When I began critiquing Chris Pinto’s absurd “Codex Sinaiticus” conspiracy theory that he presents in his documentary, Tares Among the Wheat, one of my chief criticisms I had was his misappropriation of historical sources. This academic abuse primarily manifested itself as selective reading and the cherry-picking of specific citations Pinto finds favorable to his argument. He then twists those citations, calls it “reporting the facts of history,” and uses them in support of his theory. I document a handful of examples in previous posts.
That is a typical ploy found in KJVO apologetics. It doesn’t matter if the overall work of the author cited disagrees with the premise of the argument being presented. It doesn’t matter if the citation used even represents exactly the point of what the author was really stating. In fact, the citations may not even honestly portray the entire truth of a matter under discussion. In many cases the material quoted can be so divested of the context that an entire fantasy world will be created.
Pinto employs that sort of quote mining throughout his documentary primarily to make Constantine Tischendorf come across as a nefarious, Jesuit change-agent and Simonides as a brilliant textual critic who became a sad victim of the Catholic machine. Pinto and his sycophantic fan club truly believe he is doing credible, unbiased, academic research. It doesn’t matter what the context is saying where the quote is found, he considers it “relevant” to his thesis as a positive witness.
One key instance I pointed out previously is how Pinto continually repeats a citation from J.A. Farrer’s 1907 book, Literary Forgeries, in which Farrer writes how the controversy surrounding the Simonides affair and Codex Sinaiticus remains one of the great mysterious of recent history. Pinto seriously thinks that quote provides him heavy support in favor of his argument.
However, if anyone were to go online and read Farrer’s book, that is not how he concluded his study. Farrer instead concludes that Simonides’s character was one of a constant liar. Pinto ignores that conclusion. He never seriously interacts with it or the overall context of Farrer’s review of the Simonides controversy. Instead, he distracts his audience by dismissing that withering conclusion as unimportant.
At any rate, as Pinto attempts to do postmortem damage control on the debate he lost to James White in early December, he continues to flail about for any support he can find that will help him salvage his reputation as a legitimate documentarian. The most recent is his citation of a personal letter written by the occultist, Helena Blavatsky.
Christian J. Pinto has descended into Gail Riplinger territory by invoking the Theosophy Society founder and Victorian era crack-pot, H.P. Blavatsky, in his defense of his cockamamie Simonides/Codex Sinaiticus conspiracy.
On his December 21st, 2013 Noise of Thunder radio program, around the 41 min, 30 sec. mark, Pinto reports how he stumbled across a piece of information from an out of the ordinary source that sheds an “interesting” light upon the whole Tischendorf/Simonides controversy. He goes on to quote from a letter Blavatsky wrote to one V. de Zhelihovsky in June of 1877. The portion Pinto cites is found on pg. 321 of her collected letters and it states,
We have no manuscript of the Old Testament earlier than the tenth century. The Bodleian Codex is considered to be the oldest. But who can vouch for its authenticity? Tischendorf is the authority for it and has convinced the whole of Europe that he had discovered on Mount Sinai the so-called Sinaiticus. And now two other scholars (one of them a Theosophists of ours), who have spent several years in Palestine and have been on Mount Sinai, are about to prove that such a Codex never existed in the library. They have conducted investigations for two years and searched all the hidden places, with the help of a monk who has lived there for the last sixty years and who knew Tischendorf personally. And this monk stated under oath that he had known for many years every manuscript and every book, but has never heard of the one spoken of. The monk, of course, will be tucked away; and as to Tischendorf, he simply deceived the Russian government by a counterfeit.”
Now to the undiscerning reader, Blavatsky seems to be supporting the Simonides’s controversy and by extension, Pinto’s documentary. She suggests strongly that Tischendorf is dishonest; that he has pulled a con of his own upon the entire European academic world by passing off Sinaiticus as the oldest complete NT manuscript, while in truth it’s a modern day forgery.
Moreover, she says there are a couple of scholars, one of them a Theosophist, who have spent two years investigating all the hidden places in Palestine and on Mt. Sinai with the aide of a monk, who has also stated under oath that he knew every manuscript that was ever at St. Catherine’s and Tischendorf’s prize was never one of them. Thus, she concludes her comment by saying he has deceived not only the entire European world, but also the Russian government.
Let’s see if the Chris Pinto principle of selective reading holds up to scrutiny.
First, and this may be a bit of a stretch, but I am fairly confident that Blavatsky is a complete ignoramus when it comes to ancient, biblical documents. There may be some extremely rare exceptions, but pretty much every crank atheist and biblical skeptic who writes vicious attacks against the Scriptures are complete morons in the areas of biblical and textual studies. At least that has been my experience.
Moreover, like all those atheists and skeptics attacking the Bible, Blavatsky assumes a priori the stupidity of her opponents and her intellectual superiority. The entire European academic world is so stupid that a simpleton like Tischendorf can trick them into believing Sinaiticus is from the 4th century. Of course, I would expect someone such as H.P. Blavatsky with her Hindenburg-sized ego, to dismiss every textual critic on the European continent as nothing but dullards.
Further note how she mentions two other “scholars,” one even a theosophist, who had allegedly spent years in Palestine and had scoured Mt. Sinai and were on the verge of exposing how the codex was never at St. Catherine’s. Keep in mind this is 1877, nearly a dozen or more years AFTER Simonides claimed he was the author of the codex in the pages of The Guardian. She never names those two scholarly individuals, or the monk who allegedly took an oath. Who were they? Does she bring this up in later letters? What did they present? Were their findings into the matters of Codex Sinaiticus ever published? Seeing that even Chris Pinto isn’t even aware of what ever it was they allegedly found, I’ll venture a guess that ole Helena was lying. Or maybe the Jesuits got to them and shut’em up.
Those problems would be enough for any researcher to dismiss Blavatsky out of hand and to take her private comments with a massive grain of salt. Why any credible scholar would want to latch onto the ramblings of a 19th century mystic as a reliable source for anything, let alone textual criticism, would be bizarre. But we are dealing with KJVO sympathizer and conspiracy theorist, Chris Pinto here.
Anyone who gets online and reads any of her available works will quickly come to realize that Blavatsky was not only a new age occultist, but she hated Christianity and often ranted against God and the Bible (and the Jews) throughout her works. Thus citing from her goofy speculations about the background to Codex Sinaiticus would be equivalent to citing from something Deepak Chopra wrote saying the entire NT was originally written in Aramaic instead of Greek and the Illuminati has covered it up.
Yet it is understandable Pinto would use her, in spite of him acknowledging her new age occultism during his radio program, because he has a propensity for the selective reading and cherry-picking and so badly needs to establish the credibility of his 3 hour documentary. But instead of helping him, her letter is detrimental. That is because the context of her entire letter is nothing but a long, bitter screed against the infallibility of the Bible, the Christian faith and the Jews.
If the reader would merely start at the beginning and muscle his or her way through her paranoid revisionism, she goes on and on about how the Jews corrupted the Bible and no one can have any confidence about the historicity of Scripture. In fact, in the paragraph immediately following her comments about Tischendorf that is conveniently overlooked by Pinto, she writes how the books of Moses had been lost for centuries and then in 2 Kings 23 they suddenly appear. Then when the temple is destroyed, they disappear again, and then she mocks the ability of Ezra to reproduce them in 40 days after the captivity, and even then she asserts how that story is mere tradition and not historical fact.
When you read her letter in the context of what Blavatsky is truly writing, she was going after Tischendorf and Codex Sinaiticus because she wanted to find anything that would play into her agenda to discredit the Bible. In fact, she goes after Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort a lot in her written correspondence and books. Her criticisms of them actually contradict the more wacked out KJV onlyists like Gail Riplinger who believes she wrote favorably of them and their views of textual criticism. In point of fact, she hated and despised the work they were doing because it in essence affirmed the veracity of the biblical text against her many new age speculations regarding spiritualism and world religions. Hence anything she writes on the text of Scripture should be dismissed out of hand.
So rather than this letter of Blavatsky being a “very interesting” insight to the truth of the Simonides affair, it should be proof positive why we shouldn’t look to Chris Pinto as a reliable source on anything related to the history of the Bible and textual criticism.