Chris Pinto has the bad habit of cherry picking his citations for his documentary, Tares Among the Wheat, in which he allegedly lays out the “true” history of Codex Sinaiticus. A clear example of his “cheery picking” is with the history he presents regarding Constantine Simonides, the Greek con artist who told everyone he was the real author of the codex.
Pinto boasts that he is reporting the facts in his documentary and is letting his audience decide, but in reality, he wants them to go away believing his tin-foil hat version of the events, that being, Codex Sinaiticus was a 19th century production that was used by the Jesuits to undermine the Protestant Reformation.
Proof of his dishonest reporting is clearly demonstrated in the fact that he presents a lopsided view of the so-called evidence. In one instance, he cites from George Merrill’s work, The Parchments of the Faith, available online here, where he tells of Tischendorf, the discoverer of the codex, meeting with the pope. Pinto notes a brief quote by Merrill of Tischendorf where he reports about one of the cardinals writing up some prose in his honor in Greek. Pinto puts a sinister spin on that incident to make it appear that Tischendorf was in league with the Vatican to plot out a destructive course for the Christian Protestants.
What Pinto doesn’t do with the exact same book by Merrill, is present his version of the Simonides affair, because Merrill shows how Simonides was a lying con artist. Such information is ruinous to Pinto’s Jesuit conspiracy. Of course, I am sure Pinto can find some instance where Merrill was in league with the Jesuits as well. Or perhaps he was just a regrettable victim of the Jesuit campaign of destruction against the character of Simonides.
Here’s Merrill’s account of Simonides. I like his last line where he says Simonides was said to have died in 1867 of leprosy, but was seen two years later in St. Petersburg under an assumed name. Pinto didn’t tell us about that little detail of Simonides’s life.
Naturally the great value attached to these documents has stimulated the desire for gain latent in the human breast, and many persons unworthy to be engaged in such a work have devoted themselves to the business of securing such documents and offering them for sale. Nor have all such efforts been of an honorable character. Frauds have been attempted, which have come to be of recognized value themselves as going far to establish our confidence in the infallible judgment of the great librarians and scholars upon whom the attempt to deceive has been made, for no such effort has yet been successful in any important instance.
No bolder attempts in this direction have been made than those which rendered the name of Constantine Simonides infamous, especially in connection with the Sinaitic manuscript. This man, in 1856, sought to palm off upon the Academy of Berlin a manuscript purporting to be the “History of Egypt,” by Uranios, son of Anaximenes. As a work of the kalligraphic art it was perfect; but the careful study of the subject matter revealed its false character. The work was bought for twenty-five hundred thalers, however, before the deceit was discovered, and a few leaves of the very important document, the “Shepherd of Hermas,” were also purchased.
Then came a message from Professor Lykurgos, of Athens, that probably both the manuscripts were spurious, and Professor Tischendorf at once gave them critical examination and pronounced them false.
Simonides next appeared at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England, and produced two or three genuine manuscripts of no very great value, and belonging to the tenth, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries. He then unrolled with much apparent anxiety a few fragments of vellum, which bore an uncial text of most venerable appearance. The librarian carefully inspected the crumbling leaves of vellum, then smelt of them, and gave them back with the single remarked that they dated from the middle of the nineteenth century. The baffled Simonides gathered up his wares with many protestations, and departed, going straight to the railway station, whence he sped to the house of a well-known country gentlemen in Worcestershire, where he disposed of the whole lot at a satisfactory price.
The most extraordinary performance of this Simonides was doubtless prompted by a spirit of revenge. It has been said that Tischendorf had been the means of detecting the fraud perpetrated in Berlin, and some other incidents had also brought him into collision with Simonides. No sooner had Tischendorf published his earliest facsimiles of the newly discovered “Codex Sinaiticus,” in 1860, than Simonides declared that Tischendorf himself was at last deceived; that he, Simonides, had written the whole document!
He appealed to his wonderful skill as a kalligrapher and said that while he was still a youth he had been employed by his uncle, Benedict, head of the monastery of Panteleemou on Mount Athos, to make in manuscript from a printed Moscow Bible, a copy of the whole Scriptures, which might be worthy of presentation to the Russian Emperor Nicholas, in acknowledgment of benefits conferred upon the monastery. He had gone through the Old and the New Testaments, the Epistle of Barnabas, and a part of the “Shepherd of Hermas,” when his uncle died, his materials failed, and the plan to add the whole of the Apostolic Fathers had to be relinquished.
The volume was presented by him later to Constantine, formerly Patriarch of Constantinople and Archbishop of Sinai, who had recognized the favor by giving him twenty-five thousand piastres, or not far from one thousand two hundred dollars. The book had been given by the patriarch to the Convent of St. Catharine, where Simonides had seen it in 1844, and again in 1852, and where Tischendorf discovered it in 1859.
It was a marvelous story, requiring the most colossal impudence, and yet so cunningly planned, so boldly supported, with the manual skill of its author so well known, that for a time it found credit in some quarters. But its refutation was easy. The monks at Sinai, including the librarian who was in charge at the time covered by the story, gave testimony that they had never seen Simonides, and that the book had been catalogued from the earliest times. According to Simonides himself, he could not have been more than fifteen years old in 1839, when he began the task, and it was shown that to have finished it at the time designated he must have written at least twenty thousand large and separate uncial letters every day, which was simply incredible. Moreover, the very mistakes of the codex show that it must have been copied from another manuscript, and not from a printed Bible, as for instance where omitted words are in several cases just enough to fill up a line in an old papyrus document, showing that the copyist had a roll or book like his own lying before him. It is not necessary to pursue the subject farther, except to say that the manuscript was easily and entirely vindicated from such imputations. Simonides was reported to have perished of leprosy in 1867; but two years later he was seen in St. Petersburg, where he was still active under an assumed name. [The Parchments of the Faith, 131-135]