A Syntax of Forgery - Christopher P. Jones

Steven Avery

A Syntax of Forgery
Christopher P. Jones

from the advice and criticism of
Glen Bowersock,
Peter John Parsons, (2022)
Christopher Stray

As my primary exhibit, I will use a famous nineteenth-century forger named Constantinos Simonides. Our main source for his early
life is a book published in 1859 under the title A Biographical Memoir of Constantine Simonides, with a Brief Defence of the Authenticity of His Manuscripts; the alleged author is one Charles Stewart, and because he has the same initials as Simonides, many have thought him to be a double of Simonides himself.

(1) in regard to the manner of their introduction to
the world, which must always be a point of some importance when
we come to examine the genuineness of ancient writings hitherto
unknown; or (2) listen to the evidence of competent scholars (men

p. 30


"Perhaps the hardest thing of all to forge is provenance. A forger cannot alter the past as he can alter documents or material objects, and thus it is that forgeries often break down on provenance - the establishment of a chain of evidence (location, ownership, documentary record) that will lead securely back to the alleged source."

In Simonides’ case, his past history of fraud, especially the forged Egyptian History of Uranius, made exposure comparatively easy. A point made against his Fac-Similes,

“The manner of their introduction to the world . . . must always be a point of some importance,”

is a golden rule in the detection of forgery. It is still neglected with surprising frequency, whereas scientific evidence can disprove the authenticity of ancient artifacts but very rarely prove it.

Forgers also forge to make money,
The forger must have not only a receptive atmosphere, perhaps also
an intended “mark,” but he must also have the materials and the ability
to bring off his imposture. Materials are usually not hard to find, as
when Simonides had a ready supply of papyri in Mayer’s Museum: the
difficulty lies in making the materials resemble the intended forgery.
Here Simonides ran into immediate trouble.

Thus the anonymous reviewer of Simonides’ Fac-Similes in The Athenaeum observed:16 That the handwriting of all of them is that of one and the same person, we appeal with confidence to every one who has any acquaintance with early MSS. Let them compare, for instance, the Us, Es, As, Ds, and they will not fail to perceive running through them all the most striking family likeness—a resemblance too remarkable to be the result of accident, and such as we nowhere find in genuine MSS differing by centuries in date.

Elliott p. 145

Athenaeum p. 756
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Steven Avery

Normal Charles Stewart error.


The first trace I have found of him is, as it happens, an affair that brought him to the notice of the U.S. Congress. An American missionary in Athens, the

Spyridon Lambrou catalog

Steven Avery

but presumed lost. In a heated controversy with the Russian Count
Tischendorf, the discoverer of the famous Codex Sinaiticus now in the
British Museum, Simonides also claimed that the codex found by
Tischendorf was actually a copy that he himself had made at the age of


One of Simonides’ motives for forging the supposedly earliest text of
the New Testament was surely his jealousy of Constantin Tischendorf,
whom I have already mentioned as the discoverer of the Codex
Sinaiticus at St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai. Tischendorf
had seen the Codex in 1844 and had removed 43 leaves, which are
now in Leipzig. On a later visit in 1859, he removed 347 more leaves,
now one of the prized possessions of the British Museum. In July of
that same year—1859—his letter announcing this discovery appeared
in an English translation. As we have seen, Simonides produced his
supposed fragments of Matthew’s Gospel in the very next year—1860.
In that same year, he also began to claim that the manuscript was
modern, a copy that he himself had made of an ancient original; pale-
ographers now agree that Codex is, in fact, of the fourth century. This
claim led to a protracted feud with Tischendorf and, like Simonides’
alleged facsimiles of New Testament papyri, a long series of articles pro
and con in British journals.11