Friday, March 24, 2017

Ten Reasons Why Sinaiticus Was Not Made By Simonides

          Today, we shall explore reasons why Codex Sinaiticus was not made in 1839-1841.  I intend to provide twenty such reasons; today I will settle for ten.  
          In the previous post, we saw that there is some question about the manner in which Codex Sinaiticus, or at least the main portion of it, was obtained by Constantine Tischendorf at Saint Catherine’s Monastery – 43 parchment sheets in 1844, and a much larger portion in 1859, which included every book of the New Testament.  Although the exact manner in which it was brought to the attention of European scholars is disputed, there is no question among paleographers – researchers who specialize in the study of ancient handwriting and writing-materials – that the manuscript is genuinely ancient. 
          In 1862, however, after the text of Codex Sinaiticus was published by Tischendorf, a scholar named Constantine Simonides claimed that this manuscript was not ancient at all.  In a letter that appeared in the newspaper called The Guardian on September 3, Simonides claimed that the manuscript that Tischendorf heralded as the pearl of all his researches was actually something that Simonides himself had made.  “About the end of 1839,” Simonides wrote, his uncle Benedict, who oversaw a monastery on Mount Athos, wished to present a gift to the Russian Czar, Nicholas I.  After Benedict consulted with some colleagues, it was decided that a complete Greek manuscript of the Bible, combined with works of the sub-apostolic age (Barnabas, Hermas, Clement of Rome, etc.), written in ancient lettering on parchment, would be a suitable gift – along with a gold cover.  The chief calligrapher of the monastery was very reluctant to begin such an intimidating task, and so Simonides, then 19 years old, began the project, after studying the handwriting in manuscripts at Mount Athos.  His uncle Benedict, he claimed, made a sort of exemplar by using a printed Greek Bible (printed by Zosima with the support of the Moscow Bible Society), comparing it with ancient copies at Mount Athos
          And from where did he get the parchment?  Simonides stated that at Mount Athos, he conveniently found a bulky codex consisting almost entirely of blank pages, “prepared apparently many centuries ago.”  Simonides filled these pages, he claimed, with the Old Testament and the New Testament, and proceeded to write compositions from the sub-apostolic age (Barnabas and Hermas) until he ran out of parchment.  By the time he had gotten that far, his uncle had died, and so instead of presenting it to the czar, he went to Constantinople and consulted two patriarchs, Anthimus and Constantius, who recommended that he donate it to Saint Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula, where Constantius had previously served as bishop.  Simonides agreed to this course of action.
          Shortly thereafter – according to Simonides – he took the codex to the island of Antigonus, intending to deliver it to Constantius, whose residence was there.  Constantius was, however, away from home, and so Simonides left it there in a packet, with a letter.  Later, Simonides claimed, he received a letter from Constantius, written in August of 1841, assuring him that the codex would be donated to Saint Catherine’s Monastery as he had intended.
          Simonides then said that in 1852, he had visited Saint Catherine’s Monastery and had seen the manuscript there, and examined it, “and found it much altered, having an older appearance than it ought to have.”  Simonides also noted that the preface, in which the manuscript was dedicated to Czar Nicholas I, had been removed.   Later, Simonides continued, he had been shown a sample-page of the manuscript that Tischendorf was publishing, and “at once recognized” his own work.
          Now that we have an idea of what Simonides’ claims were, let’s look at the reasons why they do not survive close scrutiny.

(1)  Bits of Codex Sinaiticus Were Discarded or Recycled.  Fragments from Codex Sinaiticus were used to reinforce the bindings of other manuscripts at Saint Catherine’s Monastery.  While part of Codex Sinaiticus (the part taken by Tischendorf in 1844) resides at Leipzig, and a larger portion resides at the British Library, a few pages and fragments are at the National Library of Russia.  These portions were obtained by the researcher Porphyry Uspensky when he visited Saint Catherine’s Monastery, no later than 1846.  Simonides’ claims would thus require that the monks of Saint Catherine’s Monastery, after receiving a pristine Greek manuscript of the entire Bible in 1841, recycled several of its pages as binding-material in the next few years. 

(2)  Codex Sinaiticus Is Huge.  Simonides claimed to have made the manuscript in a relatively small amount of time, beginning “About the end of the year 1839” and finishing some time before August of 1841.  Those who have seen the manuscript, or facsimiles of it, can testify what a massive project this would be for one person to undertake:  when in pristine condition, the codex consisted of over 740 leaves (i.e, 1,480 pages).  To complete that amount of space with uncial lettering would be a massive undertaking:  reckoning that each page had approximately 2,500 letters, the writing of over 3,700,000 letters would be required to complete the codex. 

(3)  Codex Sinaiticus Has a Note About An Ancient Manuscript Made at Caesarea.  After the book of Esther, a note in Codex Sinaiticus states, “Checked for accuracy using a very old copy corrected by the hand of the martyr Pamphilus.  At the end of this ancient book, which begins with the First Book of Kings [i.e., First Samuel], and ends with Esther, is the handwriting of Pamphilus himself; it says:  ‘Copied and corrected against the Hexapla of Origen as corrected [or, made accurate] by him.  Antoninus the confessor cross-checked it; I, Pamphilus, corrected the volume in prison, by the great grace and ability from God.  And if it is not an overstatement, it would not be easy to find a manuscript like this one.”  A similar note appears at the end of the book of Second Esdras.  Had Simonides made the manuscript as a straightforward transcript of the Greek Bible, with no intent to deceive, he would have no motivation to create this feature, or the 160 corrections added by the “Pamphilian Corrector” in Second Esdras and Esther.

(4)  Codex Sinaiticus Has Arabic Notes.  As David Parker observes in his book on Codex Sinaiticus, Arabic notes appear in Codex Sinaiticus at Isaiah 1:10, and at Zechariah 14:8, and in parts of Revelation.  The scenario described by Simonides provides no motive for the creation of this feature (nor is there evidence that Simonides knew Arabic when he was 19 or 20 years old.) 
            One of the Arabic notes, as David Parker has pointed out, probably refers to the approach of seven thousand years of earth’s existence, as calculated via the Byzantine Anno Mundi calendar, which reckoned that the universe was created in 5,509 B.C.  The completion of 7,000 years was thus expected to come in the late 1400’s, and the fall of Constantinople in 1453 probably caused the Arabic-writing annotator to interpret part of Revelation chapter 8 (by which the note appears in the margin) as a prophecy about Islamic conquests – the star in 8:10 being called, in the note, a star “of the Arabs” – after which he expected persecution to begin.   
            If Codex Sinaiticus was extant in the second half of the 1400’s, as the existence of this note implies, then it cannot be the work of Simonides in the 1800’s.

(5)  Codex Sinaiticus Has Clear Demonstrations of Teamwork Among Scribes.  Whereas Simonides claimed to have written the codex from beginning to end, the manuscript shows that three or four copyists produced the manuscript itself, and that other copyists introduced later corrections (or attempted corrections) at much later times.  The evidence for this includes the following:
            ● Different orthography, i.e., spelling.  Among three copyists – known as Scribe A, Scribe B, and Scribe D (Scribe C was withdrawn from Tischendorf’s initial appraisal that there were four copyists, but some researchers posit that Scribe B’s work was really the work of two copyists) – Scribe D had reasonably good spelling; Scribe A had bad spelling, and Scribe B’s spelling was atrocious; as Milne & Skeat stated in Scribes & Correctors of Codex Sinaiticus in 1938, “The habits of B [i.e., Scribe B] are difficult to describe in moderate language; still more difficult is it to understand how a scribe so careless and illiterate came to be chosen for such a manuscript.  He seems to have had no firm visual impression of Greek, so barbarous and grotesque are the forms which his misspellings can present to the eye, and with such utter inconsistency does he sway from correct to incorrect.  His aberrations extend over the whole field.”
            The worth – or rather, worthlessness – of Simonides’ story can be obtained by considering that he had no motive to use accurate spelling in one part of the manuscript (those parts made by Scribe D, including six cancel-sheets) and very inaccurate spelling in other parts.  Who can believe that with a printed Greek Bible as one of his sources, anyone making a handwritten replica would introduce quirks such as writing κε in place of και (“and”) in Isaiah 22:24, Jeremiah 7:25, and twice in Hermas?    
            ● Scribe D, besides having handwriting and orthography discernibly superior to that of the other two copyists, often lined up the right margin of the columns of text that he wrote by adding small “>” symbols to the ends of lines that did not quite extend to the right margin.  This symbol is never used by Scribe A.
            ● The copyists used different decorative designs at the ends of the books they copied.  Milne & Skeat, referring to such a decorative design as a “coronis,” observed that “The coronis, in fact, amounts to his signature, so distinctive is the design (or designs) adopted by each and so restricted by the range of individual variation.” 
            A gap was left between two sections written by different copyists.  Codex Sinaiticus was not produced by starting at one end of the text of the Bible and finishing at the other end.  Instead, one copyist was assigned one portion, and another copyist was assigned a different portion, and they worked simultaneously, with the intention that the separate sections would, after being proof-read, be bound together.  This meant that the copyists had to estimate how much space each assigned portion of text would occupy – and they didn’t always get it right.  They expected that the books of Tobit and of Judith would take up a little more space than they actually did in Scribe D’s handwriting.  This is why Scribe A, when he began writing First Maccabees, began in the second column, expecting that Scribe D would place the last bit of the text of Judith in the first column, when he did the proof-reading.  Meanwhile, what reason would any copyist working alone have to skip a column in this way, at the beginning of a page?   
(6)  The Eusebian Sections in Codex Sinaiticus Are a Mess.  In many Gospels-manuscripts, numbers appear in the margins.  These are part of a cross-reference system devised by Eusebius of Caesarea, in which a chart – the Canon Tables – listed parallel-passages (first, passages found in all four Gospels, followed by passages found in different combinations of Gospels, such as Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and concluding with the tenth canon-table, which listed passages found exclusively in one Gospel) and each passage was given a number, along with the number of the table in which its number was found. 
            In Codex Sinaiticus, we do not have the Canon Tables, and in the margins, the section-numbers are frequently mismatched, and are incomplete:  the section-numbers for Matthew were begun but no more was initially written beyond section 52; another copyist continued the numbering (and wrote over the earlier copyist’s numbers) but he stopped in Luke at section 106.  Simonides would have no reason to make such a quirky feature, and at Mount Athos there were (and are) many resources where a complete form of the section-numbering could be found.  Meanwhile, this phenomenon is accounted for by the use of the Eusebian Canons by copyists in the 300’s to whom it was a puzzling novelty.    

(7)  Codex Sinaiticus Does Not Have Second and Third Maccabees.  There would be no motive for Simonides to omit these books, if he were intending to make a complete Bible for the Czar. Copies of Second Maccabees, at least, would be readily available in the resources of Mount Athos.  Yet these two books are not in the codex.  (Baruch is not there either, but it probably was present when the codex was in pristine condition.)  

(8)  Sinaiticus Has Marginalia In Acts Shared Only By Vaticanus.  In the margins of the text of Acts in Codex Vaticanus there are two different sets of chapter-divisions.  In the second set, the text is divided into 69 chapters.  Each chapter’s beginning is indicated by the appearance of a Greek numeral (represented by characters of the Greek alphabet).  These numerals are not in the same script used in the text, and appear to have been added centuries after the manuscript was initially made.  Many other manuscripts also have numbered chapter-divisions (the “Euthalian Sections”), but until the discovery of Codex Sinaiticus, the form of chapter-divisions in Acts in Codex Vaticanus was unique.  When Tischendorf’s publication of Codex Sinaiticus was released, however, it did not take long for researchers to notice that in the margins of Acts in Codex Sinaiticus, chapter-divisions appear which very closely resemble the chapter-divisions which are otherwise unique to Codex Vaticanus.     
            A side-by-side comparison of the chapter-numbers in Acts in Vaticanus, and the chapter-numbers in Sinaiticus, can be found by consulting the detailed and interesting (but highly technical) essay Euthaliana,by J. Armitage Robinson, which appeared in 1895 in the journal-series Texts and Studies.  The author’s observance bears heavily on the question of whether Codex Sinaiticus can have been made in the 1800’s:    
            “Where did this system of numbers, common to א [Aleph, i.e., Sinaiticus] and B, come from?  The two codices have got hold of it quite independently of one another.  It cannot have been copied from B into א, for א has one number (Μ) [that is, 40] which is not found in B; nor can it have been copied from א into B, for nearly a third of the numbers (from ΜΒ [i.e., 42] onwards) are not found in א.  We must go back to a common source – some MS which gave its numeration to them both – and this seems to imply that א and B were, at an early stage of their history, lying side by side in the same library.”
          Robinson may have overstated his case, for it is equally possible that the source of this marginalia met each codex separately.  But this does not erode the point that Simonides not only had no access to data about Codex Vaticanus’ marginalia, but he also had no motive to imitate it, nor to do so incompletely; the chapter-numbers in Codex Sinaiticus stop at Acts 14:40.

(9)  Sinaiticus Is Missing Exact Lines of Text.  Occasionally, a copyist’s line of sight drifted from the beginning or end of a line to the beginning or end of the next line (or, of a nearby line further down the page), causing him to accidentally omit the intervening letters.  Where the amount of absent text corresponds to a particular line-length, it indicates that an exemplar was in use which had lines of that length.  Simonides, however, claimed to have worked from a printed Greek Bible, which would not elicit this kind of omission.

(10)  Sinaiticus’ Text-Type Shifts in the First Eight Chapters of John.  As Gordon Fee showed in a detailed paper, although the Gospels-text of Codex Sinaiticus is mainly Alexandrian, in John 1:1-8:38 it is Western.  Whereas Simonides had no motive to suddenly change exemplars (and gave no indication of ever possessing an exemplar with a Western text of John), and then change back, this is accounted for by a scenario in which copyists in Caesarea in the mid-300’s were transferring texts from decaying papyrus onto parchment – a scenario confirmed to be historical by Jerome in De Viri Illustribus and other sources; the organizers of this project were Acacius and Euzoius.

To be continued . . . 

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