Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sinaiticus may really be a forgery after all...

  The following has been excerpted from Dr. E. K. Best's blog,

 The Jews, The Shoah, & Modern Bible Translations

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Constantine Simonides: KJV Fact of the Day

Doctored quote of the day: "Do you mind if I take that rubbish with me?" Tischendorf ________________________________________ 
Around the time of Tischendorf, another paleographer was on the scene who at the time was widely known in Bible text and Antiquities circles, but today, is hardly known at all. The man was Constantine Simonides (1805 - 1867). He was described by a colleague as brooding , dark, sporting a unkempt beard and while academically very active, kept to himself, making his living off the sales of old documents and manuscripts, but never interested in great wealth. What makes him unique and of interest in the KJV Controversy is that at the time of Tischendorf's 'discovery' after many visits to the Monastery of St. Katherine at Sinai  (and later Mt. Athos), Simonides claimed that the Sinaiticus, one of the three main pillars of modern Bible translations was a forgery, and he should know, as he claimed the deed to have been done by himself. For the past 130 years, this rumor drifted around odd corners of christendom, mostly among Bible Historians and those in textual criticism but was never given more than a mere mention because it was always followed with a statement to the effect that later the manuscript was found to be legitimate. Recently though, more information about this infamous fellow has come to light giving more credibility to his claim.
"Tischendorf was only the senior of Simonides by 5 years, and in the science of Paleography had neither his knowledge nor his experience."--Farrar, 1907 Forgeries
The man who discounted his finds was Henry Bradshaw, a great influence on the future Eugenicist, Karl Pearson. However, another paleographer, Henry Octavius Coxe, detected a forgery of Simonides. When I first began to read about Simonides the few finds remarked that he was somewhat of a scoundrel, but early books from around that time up to the turn of the century portray him more as an ardent scholar, more interested in authentic texts than forgery. What some called 'forgery' may have been his admitted attempts, which may have been for scholarship sake, or may have been 'repairs' or 'palimpsests', where ancient unreadable texts were inked over or documents which had first one set of writings which were scraped or otherwise erased for a second set. What Simonides' motivations were is unclear, but at least one possibility is that for whatever reason, he did not respect Tischendorf or his 'scholarship' in detecting authentic antiquities, and could have been trying to prove his point. This has not yet been proved, but can be added to speculation. A few facts about Simonides are essential:
1. He lived on Mt. Athos at the abbeys near and around where several Codices Tischendorf and Tregelles used showed up, right before and during the time Tischendorf was there.

2. He claimed to be there because of a 'guardianship' of his Uncle Benedict, a monk, because his father had passed away, but years later, letters between him and his father were found dated as late as 1862.

3. Issues of forgeries came up involving a student he employed who reported his suspicions named Lycurgurs, who became a scholar in his own right in the Greek church, who reported his concern to the well respected Dindorf, although Dindorf shook off the allegations as unfounded.

4. The charge of forgery was better known at the time than most know: there was a newspaper quarrel regarding the charge of the Sinaiticus and the Uranius forgery between Tischendorf and Lepsius.  A letter appeared in the "Guardian" claiming that the  Sinaiticus find was forged by himself, Simonides in 1839.  Bradshaw immediately disputed the claim in the press, but Simonides did not back down.  (Note an important fact which has caused some confusion:  Mt. Athos which produced several manuscripts for Tischendorf,  has an abbey called St. Katherine, which is different than the abbey of St. Katherine at Sinai.  A curious historical note, is that St. Gregory in the 1200s is noted as bringing some texts from Sinai to Mt. Athos.  However most of the codices from Athos were found in the abbey of Laura.  (See Sinaiticus online)

5. Simonides had no real reason to lie about the forgery because it hurt his reputation ultimately. He had the skills using old parchments to accurately produce hard to detect forgeries.

6. Simonides died very soon after the allegation in 1867.
Constantine Simonides: Papers Relating to the Codex Sinaiticus, ca. 1856-1863 One formidable resource for documents on Simonides: (other viable resources are books on Paleography, manuscript evidence, Tischendorf, "Uranius", Dindorf, Lycurgus, and Mt. Athos for direct and indirect evidence. Two texts on Forgeries of the time particularly helpful including one by Ferrar listed in quote at the beginning. " RLIN ID No. NYGG01-A18 Creator Simonides, Constantine, 1820-1867. Title Papers relating to the Codex Sinaiticus, probably forged by Constantine Simonides, ca. 1856-1863. Physical Description 1 box (.25 linear ft.) Historical/Biographical Note Constantine Simonides was an exceptionally skillful calligrapher who is alleged to have sold spurious documents (as well as possibly some that were genuine) in England in the 1850s and 1860s. Among his clients were Sir Frederick Madden at the British Museum and Sir Thomas Phillipps. Simonides resided in the monasteries on Mount Athos between 1839 and 1841 and again in 1852, during which time he may have acquired or sold some of the manuscripts that he later sold. He was in England between 1853 and 1855 and then in France and Germany. In 1862 Simonides published in English journals his claim to have written the Codex Sinaiticus, which the scholar Constantine von Tischendorf had discovered at Mount Sinai some years earlier and maintained had been be written during the 4th century C.E. Scope and Contents Papers relating to Codex Sinaiticus and Constantine Simonides’ assertion that he had forged it. Includes manuscript letters dated 1856-1863. Facsimile (?) of manuscript. Letter to A.N.L. Munby from Andreas Mayor at Sothebys regarding the Codex. Includes offprints about Simonides and the manuscript. Names Mayor, Andreas. Correspondence. Munby, A. N. L. (Alan Noel Latimer), 1913-1974. Correspondence. Subjects Simonides, Constantine, 1820-1867. Bible. Greek. Codex sinaiticus. Forgeries. Forgery of manuscripts. Location Grolier Club, 47 East 60th Street, New York, N.Y. 10022-1098. Text/Archive info from http://www.grolierclub.org/LibraryAMC.Simonides.htm

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