I want to offer a bit of a response to an interview Chris Pinto gave to Brannon Howse on September 16th in which he attempted to answer the critics of his documentary, Tares Among the Wheat. [The full length video
can be viewed (Updated: “Could have been viewed”) on Youtube (Ironically posted by a KJVO guy, a position Pinto claims to reject)]. BTW, he did kindly send me a DVD of his documentary that I hope to write up a review about in the future.
If the mp3 of the interview goes behind the WVW pay wall before you can catch it, Pinto did write an article that outlines the basic talking points in response to another critical review of his documentary.
With that stated and for my purposes now, I want to primarily focus upon a few of the questions and comments that were covered in the interview, but before I begin, it may be helpful to provide a bit of background for those unfamiliar with the “controversy” if we can call it that.
Pinto has come under extensive criticism over the last couple of months by a number of folks who take serious issue with the egregious assertions he makes in his Tares Among the Wheat documentary regarding the history of Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest and most complete NT codex we have.
Basically, he suggests that Constantine Von Tischendorf, the textual scholar who discovered the codex at St. Catherine’s monastery, was in league with the Vatican and the Jesuit order to develop a false “Bible” for the purposes of undermining and wrecking the Protestant Christians, especially the doctrine of sola scriptura. He erroneously identified the codex as a 4th century document (even possibly “intentionally” identifying it as such for his nefarious Jesuit purposes), when in reality, Sinaiticus had been created in the 19th century by a guy named Constantine Simonides.
After Tischendorf began to publish the codex, Simonides wrote an article for The Guardian newspaper in September 1862 in which he claimed he was the writer of the codex as a youthful teenage boy in 1839-40. Other scholars of that day came to Tischendorf’s aid and debunked Simonides claim rather soundly and he left England in disgrace and eventually died a few years later in 1867. That true history of the codex’s development, as presented in Pinto’s documentary, has been dismissed and largely forgotten by the modern Christian world who know virtually nothing about Sinaiticus’s true origin and Simonides’s hand in producing it.
I honestly believe Pinto blows the Simonides affair way out of proportion than what it really was and seizes upon the fact that a lot of modern day Christians are unfamiliar with the events. He presents the story in his documentary as some bombshell historical fact that is meant to change the way we should look at the history of our Bible and as a smoking gun that the Roman Catholic Jesuits were involved in corrupting our Bibles so as to supplant the Christian doctrines taught by the Protestant Reformation.
A number of bloggers — myself included — have offered our criticisms of Pinto’s claims to really no avail, for he merely doubles-down on his insistence that Simonides did indeed create Codex Sinaiticus, even though he says in his interview with Howse that he is “just asking questions about it.”
So with that in mind, I want to select a few questions that were raised in the summary of the program, because I believe Pinto, as well intentioned as he may be, is not responding to his critics honestly.
Question: First off you are not a King James Only proponent correct?
Brannon Howse opened up the interview by asking Pinto if he was a KJV onlyist, to which he replied that he wasn’t. He says he “prefers” the KJV because to him it is the most faithful and accurate translation we have in English. He doesn’t, however, support all the KJVO arguments because they are extreme.
That is a rather odd statement, because the so-called “featured experts” listed on the promotional material for his documentary are Dr. David Brown, Dr. Henry Hudson, Dr. Ronald Cooke, Dr. Alan O’Reilly, Les Garrett, Roger Oakland, Dr. D.A. Waite, and Dr. H.D. Williams. If you “Google” their names along with “King James Version,” practically everyone of them are featured on KJVO sites or have written books and articles defending KJVO propaganda.
In email correspondence, I have raised this discrepancy with Pinto, asking him why he says he isn’t a KJVO guy, but at the same time seeks out KJVO men as “experts” for his documentary. He claims they did not like the final conclusions of his documentary (whatever that means) and that any refusal by KJV apologists to promote his documentary is proof that he is allegedly outside the camp of KJV onlyism. Yet in spite of that, his documentary is still heavily promoted on a number of KJVO websites and blogs.
Howse also made the comment that just because someone raises scrutinizing questions about the authenticity of Codex Sinaiticus that doesn’t mean the person is a KJV onlyist. But that is not really the issue. The problem is with how Pinto is spinning the historical facts concerning the discovery of the codex and Simonides’s fraudulent claim to be its author to prop up his particular view of the Bible. My concern is also with the honest portrayal of the facts and besides, Pinto defends his position arguing like a KJV onlyist whether he is one or not.
Question: Codex Sinaiticus seems to be surrounded in controversy and serious questions so why are people that question its authenticity attacked and called names by even some Christian?
Brannon then fields a number of questions about Codex Sinaiticus and Pinto gives the basic background to its discovery and publication. He insinuates that the codex is veiled in a sinister cloud of controversy and conspiracy and rehashes a number of KJVO talking points about it having 23,000 corrections, passages of Scripture missing, and the addition of early Christian literature like the Shepherd of Hermas. Brannon even does a “Hold on a minute! You mean the codex had non-canonical books with in its pages!?” when Pinto mentions about the Shepherd.
That brief discussion then leads to the conspiracy portion of their talk about the Codex, where Pinto implies that Sinaiticus just “appeared out of nowhere” under suspicious circumstances, that Tischendorf quietly publishing the codex had “sinister” motives attached to it, that he had “connections” to the Vatican, and the “23,000 corrections” in the Codex itself is the primary source for a lot of higher criticism that attacks the authenticity of the Bible and orthodox Christianity.
As a side note, it’s important to mention that Pinto seems to believe that higher criticism, the textual criticism that denies the infallibility, inerrancy, and authenticity of Scripture and that has given us the Anchor Bible commentary series, really had its beginnings with the Jesuits. The Jesuits developed higher textual criticism for the sole purpose of attacking the Reformed doctrine of sola scriptura.
Now all of that leads up to Pinto laying out his story about Simonides and him claiming to have created Codex Sinaiticus. The basic gist of the story is that after Tischendorf published the codex and the scholarly world was all abuzz about it, Simonides wrote a letter to The Guardian newspaper in which he claimed to have made the codex for the Czar in Russia and that Tischendorf misidentified it. That claim, at least according to Pinto, stirred up a raging scholarly controversy that lasted 4 years until the academic big guns who were all Tischendorf’s pals, ridiculed Simonides so that he left England in disgrace, yet going to his grave insisting that he was the author of the codex.
Pinto has put a lot of stake into the character of Simonides, even calling him a renowned paleographer and manuscript expert. He makes a big deal out of the fact that pretty much all modern Christians who are familiar with textual criticism are unaware of who Simonides was and the claim he made about the codex. But the reality of who Simonides was is a much different picture than the one Pinto has painted.
If you recall your history regarding the 18 and 19th centuries, the British Empire became the dominant international superpower. Their presence in the Middle East, coupled with the waning influence of the Ottoman Empire, allowed westerners access to many of the ancient places of the world. The 1800s saw an explosion in the discovery of ancient documents, both secular as well as biblical, along with a greater understanding of ancient societies and cultures like Egypt. The reason being is that people, Christian westerners to be exact, now had unfettered access to those treasures that they previously did not when those areas were under the control of the Ottomans.
Obviously, with money bag westerners coming into the land looking to spend small fortunes to acquire rare works of antiquity, including ancient manuscripts, an entire cottage industry of forgery and art counterfeiting grew up. Simonides was one of those guys — a conman who happened to be a talented calligrapher who could forge ancient documents.
Pinto doesn’t accurately explain to his supporters the back story to Simonides claim about Codex Sinaiticus. Classic scholar and biblical paleographer, Fredrick G. Kenyon, provides a clearer picture of the story in his book, The Text of the Greek Bible. He writes,
An ingenious Greek, Constantine Simonides, had about 1855 brought to England a number of manuscripts, among which was one which purported to be a lost history of Egypt by one Uranius. The well-known scholar, W. Dindorf, accepted it as genuine and prepared an edition for the Oxford University Press; but when a few sheets of it had been printed, another German scholar detected that the chronology was obviously taken from a modern history, and after a short controversy the fraud was exposed and the edition suppressed. Tischendorf had taken a hand in denouncing the imposture, and Simonides took his revenge by declaring that, while the Uranius was perfectly genuine, he had written another MS., viz. the Codex Sinaiticus, which he had copied from a Moscow Bible in about six months at Mt. Athos in 1840. The story was patently absurd; for in 1840 Simonides was only 15 years old, he could not have obtained 350 large leaves of ancient vellum (modern vellum is quite different), he could not have copied it in six months, and no Moscow edition of the Bible with a similar text exists. Moreover the codex is written by a least three different scribes, and has a large number of corrections in various hands. The story is merely one of the comedies of crime, and is only worth mentioning, because it has since been revived. The character of Simonides is further illustrated by the fact that he subsequently claimed to have discovered among the Egyptian collections of a Liverpool gentleman a papyrus copy of St. Matthew written fifteen years after the Ascension, with fragments of first-century manuscripts of the Epistle of St. James and St. Jude and other equally surprising documents. These ingenious forgeries may still be seen at Liverpool. [Kenyon, 80].
So basically, Simonides came to England with some fake manuscripts that he tried to pass off as authentic. One of them was exposed as fraudulent and Tischendorf just so happened to have played a roll in exposing it. That just so happened to be around the time when Codex Sinaiticus was being published and Simonides just so happened to then claim to be its creator. What an amazing coincidence.
Pinto also mentions another scholar named James Farrer, who published a work called Literary Forgeries in 1907 that discussed the Simonides affair. According to Pinto, Farrer concluded that the whole controversy is one of the “great” mysteries of recent history and that vague conclusion supposedly lends credibility to Simonides as the creator of Sinaiticus.
But Farrer’s book is on-line at Google books and anyone can read the third chapter that goes into the whole Simonides affair. Though Farrer was a tad more charitable to Simonides’s character than Kenyon in his analysis, he still clearly gives the reader the picture of a con artist who was trying to make a buck and a name for himself by passing off fraudulent documents. Farrer even states that the letters Simonides produced allegedly written by priests and other supporters of his stating that he was in deed the creator of the codex, were thought to also have been forged by him.
All of that to say that Simonides was certainly not the renowned, scholarly paleographer that Pinto wants to make him out to be.
Question: If reporting on the Jesuits, Masons, and Masonic statues and occult symbols and secret societies causes some discernment bloggers to call you names then why are these same bloggers not attacking John MacArthur for talking about the Masons, Jesuits, and even the secret words of Masons as he did in a sermon we have played here on our program? The answer may be these bloggers claim to like Pastor MacArthur so they have a double standard and only attack with what and when it fits their agenda.
That is an odd comment. I imagine they may have me in mind because I happen to attend Grace Church and work for Grace to You radio ministries. Honestly, I can’t understand why Brannon and Chris believe there is an inconsistency or double-standard here. It is true John has preached messages on Catholicism and the Jesuits. I can’t recall if he has specifically addressed the Masonic symbolism, maybe briefly in a sermon, but I’ll take their word for it.
That said, the distinguishing difference between what John has preached about those things and what Pinto is telling us about those things is that John doesn’t take those facts and spin an alternative history that is highly speculative and flounders in the realm of conspiracy. Again, my concern — the concern with all those who have been critical of Pinto’s documentary — is the accuracy of reporting the facts and passing off ridiculous notions about the Bible to an unlearned listening audience.
Why does this all matter?
At various points during the interview, Brannon Howse raises a few questions about the motives of Pinto’s critics. He talks about having emails from people who have not watched the documentary but are still willing to be critical of Pinto’s research. Howse asks why everyone is so upset about questioning the authenticity of just one biblical manuscript among thousands and what difference does it make if it is proven to be fraudulent.
Pinto explains that all he is doing as a documentarian is reporting the historical facts and allowing the listening audience to decide how those facts should be interpreted. But rather than dealing with the “facts” of the documentary, Pinto’s critics are painting him as a conspiracy nut and a KJV onlyist. I guess he means to say we are just leveling ad hominem attacks against him.
Pinto is being completely dishonest here. He is not just “reporting” the history behind the publication of Sinaiticus as if the Simonides affair was just an amusing little episode surrounding the publication of the manuscript. Oh sure, I guess if a person wants to thoroughly cover the history of Sinaiticus, he’ll mention about how Simonides claimed to have written it in 1840 as a teenager. But if he is a honest researcher, he’ll also present the damning evidence against Simonides claim.
That is the problem people have with Pinto’s documentary. He isn’t just laying out all the facts as he claims he is. He WANTS his viewers to go away from watching his documentary doubting the authenticity of Sinaiticus. He WANTS them to go away thinking that the Jesuit order had a heavy hand in promoting Sinaiticus as a legitimate manuscript because it had such a prominent roll among textual scholars in shaping textual criticism in the 1800s onward. A roll that moved people away from the Received Text that was utilized to translate the KJV.
As Christians, we serve a God of truth. We cannot promote ourselves as “discernment” experts and hold seminars for which people spend good money to attend while being profoundly wrong in one major important area of church history. Even worse is when people point out how profoundly wrong you are, you bristle and refuse correction.
Chris Pinto is going into David Barton territory with his Thomas Jefferson stuff. If I recall correctly, Brannon Howse has taken David Barton to task on that subject as well as posted articles by others. Well, here we have another guy who is spinning history to promote a particular agenda. His errors in misrepresenting the historical facts have been documented, and yet, both men dismiss it out of hand.
I like Brannon and appreciate what he is doing at Worldview Weekend. If he honestly doesn’t have a dog in this fight, as he says during the interview, he needs to find some person or persons who he will also interview and allow them to interact objectively with Pinto’s presentation. That is what a genuine “Berean” would do.