Chris Pinto has become his own unique version of David Barton. Just as David Barton re-imagines the person and life of Thomas Jefferson to create an historical individual that is largely fiction, so too Chris Pinto re-imagines the history behind Codex Sinaiticus to create a story that never happened.
One of the key, foundational elements to Chris Pinto’s documentary, Tares Among the Wheat, the film in which he re-imagines the history of Codex Sinaiticus, is the slandering of Constantine Von Tischendorf, the discoverer of the codex. Pinto presents him as a scumbag Jesuit sympathizer who was looking for a way to help subvert the Protestant Reformation and the doctrine of sola scriptura and he found it in the manuscript of Sinaiticus.
Pinto’s revised history goes something like this:
When Tischendorf discovered Codex Sinaiticus, he recognized how important it would be to the Jesuit plot to promote their philosophy of “higher criticism.” He proclaimed that Sinaiticus was the earliest whole codex of the NT available to the Christian Church. Because it was the “oldest” it was also better than the TR, the Greek apparatus used to translate the popular Protestant translation, the KJV. Tischendorf’s newly found “oldest” codex would be used by the Jesuits to supplant the TR to create new English translations that would weaken Reformed Protestant theology, especially that dreaded doctrine, sola scriptura, that the Catholics hated with all their passion.
The problem with the Jesuits and Tischendorf’s scheme, however, was that a document forger named Constantine Simonides came forward around the time Tischendorf was preparing to publish the codex and exposed to the world how he was the true author of Codex Sinaiticus and that Tischendorf had essentially stolen his work and misidentified it as a fourth century manuscript.
In reality, Simonides explained how he wrote out the codex in 1840 as a young man in his late teens. The Jesuits, who controlled much of the press in England at the time, ridiculed Simonides’s claim to the point he was ran out of England and died a few years later. Thus, the plot to subvert the Bible of the Protestant Reformation was able to move along.
Pinto’s documentary is just the newest attempt by King James advocates (even though Pinto denies being a KJV onlyist) to slander Tischendorf and make him a devilish apostate bent on destroying the Christian faith.
Anyone who has read the works of KJV apologists know the various authors spend at least one chapter, or a portion of a chapter, telling how Tischendorf found the codex in a waste basket preparing to be burned and how the manuscript has thousands upon thousands of corrections, nearly 30 per page, that allegedly promote false doctrines. It also has additional books that heretics claimed were meant to be in the biblical canon and it is the source of much of Roman Catholic dogma like Mary worship and the veneration of saints. That is the standard KJVO view about Tischendorf and Codex Sinaiticus.
However, the real history is nothing of the sort and if anyone were to seriously investigate the matter he would be angered by the attempt of Pinto — and all KJV onlyists for that matter– to re-write the history of one of the most important discoveries in the history of the modern church.
Contrary to Pinto’s claim, Tischendorf was not a Jesuit sympathizer at all. In fact, he was something of the 19th century equivalent to a Christian, evangelical apologist.
He was becoming alarmed at the proliferation of radical scholarship that was spreading through European seminaries and into the Christian church. Skeptic authors wrote similar things about the life of Jesus and the Scriptures then as they do now. The kind of stuff that is readily found on the internet at atheist websites. Those skeptics in his day were claiming that Jesus didn’t exist and that the Gospels were all mythical. Others wrote books attempting to debunk the Bible with the “latest and greatest” scholarship coming out of the schools of higher criticism.
James Bentley, who wrote the book, Secrets of Mount Sinai, says this about Tischendorf’s life work,
He was passionately determined to refute those who were destroying the faith of the Christian world. Many Christians desperately longed for such a refutation. In a pamphlet published in March 1864 Tischendorf wrote, ‘May my writing serve this end: to make you mistrust those novel theories upon the Gospels — or rather, against them — which would persuade you that the wonderful details which the Gospels give of our gracious Saviour are founded upon ignorance and deceit.’ [Bentley, 37]
Bentley goes on,
But the works he was attacking were also runaway best-sellers [just like they are today]. The latest attack on the historicity of the Christian Gospels had been published by a Frenchman in the previous year. Ernest Renan’s Life of Jesus scandalized the German scholar… Tischendorf was in part simply scornful of Renan’s ignorance of the geography of the Bible…But what he found appalling was Renan’s suggestion that the Lord’s miracles were based on deceit, deceit aided by Jesus’s astute friends. Far from being dead, Jesus’s friend Lazarus arranged to be wrapped in the winding sheets of a corpse and laid in a tomb….Jesus raises him, apparently from the dead, and later discovers the family deception…This for Tischendorf was the final scandal in a book he dubbed ‘nothing else than a caricature of history from beginning to end.’ [Bentley, 37, 38].
So here we have a Christian man, stirred to action to renounce such lies and blasphemies that were being hoisted onto the Christian world at the time in the name of “scholarship.”
Tischendorf believed the TR, from which the KJV had been translated, was an inadequate text because it was not based upon the “best” manuscripts of the NT. He believed better manuscripts were waiting to be discovered and their discovery would only serve to refute the skeptics and critics who wrote those trashy novels about the life of Jesus.
The only thing he knew he had to do was find those best manuscripts of the NT. But that cost time and money. So he took it upon himself to acquire funding and the necessary means to scour the European libraries, monasteries, and even the Vatican, in order to locate the best manuscripts he could find to defend the NT.
His visit to the Vatican is important to note. Pinto mentions Tischendorf’s traveling to Rome and the Vatican in 1843 in order to have a mysterious meeting with pope Gregory XVI and his cardinals. The scene in his documentary is ridiculously played out with a fawning Tischendorf kissing the ring of the pope, laughing and chortling with the Vatican priests and cardinals, while toasting each other with glasses of wine.
But his purpose with visiting the Vatican was for the primary reason of viewing their collection of manuscripts for his apologetic work, not to plot the destruction of the Protestant Reformation.
The Vatican authorities were not at all accommodating to scholars, particularly Protestant ones, and just like other scholars who went to the Vatican library, Tischendorf ran into something of a wall with his efforts. A number of other men attempted to view the collection but were denied. Tischendorf, according to George E. Merrill in his book The Parchments of the Faith (a book Pinto cites in his documentary to smear Tischendorf) had become well-known as a critic when he applied to view the Vatican collection in 1843. Merrill explains how Tischendorf even secured a number of letters of recommendation from such men as French Ambassador Count Latour Maunborg and Prince John of Saxony, as well as received a “very flattering note” from Archbishop Affre of Paris [Merrill, 176].
The note from the archbishop, according to Tischendorf, granted him a prolonged audience with the pope. It is that meeting that Pinto seizes upon to spin a bizarre conspiracy that Tischendorf’s visit had a sinister purpose attached to it. Pinto points out how one cardinal by the name of Messofanti wrote a poem in Greek for Tischendorf’s honor. Merrill, however, quotes Tischendorf’s retelling of that incident, and he merely brushes by it as if it were odd, which it probably was. It certainly isn’t a smoking gun sign of Tischendorf’s involvement with the Jesuit order as Pinto would have his viewers believe.
That meeting with the pope had the intended effect Tischendorf was looking for, because he was granted an examination of Codex Vaticanus, Yet, even after the pope had granted him permission, a Cardinal Mai, who had plans to publish his own edition of Vaticanius, blocked Tischendorf’s efforts and he was allowed to study the codex, but only for about 6 hours. Bentley writes that the whole situation “soured his later relationships with Roman Catholic scholars of the day,” [Bentley, 43].
So rather than being a nefarious, clandestine meeting between members of the Jesuit order plotting out how to destroy the Protestant Reformation, it was an attempt by an honest, biblical scholar who wanted to secure the best resources for his work as an apologist.
On May 24th, he was visiting the monastery and saw in the middle of a large hall a wide basket full of old parchments. After examination, he saw that they were sheets of the OT in Greek, and he wrote that they “seemed to me to be one of the most ancient that I ever seen” [Tischendorf’s, When Were Our Gospels Written?, 24]. The librarian told him that the papers were mouldered by time and they had already burned two large heaps of them. He was only able to secure 43 sheets, because even though they were being used to start fires, the Catherine’s monks were just as guarded of their stuff as the Vatican was.
Tischendorf’s second return in 1853 to the monastery was unfruitful, but on his third visit in 1859, he took a walk with a young Athenian steward who invited him back to his room for some refreshment. The steward told Tischendorf that he had read the OT in Greek and then revealed to him a bulky parcel wrapped in a red cloth. When he unwrapped it, it contained not only the sheets Tischendorf saw in 1844 that were being used to light fires, it contained some 346 parchments from the same volume.
Through some diplomatic negotiations, Tischendorf was able to secure the codex for Czar Alexander II of Russia who had commissioned him to seek the manuscript. The manuscript remained in Russia until 1933 when the Marxists sold it to the British Museum.
A couple of points should be noted with the true version of the discovery. First, the monks were not burning the Sinaiticus when Tischendorf saw those parchments in the so-called “trash can” in 1844. They were probably manuscripts of the OT in Greek similar to what was found later in the actual Codex Sinaiticus. Secondly, the monks were not burning those parchments because they were proto-KJV onlyists who believed those manuscripts had been corrupted by heretics and were only fit to be burned as most KJVO apologists would have us believe. They were ignorant monks who more than likely didn’t recognize the value of those manuscripts. All they saw was a practical use for moldy old papers no one was really using: lighting fires to keep warm.
Chris Pinto’s retelling of those events as a Jesuit effort to create an alternative history of the Bible so as to supplant the doctrines of the Reformation is pure fantasy. It would be a comical parody if it weren’t for the fact his documentary is being promoted as the truth. It’s shameful that a discernment ministry like Worldview Weekend, that is otherwise reliable with their information regarding other important areas, would push this nonsense off to an audience who probably doesn’t really know any better.