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A: Mitte, Leipzig, Sachsen, Germany, B: Cambridge, England, United Kingdom

Bibliographer Henry Bradshaw Rebuts Constantine Simonides' Claim that Simonides had Forged the Codex Sinaiticus

1862 to 1863

The bibliographer Henry Bradshaw, who is considered the founder of modern bibliographical analysis, normally avoided public controversy. However, Bradshaw did publish correpondence rebutting the claims of the Constantine Simonides that Simonides had forged the Codex Sinaiticus. It is believed that Simonides made these claims in order to take revenge against Constantin Tischendorf, discoverer of the Codex Sinaiticus after Tischendorf disproved the authenticity of other forgeries by Simonides. The best account of this incident that I have found appears in Prothero, A Memoir of Henry Bradshaw (1888) 92-97, from which I quote. Note that Bradshaw's letter quoted by Prothero, discusses his method of judging authenticity. The letter also seems a model of tact and diplomancy:

"In the early part of 1863, Bradshaw, who abstained from public discussions in general, took some part in a controversy about the authenticity of the Codex Sinaiticus, which made considerable stir in the learned world at that time. This precious document, now generally recognized as the most ancient manuscript of the Bible, was discovered by Dr. Tischendorf in 1859, in the monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai. The controversy about it, now well nigh forgotten, is sufficiently amusing to make it worth while to recall its more important passages. One Simonides a Graeculus escuriens who had some time before been convicted by Dr. Tischendorf of endeavouring to palm off forged manuscripts, gave out, apparently in order to revenge himself, that the Codex Sinaiticus was itself a forgery. He declared that he had written it with his own hands when a young man. This 'whimsical story,' as Dr. Hort calls it, obtained a certain amount of credence. During the autumn of 1862 and the early part of 1863 a correspondence was carried on in the Guardian on the subject. In the number of that paper for September 3, 1862, is a long letter from Simonides, purporting to give an account of how he came to write the manuscript and how it passed into the possession of the monks of Sinai. 'Any person learned in palaeography,' he remarks, 'ought to be able tell at once tht it is a manuscript of the present age,' and he concludes, with an amusing air of injured innocence, 'You must permit me to express my sincere regret that, whilst the many valuable remains of antiquity in my possession are frequently attributed to my own hands, the one poor work of my youth is set down by a gentleman who enjoys a great reputation for learning, as the earliest copy of the Sacred Scriptures.' The story of Simonides was ingeniuous and full of circumstantial details, but it contained statements which, when carefully examined, carried with them their own refutation. Its absurdities were exposed by Mr. Aldis Wright, in a lettered published in the Guardian for November 5, 1862. A month later, a letter appeared in the Guardian, purporting to be written by one Kallinikos Hieromonachos, who wrote in defence of Simonides. His letter was in Greek, and a translated was appended by the editor, who made no concealment of his suspicions. 'I have read,' says the unknown writer, 'what the wise Greek Simonides has published respecting the pseudo-Sinaitic Codex by means of your excellent weekly publication, and I too myself declare to all men by this letter that the Codex. . . which was abstracted by Dr. Tischendorf from the Greek monastery of Mount Sinai, is a work of the hands of the unwearied Simonides himself, inasmuch as I myself saw him in 1840 in the month of February, writing it in Athos.' n the next number Simonides writes to back up his friend. 'I must inform you,' he says, 'that the above mentioned Kallinikos is a perfectly upright and honourable man, well known for truth and probity, so that his simplest word may be relied on.'

"Mr. Aldis Wright had little dificulty in disposing of his advocacy, and involving Simonides in a tissue of inconsistencies and improbablities. 'What does the evidence amount to' he asks. 'Kallinikos says, 'Simonides wrote the Codex, for I saw him.' 'Believe Kallinikos,' says Simonides, 'for he saw me write it.' We know Simonides, but who is Kallinikos?' Unfortunately, no proof of his existence, much less of his probity was forthcoming. 'His story,' says Mr. Haddam, in a letter to Bradshaw, 'reminds me of an Irish lad from Commemara, who sent his regards to the man who had been fishing there, with the said lad to help, and begged him to tell the Londoners 'any number or weight of fish he liked,' as having been caught by him, and he would be ready and delighted to swear to it.' The British chaplain at Alexandria knew nothing of Kallinikos, 'the Greek monk who takes in the Guardian and the Churchman.' In vain did Simonides attempt to strengthen his case by publishing several more letters from Kallinikos. Strange to say, one correspondent of the Guardian, at least, appears to have thought that a repetition of unsupported assertions constituted a proof, but the majority were less easily convinced. Mr. Haddan urged Bradshaw to interfere. In a letter dated November 19, 1862, he says, 'You could really do a service to truth if you would put upon paper the results of your examination of the Codex, and let it be published, with or without your name. . . . The question is really important, and you could throw light upon it.' To this Bradshaw replated that he thought the time was not yet ripe for discussing the palaeographical part of the question.

"However, Simonides returned to the charge, and in a long letter to the Guardian (January 21, 1863) stated, among other facts tending to prove his scapacity for writing the Codex, that had written a letter in uncial characters to Mr. Bradshaw a few months before, when he was staying at Cambridge during the meeting of the British Association. This prodcuced the following letter from Bradshaw, published in the Guardian for January 28, 1863:-


"As Dr. Simonides has cited a letter which he wrote to me in uncial characters in October last, while he was at Cambridge, and as I have with my own eyes seen and examined the Codex Sinaiticus within the last few months, perhaps you will allow me to say a few words.

"The note which Dr.Simonides wrote to me was to convince me and my friends that it was quite possible for him to have written the volume in question, and to confirm his assertion that the uncial character of the manuscript was as familiar and easy for him to write as the common cursive hand of the present day.

"He had invited some of us to Christ's College to examine his papyri and to discuss matters fairly. He could spak and understand English pretty well, but his friend was with him to interpret and explain. They first taxed us with believing in the antiquity of manuscripts solely on the authority of one man like Tischendorf, and they really seemed to believe that all people in the West were as ignorant of Greek as the Greeks are of Latin. But the great question was, 'How do you satisfy yourselves of the genuineness of any manuscript?' I first replied that it was really difficult to define, that it seemed to be more a kind of instinct than anything else. Dr Simonides and his friend readily caught at this as too much like vague assertion, and they naturally ridiculed any such idea. But I further said that I had lived for six years past in the constant, almost daily habit of examining manuscripts—not merely the text of the works contained the volumes, but the volumes themselves as such; the writing, the paper or parchment, the arrangement or numbering of the sheets, the disinction between the original volume and any additional matter by later hands, etc.'; and that, with experience of this kind, though it might be difficult to assign the special ground of my confidence, yet I hardly ever found myself deceived even by a very well-executed facsimile. All this Dr. Simonides allowed and confirmed. He gave the instance of the Jews in the East, who could in an instant tell the exact proportion of foreign matter in a bottle of otto of roses, where the most careful chemical analysis might fail to detech the same. Indeed, any tradesman acquires the same sort of experience with regard to the quality  of the particular goods which are daily passing through his hands; and this is all that I claimed for myself. Dr. Simonides afterwards told me himself that this was the only safe method of judging, that there was no gainsaying such evidence, and that he only fought anginst persons who mad strong and vague assetions without either proof or experience. yet when I told him that I had seen the Codex Sinaiticus, he spoke as if bound in honour not to allow in this case the value of that very criterion which he had before confessed to be the surest; and he wrote the letter to which he refers, in the hope of convincing me. I told him as politely as I could that I was not to be convinced against the evidence of my senses.

"On the 18th of July last I was at Leipzig with a friend, and we called on Professor Tischendorf. Though I had no introduction but my occupation at Cambridge, nothing could exceed his kindess; we  were with him for more than two hours, and I had the satisfaction of examining the manuscript after my own fashion. I had been anxious to know whether it was written in even continousl 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. This by-the-by, is of itself sufficient to prove that it cannot the be the volume which Dr. Simonides speaks of having written at Mount Athos.

"Now, it must be remembered that Dr.Simonides always maintained two points—first, that the Mount Athos Bible witten in 1840 for the Emperor of Russia was not meant to deceive any one, but was only a beautiful specimen of writing in the old style, in the character used by the writer in his letter to me; secondly, that it was Professor Tischendorf's ignorance and inexperience which rendered him so easily deceived where no deception was intended. For the second assertion, no words of mine are needed to accredit an editor of such long standing as professor Tischendorf. For the first, though a carefully made facsimile of a few leaves inserted among several genuine ones might for a time deceive even a well-practised eye, yet it is utterly impossible that a book merely written in the antique style, and without any intent to deceive, should mislead a person of moderate experience. For myself, I have no hesitation in saying that I am as absolitely certain of the genuineness and antiquity of the Codex Sinaiticus as I am of my own existence. Indeed, I cannot hear of any one who has seen the book who thinks otherwise. Let any one go to St. Petersburg and satisfy himself. Let Dr. Simonides go there and examine it. He can never have seen it himself, or I am sure that, with his knoweldge of manuscripts, he would be the first to agree with me. The Mount Athos Bible mut be a totally different book; and I only regret, for the sake of hismelf and his many friends in England, that he has been led on, from knowing that his opponents here have seen no more of the original book that he has himself, to make such rash and contradictory assertions, that sober people are almost driven to think that the Greek is playing with our matter-of-fact habits of mind, and that, as soon as he has tired out his opponents, he will come forward and ask his admirers for a testimonial to his cleverness. 

"Henry Bradshaw, Cambridge, January 26, 1863"


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