George E. Merrill on the Simonides Affair

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]


6 thoughts on “George E. Merrill on the Simonides Affair

  1. Pingback: Answering the Claims of KJV-Onlyism | hipandthigh

  2. Hi Fred,

    While you could ask for more argumentation to be given contra Simonides, it does not help to give a weak group from Merrill, essentially discarded, at least by the time of the James Anson Farrer study in Literary Forgeries. Hmm… are you using dated scholarship? Nor does it make sense to ask Chris Pinto to work with the weakest questions, when you have not done the homework.

    The birthday question was based on some misinformation in a bio, fully resolved, and even a baptism certificate was referenced, and that would make Simonides 19 or 20.

    The letters issue you can read about here:

    Journal of sacred literature – (1863)

    “I emphatically deny that the Codex Sinaiticus was inscribed in the Ancient Catalogue, for the good reason that no ancient catalogue exists ; there was none there whatever, till I made a catalogue, during my first visit, for the Patriarch of Constantinople, Constantius, who before was Archbishop of Mount Sinai.” – Constantine Simonides – June 6, 1863

    While much could be gone into, I will challenge you very simply: find any actual reference to Sinaiticus being in an ancient catalog, outside the dubious letter to which Simonides responded.

    An ancient catalogue with Sinaiticus referenceed by … any scholar, any time, any place.

    And remember, the identity of Kallinikos Hieromonachos, a major part of the debate, was considered confirmed positively when James Anson Farrer did his review. You might want to read his pages.

    Kallinikos referenced meeting Tischendorf four times, was one of many who accused Tischendorf of theft, and also of very limited and non-functional Greek (a point recently affirmed by Daniel Wallace.)

    There are lots of objections that can be made to the Simonides claims, but generally the harumphing from gentlemen like Alan Kurschner and yourself has been on a grossly deficient level. Learn the issues a bit if you plan to be a critic.

    Yours in Jesus,
    Steven Avery

  3. Ah. Steven. Long time no see. Not since the Yahoo discussion group. I see you are still a believer in fables. At any rate,

    you write,
    While you could ask for more argumentation to be given contra Simonides, it does not help to give a weak group from Merrill, essentially discarded, at least by the time of the James Anson Farrer study in Literary Forgeries. Hmm… are you using dated scholarship?

    If you were to actually read what I wrote about Merrill’s citation, the larger context as to why I cite it is because Pinto uses Merrill as a friendly witness to his disparaging of Tischendorf. Whereas Merrill is abusively cited by Pinto to bolster one of his twisted retellings of church history, Pinto deceitfully ignores where Merrill most certainly cuts against his Sinaiticus conspiracy. That is typical of those who are making propaganda films, not reporting honest history.

    As for Farrer, again, as I noted in another post that you must have missed, his chapter on Simonides, though a tad more charitable than the other historians of his day, was just as clear that he believed him to be of dubious character and exaggerating his abilities more than what they really were. Just because his book was published in 1907 doesn’t give him any more special insight to the situation than what Merrill, or any other writer of the time, brought to the evaluation of Simonides’ attempted con.

  4. Hi,

    Your response does not make sense. Chris Pinto used George Merrill to document an undisputed factual point, the meeting of Tischendorf with the pope. You insist Chris should have gone into all the errant and dubious Merrill summary argumentation at the same time.

    e.g. You still make a big thing about the St. Petersburg report, but we do not even have the name of the person making the report, as Chris Pinto pointed out to you two months ago.

    James Anson Farrer in 1907 is totally different than Merrill, and one big issue that Farrer brought to the table was the definite support of Kallinikos. And as Farrer brought out that was the key issue, the central question, in the story. If Kallinkos was a Simonides fabrication, simply discard his whole story as a tissue of lies. However, if Kallinikos was a real person, and right in saying that Tischendorf’s Greek was abysmal (as Daniel Wallace points out), that he met Tischendorf 4 times, that Tischendorf stole the 43 leafs (clearly true) and that Tischendorf mutilated Sinaiticus (note the New Finds) and could not be trusted to ever return the “loaned” manuscript (as historically occurred) — then you clearly have to take the Simoindes-Kallinikos account seriously.

    More on all this is on CARM, I suggest TC-Alternate or CARM as a discussion place.

    Yours in Jesus,
    Steven Avery

  5. Steve writes,
    Your response does not make sense. Chris Pinto used George Merrill to document an undisputed factual point, the meeting of Tischendorf with the pope.

    As is always with you guys, you didn’t read what I wrote. I never claimed Tischendorf never met the pope. So yes, it is “factual” that he went to Rome. However, as I wrote in another post on this subject, Tischendorf did indeed go to the Vatican, but it was not for the purpose of plotting the overthrow of sola scriptura as a secret Jesuit conspiracy. He went there to look at their library and examine manuscripts, which he was able to do for about 6 hours. Pinto, if you recall from the DVD, claims he went there and was received warmly by the pope and his aides. Merrill documents how this is hardly the case.

    But remember, what I was noting is Pinto’s ignoring what Merrill also documents about the con-artist Simonides trying to rip off universities with his fraudulent manuscripts he was passing off as “ancient.”

    Farrer brought to the table was the definite support of Kallinikos.

    But if you would go back and read Farrer more carefully, he tells us that there was even controversy as to whether this person was real or another fake. All of the letters produced by his “Kallinikos” looked to be in the same hand-writing as Simonides, and the only reference to “Kallinikos” being at Mt Athos is some other monk who happened to have appended his name on some manuscripts Simonides was involved with. You’re carrying on as if Farrer’s research is ironclad and certain. I definitely is not. Which is again just bad reporting on Pinto’s part, and yours.

    And I wouldn’t doubt Tischendorf is accused of theft of the codex, because more than likely he probably did steal it, because he had to rescue the precious manuscript from the hands of careless monks who probably were not taken care of the priceless treasure they possessed.

  6. Hi,

    Fred, you jump around like a jumping bean.:)

    We agree that Chris Pinto used George Merrill to document a simple factual point. Then you insist that Pinto would have to delve into other Merrill argumentation, which is largely defunct and superseded and repetitively given here, there and everywhere. George Merrill brought nothing new to the table. You could criticize Chris Pinto for bothering to use Merrill’s minor 4-page section at all, but that would be simply a quibble.

    And you really should read carefully the Farrer – Kallinikos material. There is no doubt that Kallinikos was accused in the 1860s of being a Simonides fabrication. Farrer looked at all of that, let us review::

    Literary Forgeries – James Anson Farrer, 1907, p. 39-66, Kallinikos section is 60-63

    “Simonides’ claim was supported on its first appearance by certain letters in the Guardian purporting to come from Alexandria and signed “Kallinikos Hieromonachos”. These letters, inspected at a meeting of the Society of Literature, were thought to be in a handwriting identical with that of Simonides and to be written on paper like that used in Simonides’ own letters; the inference being that Simonides had written them himself and sent them to Alexandria to be posted back to England (Parthenon, 14th February, 1863). But this alleged similarity of handwriting was never certified by any expert in handwriting. And the attempt to throw doubt on the existence of Kallinikos failed as completely as the attempt to dispose in the same way of Benedict…..

    Yet one has only to refer to Lampros’ Catalogue of the Mount Athos MSS. to find Benedict’s name appended to several MSS., and to one as late as 1844 (though Simonides gave 1840 as the year of his death). (See Nos. 5999, 6118, 6194, 6360, 6362, 6393.) The same work attests as conclusively the real existence of Kallinikos. A MS. dated March, 1867, is signed with the hand of Kallinikos who is “also the least of the monks of the monastery of Russico” (i.e., Pantelemon) (No. 638). And there is another MS. at Pantelemon, copied by the hand of Constantine Simonides on 27th March 1841 (6405), and two other copies of the same work by Kallinikos Monachos (6406, 6407), which prove that Kallinikos and Simonides were at Pantelemon at the same time and associated in the same work.

    …Kallinikos was a real person, and his intervention in the controversy with his attestation of
    having seen Simonides write the Codex cannot be brushed aside as the testimony of a fabulous being. In fact it is upon Kallinikos that the whole question hinges.”


    This is a major reason why the historical “facts on the ground” actually favor Simonides involvement, even if the textual and scribal “facts on the ground” can be argued against his manuscript involvement. Thus the issues of Simonides claimed marks, artificial aging on the paper, the surprise of the new finds, and hieroglyphic issues, all ill-examined, become critical examination points.


    What is funny about your acceptance that Tischendorf was a thief is that at this late date you are still duped by his 1859 fabrication cover story, that he rescued the manuscript from being burned. That “myth” (Rendel Harris and Daniel Wallace), that lie, is the basis for the idea that he was a manuscript rescuer.

    Kallinikos accused Tischendorf of the double-theft, and “with inconceivable recklessness, he mutilated and tampered” with the manuscript, with specifics. Kallinikos has a very accurate track record about Tischendorf and the manuscript history (even if you do not accept Simonides production), and those are not the actions of a manuscript rescuer.


    Incidentally, now it should be obvious why James White made no effort to engage the historical issues in the debate.

    Yours in Jesus,
    Steven Avery

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