Is Constantine Tischendorf a hero or thief?
Tischendorf, who spent his career at the University of Leipzig, travelled extensively in search of lost and forgotten manuscripts of the Bible. His deep religious commitments drove him to search for the oldest surviving manuscripts of the Bible. It was on such an expedition that Tischendorf succeeded in finding the oldest complete copy of the New Testament: Codex Sinaiticus, which dates to the mid-fourth century C.E.
He claimed that one night while visiting the Eastern Orthodox monastery of St. Catherine’s, he spied an ancient-looking manuscript in a basket of fire kindling. Upon closer inspection, he discovered a very old copy of the Bible, now known as Codex Sinaiticus. Tischendorf could not contain his excitement and immediately requested it. The monks, tipped off to its value by his enthusiasm, only allowed him to take 43 sheets with him.
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Tischendorf did complete a facsimile edition of the text, but Codex Sinaiticus was gifted to the Russian Czar and remained in the Russian National Library until an economic downturn made it necessary for them to sell it to the British. To date, the majority of the Codex remains in the British Library. These facts have colored the recovery of this important manuscript with accusations against Tischendorf, its revealer, of theft.
The text of Codex Sinaiticus differs in numerous instances from that of the authorized version of the Bible in use during Tischendorf’s time. Read “What’s Missing from Codex Sinaiticus, the Oldest New Testament?” to compare these differences.
Stanley Porter, the Dean of McMaster Divinity College, argues that many salient details are omitted from this all too common telling of the events. At the time of Tischendorf, there was nothing uncommon about removing, buying or gifting ancient manuscripts in this manner. He also demonstrates that from the beginning, there were discussions about donating the manuscript to the Russian Czar, as would be appropriate for an Eastern Orthodox monastery, but that the succession problems within the church leadership lead to a more complicated than normal process, which allowed allegations against Tischendorf to linger. Stanley Porter explains how newly revealed documents from the Russian archives exonerate Tischendorf and provide the rest of the story of Codex Sinaiticus’s long journey west.
Physically, Codex Sinaiticus is located in four places: the 43 original sheets in Leipzig; a few remnants forgotten in the Russian National Library; the majority of the text in the British Library; and approximately a dozen sheets that were later discovered after an earthquake at St. Catherine’s. But the digital age has brought the entire manuscript back together in a virtual online museum at www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/.
Learn more about the controversy surrounding Constantine Tischendorf and his removal of Codex Sinaiticus by reading “Hero or Thief? Constantine Tischendorf Turns Two Hundred” by Stanley Porter in the September/October 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.
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Hershel Shanks, “Who Owns the Codex Sinaiticus?” Biblical Archaeology Review, November/Decenber 2007.
Charles W. Hedrick, “The 34 Gospels,” Bible Review, June 2002.
Leonard J. Greenspoon, “Major Septuagint Manuscripts—Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus,” Bible Review, August 1989.
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This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on September 23, 2015.
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Leipzig does not have “43 original sheets”, it has 43 leaves or folio, which is 1/2 of 43 sheets (4 pages on a sheet, 2 on a folio, there are 86 pages in Leipzig.)
More info at:
Quires – Sheets – Folia – Pages (recto and versa)
We now have hard textual evidence that Sinaiticus was written using Codex Claromontanus (or one of its two daughter mss) as an exemplar.
Codex Sinaiticus Authenticity Research
Homeoteleuton – Text Omitted Because Of Similar Endings
This effectively ends the myth of it being a 4th century ms. found by Tischendorf, and strongly supports the 1840s production chronology.
Hahahahaha!!!! The script survived about 1000 years and then suddenly monks decided to burn it! Hahahahaha!!!!! I can’t believe normal person can believe in it! But British need different excuses for stilling treasures that don’t belong to them all around the world. But to make so bizarre and stupid excuse is unbelievable and it’s humiliation for everyone! Only shameless ppl can tell that documents that were stolen were actually “saved”, from monks who were keeping holy scriptures more than anything about 1000 years and suddenly decided to burn it! And humanity is lucky that right in that moment thief appeared to “save” it! Ahahahahaha!
The Codex Sinaiticus also know as Alepha hailed as the best and oldest manuscript is controversial because it differs from the Texus Receptus, (Received Tex).
Its condition was pristine when found, either it was just copied or never used! Since the monks were burning it for fuel, must had been kept on the shelf never used. You probably have books in pristine condition from not being use very often, then you have other books that are worn out by over use.
Next we ask why would it be in such good condition, then being disposed of when Tischendorf came upon it. Could it be that it was a manuscript influenced by Gnostic’s of the 1st-3rd centuries. Gnosticism having fallen out of favor and those manuscripts were not use any longer kept on the shelves of the churches of that era.
Finally, judge for yourself, you do not have to be a Textual Critic Scholar to figure it out. Compare some verses and it becomes clear.
John 1;14,18;3:16 “Only Begotten: In TR out of Alepha. Are we better with it or without.
1 Tim. 3:16 “God” is changed to “He”
Here is what John said “Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is in the world” 1 John 4:3. This is the reference of Gnosticism already working in the 1st. cent. to deny his Deity.
Tischendorf stole a number of manuscripts, some of the documentation is placed here:
the theft and mutliation of manuscripts
A more fundamental question is authenticity of the Sinaiticus ms. with flexible, supple vellum that has never been tested and “The Tale of Two Manuscripts” showing an artificial coloring of the 1859 St. Petersburg heist.
Codex Sinaiticus Authenticity Research
Is there a scroll that tells Jobs story, it seems like such a far fetched story and if not how and where did they get the entire scroll,
Question. If the manuscripts were so accurate, and so desirable, why were they discarded for kindling? When you discards and burn something in a fireplace you assent to the fact that it is of no value. They were monks, and they were knowledgeable, and were in charge. Remember the introduction to the story, He claimed that one night while visiting the Eastern Orthodox monastery of St. Catherine’s.
All of the books that use part of or the whole of the Codex Sinaiticus are copyrighted. Only one Bible is not copyrighted.
If Tischendolf did not ” stoled” the manuscripts,How do we know if the current versions of the new testament is accurate?!… good job !!!!
Very interesting article in that it reveal historical truth about the King James Version. There is no religious belief system higher than truth. I will follow truth where ever it leads me. After all is said, it was Jesus (Yeshua) who said, “the truth shall free you”. Indeed, it will free us from lies, deceptions, illusions, and delusions. Interestingly, the name “Jesus” do not appear in the 1611 King James Bible. Translators of the Bible removed the real name “Yeshua” and changed it to the name “Iesous” and changed that name to “Jesus”.
Is it true at St. St. Catherine’s that there was only one way in. You had to be put in a basket and lifted up to the door.
I would also like to humbly add that it was the early monks that designed their scripts with images. The Jews designed their script with music. If you ever find a text that is not designed and is accompanied by “music” then your going back in time. It will have a musical flow.
Love this article. The monks in their time made a few copies. There are, I’m sure, more out there yet to be found. Monks were perfectionists. They wrote and re wrote as many writers and scribes do. I have no doubt that there were many imperfect copies made that were burned. After the script, they designed the borders with images. If the borders did not have the designs on them yet then chances are that they are a throw away mistake in copying. The designs were references for the teachers of the Word. Reading was still an elite ability. The Monks vowed not to put out texts to the public unless they were done perfectly fearing the displeasure of the Father. From there how it found its way out of the fire leaves me wondering for sure.
Loved this article. So informative. Thanks so much for sharing it.
man can not surmise what ^G~D
may impliment to accomplish a purpose , johanes ; does not an
integral part our crucifixction of Jesus Christ involve a thief and Hero ?
Thanks for a very interesting article on the priceless Codex Sinaiticus manuscript. I’d also like to hear more on the Aleppo Codex.
Not just lost–possibly burned up. I see T. as a hero.
He was a hero, the manuscript would get lost in the monastery.
I do not think God need both hero or thief.
The kjv of the word of God that we now have, is sufficient. God knows what He’s doing.