I can say right now at the outset of this review that it will be negative. I imagine many will conclude after reading it that it is nothing more than an ungracious and cruel rant rather than a serious and honest evaluation of the product. So be it if that is the case; but as a Christian, I have a duty to the truth.
Anyone who follows my blog knows I have had some rather blunt words for Chris Pinto and his Codex Sinaiticus conspiracy that he has been feeding to the undiscerning Christian community. You can read my initial post about him and Brannon Howse HERE.
I came in contact with Pinto back during the summer after I had emailed Brannon Howse directly to inquire as to why he allowed a KJVO conspiracy theorist into his immediate circle of ministry partners. He forwarded along my email to Pinto and the three of us began to interact a bit.
Pinto was rather adamant that I had no justification to label him a KJVO proponent or challenge his research if I hadn’t seen his documentary. Seeing that I had no real desire to spend hard-earned and much needed funds upon a DVD that I knew without doubt would be outright historical revisionism and amount to nothing more than KJVO propaganda, I stated something like if I he sent me a copy I would watch it. To his credit, Pinto sent me not only his documentary, but another audio version of the same material entitled, Codex Sinaiticus: The Oldest Bible or Modern Hoax?
I carved out the time: Over two days early on a Saturday and Sunday morning before the family got up. I muscled my way through all 170 exhausting minutes of Pinto’s Tares Among the Wheat.
Let that sink in a moment.
A 2 hour and 50 minute documentary on how the Jesuits manufactured the Codex Sinaiticus legend. To put that in perspective, that is approximately 45 minutes longer than The Avengers and just 9 minutes shy of the Fellowship of the Ring, the non-extended version.
Having now watched the documentary, I can confidently say that Chris Pinto has spent a considerable amount of money and time making for us the first ever, live-action Jack Chick Crusader Comic.
I have dealt at some length with the particulars of his conspiracy in previous posts, so I won’t retread old ground here. However, to summarize his belief, Pinto claims in his documentary that Constantine Von Tischendorf, rather than identifying the oldest known codex of the NT at St. Catherine’s monastery, instead passed off to the unwitting scholarly community a 19th century work by the hand of one talented paleographer, Constantine Simonides.
Tischendorf, working in collusion with the Jesuit order, was able to silence Simonides’ public protests that his work had been in essence stolen. Thus, with Simonides gone, the plan by the Jesuits to undermine the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura was able to go forward, clearing the way for the influence of higher textual criticism and the publication of modern Bible versions based upon the codex that Tischendorf allegedly “found.”
A 2 hour, 50 minute documentary that brings us to that conclusion.
Pinto breaks his documentary up into nine key chapters. One would think the chapters would get quickly to the point, but each one lingers on and on beyond what was really necessary for him to establish what he wanted to say. Honestly, this documentary could be easily trimmed by a good hour and a half or more and still present his case.
He begins by explaining the devotion early Christians had for the Bible and then moves into describing how the Catholics sought to destroy Bible-believing Christians because they refused to submit to papal authority. He then turns to talking about the Reformation and the Reformer’s return to the authority of Scripture. And then he begins moving to the big build up of his film by introducing the shady nature of the Jesuit order and their intention to destroy Protestants and the solas of the Reformation, particularly sola scriptura.
From about the second half of the DVD (by this point almost an hour and half into the film), Pinto lays out his Sinaiticus conspiracy by retelling how Tischendorf allegedly “discovered” the codex at St. Catherine’s monastery at Mt. Sinai. He then introduces Simonides and tells of the ensuing “controversy” that he generated among the academic community by publishing articles in The Guardian newspaper claiming Tischendorf had mistakenly identified his personal work as an “ancient” biblical text. Then, we are told how Simonides was silenced by the Jesuits because they controlled both the universities AND the news media in Britain at the time (how convenient!). Simonides was painted as a hoaxer and fraud and returned to Turkey in shame only to die a few years later of leprosy as another tragic victim of the Jesuits.
The film is cobbled together with bizarre speculations, dishonest, cherry-picked citations, and a total reworking of the history surrounding the finding of the codex. All of it played out before the viewer between dramatizations and the commentary of alleged, biblical “experts” all punctuated by a soundtrack of spooky music.
Without belaboring my criticisms of this work, let me provide a couple of highlights so as to illustrate what I mean.
First. The documentary format provides Pinto the ability to dramatize key characters and sequences in his convoluted conspiracy theory. That allows him the opportunity to stage how he wants his viewers to perceive the principal individuals central to his thesis.
Tischendorf is portrayed as angry and brooding. He is seen in one scene glad-handing and chortling with the pope and Vatican officials, and then in another scene bitterly muttering to himself as he plots against his academic enemies. Simonides, on the other hand, is portrayed as a handsome, swashbuckling scholar, like some heroic Indiana Jones character, who sadly met his early death going up against the sinister scheming of Tischendorf and the massive Jesuit machine.
The dramatizations are so absurd that they would be comical if it weren’t for the fact that what Pinto is trying to convey to his audience wasn’t so profoundly in error. Not only is it dishonest toward the memory of Tischendorf, but viewers will go away from the DVD with a warped view of the real facts and thus remain prejudiced against considering the true history of our Scriptures.
Second. Even worse than the fantasy recreations Pinto presents is the deceitful information contained in the film that he attempts to pass off as “scholarship.”
As I noted in my previous critique (see link at the beginning), Pinto claims in the promotional description of his film that he interviewed leading “experts” in the field of biblical studies. The problem is that those “leading experts” are neither “leading” nor “experts,” but are all KJV onlyists or men favorable to his revisionist theory of textual criticism.
Apparently, no dissenting “experts” were even considered who would certainly disagree with his view. In fact, Pinto, who is also the narrator of his own film, is also an “expert.” So throughout a large portion of his documentary Pinto is essentially interviewing himself as an “expert” to his own outlandish conspiracy.
Such a lopsided evaluation of one of the most important finds in modern Christian history would be enough to raise serious doubts about the credibility of the information presented. However, it is the intentional mishandling of the historical record that truly demonstrates the fraudulent nature of this work.
I could hit on many key examples, and in point of fact, in my previous article (again, linked above), I wrote about him cherry-picking out-of-context citations in order to exaggerate the person and abilities of Simonides to more than what he really was: a con-artist trying to make a fast buck selling fake manuscripts. Let me highlight another example of Pinto’s deceitful use of historical citations.
In the 5th chapter on the DVD, Pinto makes the wild assertion that it was Jesuits who developed the “scholarly” discipline of higher criticism, the textual criticism that really took root in Germany and treats the biblical text in a rational fashion that concludes the Bible is filled with error.
He begins the chapter by outlining the history of the Received Text as promoted by KJVO apologists and interviews a couple of his “experts,” even showing the official Erasmus library. He then attempts to string together the Jesuit connection of higher criticism by first introducing his viewers to Johann Semler, the 17th century textual scholar who is often considered the father of German rationalism. Semler taught and discipled Johann Griesbach, both men who, according to Pinto, held to unorthodox views of Scripture. Pinto doesn’t explain what that unorthodoxy was.
From that point, the reenactments begin, and you hear Pinto say — with an ominous soundtrack playing under the narration — that Germany became the concentration of Jesuit activity, most importantly, the introduction of higher criticism — cut to a scene of his Tischendorf character shuffling through a stack of papers, hint, hint.
He doesn’t really provide any genuine documentation to back up that claim, but plays an old recording of Irish minister and politician, Ian Paisley saying the Jesuits were the developers of higher criticism in Germany. No offense to the good minister, but I’d like a little more than just his word on it.
Then Pinto provides the “background” of textual criticism that was developed in the 1600s by a French Catholic, Richard Simon, who is called the “father of higher criticism.” Of course, according to Pinto, Simon was trained as a Jesuit, though he provides no real documentation for that charge except to say he was “affiliated” with particular individuals and institutions that were allegedly Jesuit. He also doesn’t tell the viewers that a number of other scholars before Simon independently developed ideas similar to his and that secular Jewish philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, is also considered a major influence on higher critical thinking, even being called “the father of higher criticism” in some circles. But an influential Jewish philosopher doesn’t play well into the Jesuit theory portion of Pinto’s film.
He goes on to explain how it was the plan of the Jesuits to do whatever it takes to destroy the Protestant beliefs about the Scriptures. When he states that, he provides as an example Isaac De La Peyrere, a French theologian who wrote a book entitled Men Before Adam. The book is Peyrere’s theory that pre-Adamic men existed long before God created Adam and Eve.
The Jesuits, according to Pinto, used Peyrere’s book as a means to undermine the literal interpretation of Scripture taught by the Calvinistic Reformers. A citation then pops up on screen taken from two authors, Jim Bennett and Scott Mandelbrote, who wrote a “Catalogue of Biblical Criticism” and stated how Peyrere, “deployed the hypothesis of men before Adam in order to attack the Calvinist method of interpreting the scripture according to the literal sense…”
Now, for the person who is all into Jesuit conspiracies and is emotionally manipulated by scary horn sounds and dark shadowy images in a film, I can see how he or she can be easily persuaded to believe what Pinto is saying here. I’m guessing he is banking on the hope no one will actually go to the computer and double-check his claim, because if anyone were to do so, just a quick internet search will reveal that Pinto is only telling his viewers a very small portion of who Peyrere really was. He wants people to get the impression he was a Catholic agent who wrote his work for the sole purpose of attacking Protestant Calvinists, but that is not the case at all.
It took me all of 45 seconds to type in the name of the authors and their work to find the citation Pinto had to have been quoting. If a person reads the entire online article about Peyrere, he will learn that he was born in a Protestant family and quite possibly had a Jewish ancestry. Moreover, he held to an odd sort of Jewish Messianism and developed his ideas about pre-Adamic men as a Protestant not as a Catholic, with the intention of evangelizing the Jewish community for Christ.
Most friends told him he shouldn’t publish his book, but he was finally persuaded to do so and after he did, he was charged with teaching heresy and arrested. He later converted to Catholicism and repudiated his views. When he was asked to explain his views, he claimed that, “…This method [the literal interpretation of Scripture] led him into his heresy, and that belief in pre-Adamites was indeed consistent with a Calvinist approach to the Bible.”
I hope my readers are tracking along with me.
Instead of this work being a product of Jesuits who wanted to undermine the Protestant view of Scripture by teaching a false interpretation of Genesis and pre-Adamic men, what we really learn from the full article is that Peyrere renounced his former views he developed as a Protestant and blamed Calvinism on his wrong interpretation of Genesis and the false doctrine of pre-Adamic men. That is not what we take away from Pinto’s film.
I would also add that the article goes on to point out that Calvinists were aware of Peyrere’s work and worried about its influence among Christians. But it was not because they feared an attack by Jesuits on sola scriptura. The church at that time was under assault by a number of new sects, like the Quakers, who threatened the authority of Scripture [As an example, listen to Steve Lawson’s second message from the Strange Fire conference that addresses the Quakers]. The Reformers believed Peyrere’s book would embolden their wacky views of personal revelation and prophecies.
However, rather than his book having a weakening effect among Reformed Calvinists and upon their doctrine of Scripture that Pinto suggests in his documentary, according to Bennett and Mandelbrote, they urged a greater concentration upon what Scripture genuinely teaches and a renewed advocacy of a close reading of the Bible. In other words, it strengthened the commitment Reformed Calvinists already had for the Word of God. That is basically the polar opposite of what Pinto says the Jesuits used Peyrere’s book for.
Now, with all of that in mind, folks are sure to ask, “why are you wasting three hours on a weekend to watch such a lame video and then a lot of time over the course of a few days to write up a review on it”?
Pinto is something of an obscure documentarian who makes strange films on conspiracy theories. See for instance his two films playing on the UFOTV.COM youtube channel [UFO TV people!], the Secrets of the Dollar Bill and Riddles in Stone, in which he lays out the influence Free Masons and the Illuminati have had upon the history of the United States. I am left to wonder which secret society has the more power: the Illuminati or the Jesuits. Do they work together, or are they competitors? More to the point, why on earth should a Bible-believing, Gospel-loving Christian care about Masonic symbols on our dollar bills? How does knowing all the secret symbols in the dollar bill help a Christian in his ability to discern and grow in Christ? But I digress.
Someone who is driven by a conspiratorial world view isn’t taken seriously by most regenerated, sober-minded, Bible-believing Christians. However, within the last few years, Pinto has gained more recognition by being numbered among Brannon Howse’s Worldview Weekend ministry partners. A conspiracy theorist is featured along with other reputable Christian men including John Whitcomb, pastor Mike Abendroth, Justin Peters, and Erwin Lutzer. That association provides him some credibility that I don’t believe he deserves, nor is it one the Christian church at large needs.
For a ministry that promotes itself as teaching Christians discernment, only goes about sowing confusion by entertaining an individual whose ideas lack that discernment Christians should be taught to cultivate. Thus, my desire with this rather harsh review is to see believers warned against vain philosophies that are passed off as something valuable to our faith and to exhort the brethren to exercise great caution when the come across it.