In the review I made passing reference to Parker’s discussion
of allegations made in the nineteenth century that this codex is a forgery,
created by a man named Constantine Simonides (1820-1890).
I also noted on my youtube subscription feed that that there is a debate
scheduled for 1.3.21 on Josh Gibbs’s Talking Christianity podcast between James
Snapp, Jr. and Steve Avery on the topic: “The World’s Oldest Bible Is a
Replica: Simonides the Scribe" (look here).
I thought it might be on interest to do a study of some of
the background to the Simonides forgery allegation, by looking at a few
discussions of it.
Let’s begin with the Wikipedia article on Constantine
Next, let’s look at Parker’s dismissal of the allegation in
his work on Codex Sinaiticus (see pp. 151-152, and the bibliography on p. 154,
especially the work by Elliot).
Finally, let’s look at a few relevant entries in Stanley E.
Porter’s biography Constantine Tischendorf: The Life and Work of a 19th
Century Bible Hunter (Bloomsbury, 2015).
See pp. 38-39 where Porter discusses how Simonides in 1855
sold to the University of Leipzig Library manuscripts of the Shepherd of
Hermes, later challenged as inauthentic by various scholars, including
Tischendorf. Around the same time, Simonides was also arrested on the charge of
forging a palimpsest manuscript attributed to Uranius of Alexandria and Porter
notes that Tischendorf also wrote disputing the authenticity of these
See also pp. 48-50 and Porter’s discussion of the forgery
claim made by Simonides and his ten reasons to reject the plausibility of this
claim (taken from Elliot).
Codex Sinaiticus may be a forgery, but I believe it is more
likely it is authentic based on the arguments made by Elliot (relayed by
There are people who are experts on papyrology and who have
examined the documents firsthand, and their judgements should be given proper
This is not to say, however, that scholars cannot be duped.
They can! And their presuppositions can lead them to embrace dubious “evidence”
to support their views.
There have been various examples of modern disputes about the
age or authenticity of ancient documents.
Three contemporary examples:
The dispute here involves the authenticity of the Mar Saba
letter attributed to Clement of Alexandria and its reference to an extended
version of Mark.
Second, Dan Wallace and “first-century Mark” (2012). In a debate
with Bart Ehrman in 2012, Wallace claimed that a fragment of Mark was about to
be published that was dated to the first century. He later, however, had to
withdraw this claim (see his 2018 blog post).
Third, Harvard Divinity scholar Karen L. King and the “Gospel of
Jesus’s Wife” (2012).
This Coptic papyrus was proven to be a forgery and exposed as
such in an Atlantic article in 2016.
Scholars can make overblown and even deceptive claims about
mss. in order to support their points, just as traditionalists can to support
The three examples cited above all involved relatively short
and fragmentary documents. One of the arguments in favor of the authenticity of
Codex Sinaiticus is the fact that it is such a massive document and that it
shows evidence of so much scribal correction.
Nevertheless, the claim probably cannot be completely
dismissed. At the least the dispute illustrates a glary weakness of the
reconstruction method. If you are going to rely on reconstruction as a method
how can you do so without knowing with certainty the provenance or origins of
many of the documents upon which you rely to make your reconstruction.