is still in Mr. Stewart's possesion. And his receipt of it was acknowledged in a letter to Simonides, which the latter still preserves."

Also in the letter purporting to have been sent to Stewart in 1860 (but not released until The Guardian published it on 26th August, 1863) the following postscript occurs:

which is more birthday.
There is a lot about the birthday, a far less consequential issue. (He may have been born even earlier than 1820.)

p. 46 goes into the question about whether the biography would allow the 1852 monastery visit.

p. 47 has the Guardian letter from Simonides that is not online, which is a defense of his 1852 visit, with other sources:

If you should meet with my Autographs, which were published in autograph in 1854 at Odessa by the monk Callinicus, you will read there the whole account of the family of the writer of the pseudo-Sinaitic Codex, and not only this, but that he was at Mount Sinai, not once but twice or thrice. And should you also peruse the remarks made in pp. 9 and 16 of the Appendix to No 1 of the Memoir, published at Munich in 1857, you will find further confirmation of the fact that Simonides was at Sinai in 1852. The same thing is established also by the Four Theological Tracts published by Simonides in London in 1858.

Here we should confer with our notes and with the Simonides experts in Europe about these references.
p. 47 then moves to dubious writing by Wright, accepted without thinking by Elliott

(e) Codex Friderico Augustanus

This visit by Simonides to the monastery in 1852 raised a bigger issue, as Wright pointed out in a letter to The Parthenon on 24th January, 1863. Comparing Tischendorf s story with Simonides' he notes:

Tischendorf not only professes to have seen the manuscript in 1844, but to have brought part of it to Europe, which he deposited in the Leipsig University library, and published in facsimile in 1846. As Simonides says he saw the manuscript entire in 1852, you will perceive that this considerably increases the difficulty of believing his story. We have, therefore, in this case something more than <<conflicting statements>>.

In fact, Simonides writes of the ms. having been mangled, we have this currently from the secondary source:

In 1852, Simonides saw it at Sinai, and on inquiring of the librarian, discovered that he knew nothing of its history. On examination, he found ' the MS. much altered, having an older appearance than it ought to have. The dedication to the Emperor Nicholas, placed at the beginning of the book, had ' been removed.'

I've seen nothing where Simonides talks of seeing the manuscript "entire" in 1852.

There is this comment :

And, when I was there a second time (in 1852), I again saw my MS., but uncared for, and altered and lacking a part, and full of marks, unskillfully written by a later hand; and the dedication to the Emperor Nicholas was also missing.

p. 47-49 has a lot of complexity around the Codex Friderico-Augustanus, with Simonides being accused of not speaking of it, and, on the other hand, not knowing of it.

p. 49 goes into the Esdras note

p. 50 - Elliott mixes up the Esdras note with the three crosses note

p. 50 (f) Mutilation of the manuscript
Elliott is hampered here because he is clueless on Uspensky and he ignores the contradictions between the Uspensky and Tischendorf accounts. He also is hampered by accepting the Tischendorf fabrications, like the red cloth.

the first scholars in Europe say bears all the marks of an antiquity of fourteen hundred and fifty to fifteen hundred years. p. 51

Who physically handled the two manuscripts? Or either ms? No names. And we know today that this is simply untrue. (Simply look at The Tale of Two Manuscripts. Simply look at the ms. being handled at the British Library.)

p. 51 and 52 are interesting with a Simonides discussion of the Pentateuch, acrostics, Dr. Drakakes (see Drakachis on p. 45) and the question over whether he visited the monastery in 1844.

The Simonides condition of the ms. (e.g. 1844 in good shape) is more consistent with Uspensky than that of Tischendorf, excepting the question of where the Pentateuch went.

p. 52 -
I prefer to believe in the truth of Tischendorf s statement - William Aldis Wright

We know that is not very smart. Tischendorf lied about his visits and the manuscript, continually, no matter what you think of Simonides. We know he was a thief, a liar, a mangler of mss (even stealing leaves from the middle, similar to what occurred in 1844.)

p. 53 - (h) The exemplars
This goes into the legitimate questions about the sources for Sinaiticus, which we discuss quite on the forum.

p. 54 after the apocrypha has a Hodgkin summary of objections and his answers that is interesting and is not online, and partly depends on the
p. 55-56 - 1860 letter which may be a later cover.

The Elliott approach falls into the standard trap .. if there are holes in the story of Simonides, the Sinaiticus ms. is vindicated. Today, we know this is nonsense.

p. 56-60 Thus, questions like the physical effort have little import. If Simonides at times indicated he wrote the whole ms, that could simply be an exaggeration, and he was one of multiple people on this enterprise. This relates to other similar issues like the level of contribution of Benedict and when he died.

Here Elliott is hampered by his missing Literary Forgeries by James Anson Farrer. (As well as in the Kallinikos section.)

p. 62 in discussing the inks gets into whether it might have designed to be a forgery. This comes up in p. 65-66 as to whether there was originally an intention to deceive.

Keep in mind that all physical elements, such as the parchment and ink and binding, are "exceptional" and do not fit the Tischendorf narrative.

p. 62 the cut-off marginal notes, a real Tischendorf puzzle, anomaly and possible shananigans. See the special thread on the topic.

Professor Tischendorf slates that there are many letters in the marginal notes which have been lost, from their having been written close up to the edge, and from the further circumstance of the edges having suffered injury. Now this is a thing which is extremely likely to happen with a MS. some centuries old, but is it likely to be the case with a MS. written on parchment (or vellum), and not much more than twenty years old? We assume that Professor Tischendorf s statement is correct, for the point is one upon which he could hardly be deceived; if his statement be not correct, then, indeed, his authority can go for very little.

Where are the cut-offs? What was cut-off? Does this match the Simoindes claim about margin notes? Elliott gives no information.

p. 63 -

A manuscript at Sinai would not in a few years suffer much from wear and tear

And the Sinaiticus manuscripts have not suffered wear and tear. They are youthful, flexible, supple and the CFA is white parchment.

p. 63-64 - k. styles of writing
This is all circular to Tischendorf assignments. And there is nothing difficult in writing in older styles.

p. 65 - Ammonian sections

p. 66-68 intention to deceive. The William Thomas Newenham letter, though astute in some ways, falls on the same old problem. If Simonides was not truthful about how he was involved, that does not mean he was not involved. This is Logic 101 and far too difficult for our modern crew of analysts.

The real issue is Sinaiticus authenticity, not Simonides authenticity.

65. itacisms - is more a puzzle for a supposed royal expensive scriptorium ms of the 4th century than a few members of the Russico Rustlers (ie. a Mt. Athos team)

p. 69 -

Simonides now points to an acrostic in Gen. xxiv. as proof that he wrote the Codex Sinaiticus. He knows perfectly well that no part of Genesis has been recovered, and therefore makes his assertion with full assurance that it cannot be put to the test.

Yet the New Finds verifies that Genesis 21-22 and Uspensky has fragments from Genesis 23-24, and this is a solid lead that these sections were discarrded quite deliberately c. 1850.


Kallinkos p. 71

Here Elliott has huge conceptual and background difficulties. Farrer is mssing, who is key on Kallinkikos. And how Kallinikos got everything right is not even on his radar. Even if Simonides was behind some or all of the Kallinikos writing, those issues help to deep-six Sinaiticus authenticity, and Elliott is totally unwary and even incompetent.

p. 73 - will annihilate Simonides (good points)

The next pages are fullly online

p. 113 - short letter from Simonides is not online
p. 115-120 these letters are not online.

p. 118-120 Amphilochius - Bishop of Pelusium
On p. 118 there is discussion as to whether the Simonides referencing of Benedict in 1841-42 was correct.

Elliott does not relay the information from Tregelles that Simonides shows up in St. Petersburg


p. 122


What is surprising about the Simonides affair is not so much that it happened
at all or that it lasted for over a year, but that a man with Simonides' known
background had any credibility at all.

Charles van der Pool published the 1935 edition of the British Museum handwave (after the Ruskis used them as marks.)

The Apostolic Bible Polyglot Translator's Note
The Mount Sinai Manuscript of the Bible

And Charles made an excellent, astute comment::

"Lastly I find it somewhat comical that the charge against a forger was that he was convicted of forgery...that would seem to be more of a proof of his "credentials" .

p. 173 - the Biographical Memoir

p. 175-176 the identity of Charles Stewart is questioned. His letters to Henry Deane in Melbourne would likely help.

You can see them mentioned in terms of science and history here:
I'll plan on putting these connections together on one page.


For important missing historical notes, see the review below.

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Steven Avery

the real issues, the pseudo-issues, and the non-issues

"The real issue is Sinaiticus authenticity, not the Simonides integrity and veracity."
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Steven Avery

review of the James Keith Elliott book on Sinaiticus and the Simonides affair

Codex Sinaiticus and the Simonides affair: an examination of the 19th century claim that Codex Sinaiticus was not an ancient ms (1982), James Keith Elliott

There are some earlier posts on this thread, the second post goes through the book from p. 1 to the end.

why the James Keith Elliott book tells you very little about Sinaiticus authenticity

One goal is to have this review available to those for those on the textualcriticism forums, as some posters there consider this book the end of the Sinaiticus authenticity question. When it really should be simply one contribution to the beginning. Thus the review is multi-purpose, it is also a defense of the recent scholarship against the position that Elliott closed the issue.


This book by Elliott is wrongly titled, as is not really an examination of the claim about Codex Sinaiticus. Most all the salient issues in that regard are not addressed. This book is more a librarian's archive of seven journals that were a major part of a 2+ year controversy in England. A history of a public dispute does not tell you the underlying facts.

The major problem
with the book is that it starts with a totally flawed implied logic, the argument from fallacy.

If P, then Q.
P is a fallacious argument.
Therefore, Q is false.

If what Simonides said about Sinaiticus was accurate, then Sinaiticus is not authentic
Simonides said things that were false
Therefore Sinaiticus is authentic.

This fundamental fallacy permeates the whole book.

Elliott's book did a good job in one respect. He flushed out the Journals. However, even that was for a very limited period of time.


Stanley E. Porter in
Constantine Tischendorf: The Life and Work of a 19th Century Bible Hunter, 2014

used the Elliott book to try to make a case for authenticity, or at least a dismissal of Sinaiticus concerns that utilize Simonides.

Stanley E. Porter summarizes James Keith Elliott to have 10 authenticity reasons

This fills a gap in the Elliott book, trying to make a systematic presentation, but the list is not an argument for authenticity, and is rather weak for whatever purpose it is used.


When this book was published it performed a good service, since the controversy could not be retrieved online. Today it only adds a small amount to what is readily available online.

On p. 34-35 the main sources are listed

Literary Churchman
Journal of Sacred Literature *
hristian Remembrancer *

The Panthenon
Clerical Journal
Athenaeum *

The threee with the * are generally on the net, and they often are taking material from the Guardian and the Literary Churchman and the Clerical Journal.
Also on the net from the periodicals are:

British Quarterly Review
London Review (referenced once on p. 162)
The Reader

There are some good letters quoted in book that are not on the net, such as the letter from Amphilochius on p. 118-120 and some more in that section. The post above tries to mention those letters, when they are substantive.

Beyond the Journals, there is no bibliography available. Possibly because, beyond the 7 Journals, Elliott really has very little material. He did little study on literary forgeries, the Simonides history (e.g. missing the report of his working in St. Petersburg for the Russian historical archives in the 1860s and his passing in 1890, the dating controversies, the Tischendorf integrity considerations and many other elements. My conclusion is that the bibliography is omitted because the books consulted were minimal. Even Scrivener's section in Six Lectures in unreferenced. Missing Farrer is discussed below.


Anybody that looks with sense at the Tischendorf stories, and delves into the actual history, will quickly see that he lied right and left about what happened in the 1840s and 1850s. The Elliott book even acknowledges this at one point, but is never concerned with looking at all the evidences, and examining motives, this is because of the fallacious approach taken by the book.

There is no reason to discard the overall Tischendorf story just because he lied about his visits. And there is no reason to discard the Simonides story (which were supported by an amazing set of coincidences and knowledge from the aether) just because he may have spruced up the story for various reasons. On this whole analysis and evaluation issue, Elliott is a total failure.


One major reason why the Elliott book is basically worthless today is because it does not consider and attempt to evaluate massive amounts of evidences, some available at the time of the book, some which became available later. Plus it sugar-coats important issues. Here is a short summary:

Elements directly related to the time of the book

1) the Tischendorf lies and deceit (and theft) around the ms. (Some of this is more available now, e.g. the 1844 theft is clear from the family correspondence.) What were the motivations?

2) Tischendorf's ducking of an appearance in England (mentioned negatively even by Scrivener) is glossed over

3) evidences supporting possible Tischendorf connections with Simonides, including the report that he worked in St. Petersburg in the late 1860s.

4) Tischendorf's concern about the stories of Simonides right when he was en route to the red cloth fabric-ation

5) the impossibility of the petty revenge motive really fitting the overall time chronology (Elliott hints at this problem, but offers no real analysis.)

6) the impossibility of Simonides and Kallinikos having their inside knowledge of the St. Catherine's manuscript and Tischendorf shenanigans without personal involvement

7) the lack of real palaeography referenced, (the physical condition of the manuscript is barely mentioned) and the scholars referenced as giving some sort of support for Tischendorf's declarations were Scrivener, Bradshaw and Tregelles. Scrivener having not seen the ms. and Tregelles actually declaring for the 4th century even before he saw a bit in 1862 as Tischendorf's guest. Little or no mention, e.g. of Uspesnksy and Hilgenfeld and Donaldson and others who questioned the 4th century date.

8) Uspensky, whose description of his 1845 visit is a fundamental historical reference that essentially demolishes the Tischendorf story, is mangled. His actual text from 1845 is on this website.

9) The Hermas "coincidence" of Simonides is are barely referenced.

10) The Simonides
1843 Barnabas edition is barely referenced, even thought it is a factor in this discussion in 1864, when it is referenced by Donaldson. The name is in the Periplus of Hannon listing, given by Elliott on p. 171-172 and has recently received confirmation.

11) Charles Stewart is poorly handled, since he has other references like the correspondence to Australia. See the post #2 on this thread.


Important historical items

Available in 1982, missed by Elliott.
Here are 10, emphasis on the first 7, allowing that 8 and 10 could easily be bypassed and 9 was simply missing in the English literature.

1) Porfiry Uspensky's (1804-1865) actual physical description of the manuscript. Uspensky material, one of the most critical evidences, is mangled, cloaked and unavailable from Elliott. Even Uspensky placing the ms. at about a century newer than Tischendorf, and his doctrinal concerns (quite valid, even acknowledged by Tischendorf in a different context) are missing or mangled.

Somehow the places where Uspensky and Tischendorf have contiguous material, and the fact of material from around Genesis 24, a place of marking claimed by Simonides, are unmentioned, even though quotes that Simonides knew there was no Genesis recovered were given in the book.

2) Adolf Bernhard Christoph Hilgenfeld (1823-1907) in unmentioned. And others who argued that the Tischendorf dating was dubious, even from an authenticity perspective. (Most had to work off the facsimile, not the manuscript.) The unbalanced nature of Tischendorf is hinted at in Elliot's second-hand reference to Die Anfechtungen der Sinai-Bibel, 1863. The similarly unscholarly, and arguably pathological, Waffen der Finsternis gegen die Sinaibibel, 1863, is unmentioned. This is one of many evidences that the something was fishy in the "too good to be true" push by Tischendorf for a fourth-century date. And this type of unscholarly bludgeoning approach can be connected with his unwillingness to go to England in 1862-1863

3) James Donaldson (1831-1915) writing of Sinaiticus linguistic difficulties in Hermas and Barnabas.
And his writing of the Sinaitic Barnabas in the 1860s and 1870s

4) Sypridon Lambros (1851-1919) catalogue of Athos mss in 1895 and 1900 was highlighted by Farrer

5) Falconer Madan, (1851-1935) Bodleian Librarian, writing about the question of finding specific spots on the ms.

6) James Anson Farrer (1849-1925), author of Literary Forgeries, a book lauded by Metzger, who considered the case one of the "unsolved myteries of literature", who emphasized the timing and entries on the Lambros catalog, and how they related to Benedict and Kallinikos as well as Simonides. Farrer astutely referred to the Hermas situation, (remember also the Tischendorf retraction) "The coincidence seems almost more singular than can be accounted for by chance". This is the type of concern about which Elliott is simply clueless.

Madan and Farrer were able to talk to people who had been involved in the controversies, and work with documents that are likely not available today. Madan would have totally solid access to archives. We recently wrote to Elliott, simply asking him why Farrer was not in the book, and have received no reply.

The lack of reference to Farrer is the single greatest scholarly failure of the book, since the suspicion arises that the material, easily available, was deliberate omitted to support the book's point of view. If the suspicion is true, this trashes the books scholarship. If it is fault, the research methodology is suspect.

7) Writings, including in Russian and German, and including James Rendel Harris in English (1852-1941) of scholars who had a very low view of the Tischendorf veracity. Since the modern story of the manuscript's provenance is almost always linked to the Tischendorf account, even today, this concern about the lies and theft is only touched on in a very cursory manner.

8) Observation from Ernst von Dobschütz (1870-1934) that the manuscript in Germany is "snow-white" parchment, which is contra normal manuscript science if the manuscript truly had the Tischendorf antiquity history

9) Russian scientist, Nikolai Alexandrovich Morozov (1854-1946) writing in 1914 that the physical condition of the manuscript does not match the Tischendorf antiquity claims.

10) Skeat and Milne in the 1930s contrasting the parchment of Alexandrinus as "limp, dead" in contrast to that of Sinaiticus

11) The New Finds of 1975 were receiving publications by 1980. They are unmentioned in the book. Even if Elliott could not effectively process the material at that time, they clearly should have received reference. In fact they do directly impact Sinaiticus authenticity study.


Discoveries since 2009

This forum is full of material that goes way beyond the Elliott book. All the new information that developed out of the Codex Sinaiticus Project and web communication was unavailable to Elliott.

To give one simple example, The Tale of Two Manuscripts,

why do we know that the 1859 CSP leaves were artificially coloured?

demonstrates that the ms. was coloured, matching the Simonides-Kallinikos specific accusations. A truly amazing mutually corroborative situation, from the point of view of probability, historical forensics, and Ockham.
Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.
Arthur Conan Doyle.
Read more at:

Any update of the Elliott book would have to include material such as this, since it is corroborative to specific factual claims in the book.

The physical and historical questions that would have to be updated are everywhere. Simply review this forum and www.sinaiticus.net . Here, there is no blame upon what Elliott wrote in 1982, but those today trumpeting the 1982 book as the basic resource are showing a great ignorance of the Sinaiticus authenticity topic.


Steven Avery
Dutchess County, NY
Sinaiticus Authenticity Research Team
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Steven Avery

if Farrer was deliberately omitted, the book is not a scholarly work

6) James Anson Farrer (1849-1925), author of Literary Forgeries, a book lauded by Metzger, considered the case one of the "unsolved mysteries of literature", who emphasized the timing and entries on the Lampros catalog, and how they related to Benedict and Kallinikos as well as Simonides. Farrer astutely referred to the Hermas situation, (remember also the Tischendorf retraction)
"The coincidence seems almost more singular than can be accounted for by chance"
. This is the type of concern about which Elliott misses.

Falconer Madan and Farrer were able to talk to people who had been involved in the controversies, and work with documents that are likely not available today. Madan would have totally solid access to archives. We recently wrote to Elliott, simply asking him why Farrer was not in the book, and have received no reply. The lack of reference to Farrer is the single greatest scholarly failure of the book, making the research methodology suspect.

It is possible that Elliott did not know of Farrer's section on Simoides. If Elliott did know, and deliberately bypassed this major reference because it was uncomfortable for his thesis, then his book simply can not be considered as a scholarly work on:

Codex Sinaiticus and the Simonides affair: an examination of the 19th century claim that Codex Sinaiticus was not an ancient ms
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Steven Avery

A very nice response.


dear Mr Avery

Former colleagues passed on to me your query. (I seem not to have heard from you in 2016).

No, I did not know of Farrer's book. I see the reference to it in Metzger's autobiography. It does not seem that Bart Ehrman in his recent book on forgery/ pseudonymity or David Parker's book on Sinaiticus were aware of him either. (Parker does include a reference to my 1982 study.)

I have not written again on this matter although I am obviously interested in the subject and comparable forgeries. My main interests have always been in textual criticism and the apocryphal NT.

I wish you well in your own researches and look forward to things you produce.

With best wishes

Keith Elliott

J. K. Elliott
Emeritus Professor of New Testament Textual Criticism
The University of Leeds
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