additional notes from the James Keith Elliott book

Steven Avery

It may be .of interest now to see how Tischendorf assessed the significance of his discovery in a supplement to the Leipziger Zeitung of April 17, 1859.

This takes the form of a letter addressed to the Saxon Minister von Falkenstein and was sent by Tischendorf from Cairo on March 15,1859. A translation appeared in the Journal of Sacred Literature in July 1859:

Christian Remembrancer - Jan-June 1859

Leipziger Zeitung - April 17, 1859

The kindness shown to me by your Excellency on my departure from
my native land, makes it my agreeable duty to address to you the first ac-
count of a very important literary discovery which the Lord's'jgood hand
has vouchsafed to my new investigations in the East. You know what
weight the learned world attaches to the famous Vatican MS. of the Bible,
and how it has for centuries been esteemed one of the special treasures of
the Papal library: you are aware how anxious men have been, and how dif-
ficult they have found it, to collate even single passages, how earnestly
Mai’s edition, undertaken by order of the Pope, had been looked for since
1828, and how gladly it was at last received, at Easter 1858, after thirty
years delay.
If I should now say that Providence has preserved in the corner of the
so - often ransacked cloisters of the East, a MS. which may rank with the
Vatican in regard to its character, extent, and age, and which on some ac-
counts claims the precedence of it, I shall not be surprised if some doubt my
skill, and the questions be put — Is it indeed',true? Is it even possible? And
yet as I held in my hands for the first time the precious leaves, in a convent
chamber at the foot of Moses Mount (Ghebel Mousa), my own astonish-
ment and wonder were as great as can be imagined.
The MS. of whose discovery I inform you consists of 346 fine and fair
parchment leaves of so large a size that two of them have required a whole
gazelle skin. The writing, upon each leaf and arranged in four columns, is of
the most ancient character, and is mostly (and especially on the outside of
the skin)' preserved with wonderful distinctness, but on the flesh side it is
sometimes less legible, andmuch more difficult to decide respecting the
numerous and certainly very ancient wrrecfions to ^which tfieTTodexTias
been subjected.
Such MSS. confessedly never have a date. It is the problem of
palaeography, by careful attention to all the pecularities of each separate
MS., from the character of the letter—forms employed, from the interpunc-
tion, from the use of initials, and subscriptions, and inscriptions: from the
parchment, from the tints of the ink, the old corrections, etc., to ascertain
more or less satisfactorily its antiquity.As to this MS., there scarcely was
need a date to fix its century, for that it was written in the fourth century
can be confirmed by all the arguments which have any weight in
palaeographic science, almost beyond all question.
The Vatican Codex goes back to the same century in my opinion and
that of other able men. The only other Greek parchment MS. to which I
had before given a chronological place prior to the Vatican, was the Leipsic
Codex Friderico - Augustan us, but this, as I am already convinced, is a relic
of the very MS. of which I am so happy as to find these important consti-
This MS. still contains, first, considerable portions of the Old Testa-
ment, namely, most of the greater and lesser prophets, the Psalms, Job,
Jesus - Sirach, Wisdom, and several other Apocryphal books. These are
followed by the entire New Testament. And herein lies the extraordinary
significance of the discovery. Only three extensive Biblical MSS. of high
Christian antiquity have come down to us from the fourth century to the
ninth. The most comprehensive among them is the London Codex Alexan-
drinus, which yffltys almost the whole of Matthew's gospel as well as con-
siderable part of 2 Corinthians, and two chapters of John's gospel. From
the Vatican MS. still more is absent, namely, the Apocalypse and four
Pauline epistles altogether, with a third part of the epistle to the Hebrews.
! But of the MS. of the New Testament now found, not a single leaflet is
! wanting! It is moreover the only one among the MSS, of the New Testa-
ment of a thousand years old and upwards, which is complete. The divine
who knows the importance attached to the MSS. of that age, in the
endeavour to fix the apostolic text, will accept this as a principal authority.
It is a new pledge of the possibility of deciding and restoring the genuine
apostolic text, to which this doubtless is a close approximation, as to the
main features of it. I only add that my examination of the MS. convinces
me of its perfectly coinciding in age with the Vatican Codex.

I have yet to name two other component parts of the same MS., the
discovery of which alone would have sufficed to make my. new journey for-
tunate and successful. Next to the Bible, the most precious literature of the
church is the writings of the apostolic fathers. We have but few remains of
this class, and these few are for the most part often in doubtful texts, im-
perfect, or only extant in translations. It is thus with the so-called Epistle
of Barnabas, which, if not composed by a companion of Paul, must have
been written very soon after the end of the first century. It is quoted both
by Clement and Origen, in the second and third centuries, as even a part of
Holy Scripture, and still later, such writers as Eusebius, refer to it as among
the doubtful books of the Canon. This epistle is equal in extent to that to
the Romans; several MSS. of it have been found before, but all are modem,
and in all alike the first five chapters are wanting, of which the text can be
gathered only through a very corrupt Latin version. How great then was
my wonder when I found the whole of Barnabas in this MS., at the close of
the Revelation: I could not lay the volume down till I had read and copied
the whole text. Divines will no longer have to read from the uncertain
Greek text of late MSS., and a faulty Latin version, the epistle which in the
second Christian century was so reverently handled and highly prized.

In the height of my joy at this discovery 1 was to have a last surprise. I
found a separate portion of fifty-two columns, with the inscription «The
Pastor;» it was the first part of the Pastor of Hermas. also pertaining to the
second century, and likewise claiming a kind of apostolic regard. Till recent-
ly, its Greek text was thought to be lost. This MS. proves that in the earliest
times both Barnabas and Hermas were reckoned as constituent parts of
Scripture by some, if their authority was also doubted. Of Hennas,
Simonides confessedly brought a very perfect Greek text to Leipsic, part
copied by him from a MS. at Mount Athos, and part upon three paper
leaves of the fourteenth or fifteenth century. After this text was published
in December 1855, and repeated soon after by me more accurately, con-
siderable doubt arose about it, whether it was really ancient or a mediaeval

translation from the Latin. I especially opposed the last view and my opinion
is confirmed by these leaves, at least 1000 years older, shewing that the
Leipsic text had been derived from the original but is corrupt and that in
consequence of a mediaeval use of the Latin.

I am glad that the scientific mission commited to me by the Russian
Government, and promoted by you, has at its outset so noble a literary
discovery as its result. Relying upon the Imperial favour, I venture already
to set before the learned world the hope of the publication of the MS. A
carefully revised copy of its 132,000 columnar lines will be completed by
the beginning of April, if God permit. The Vatican MS. was known 300
years before many cherished wishes were gratified in its publication.
It may perhaps need only so many years instead of so many centuries
to enrich the Christian literature with that most precious document now

Constantine Tischendorf
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Steven Avery

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manuscript in Cairo. Eventually letters were duly sent from Cairo to St.
Catherine’s [and the manuscript was brought to Tischendorf, who, with assjgtants,
transcribed it.


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Steven Avery

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version, or by a Greek or Latin Father, such as Eusebius or Basil or
Jerome sometimes standing quite alone, or in company with two or three
or cursive MSS.-the various corrections the primitive text has received
from different hands, with inks of many various shades, and at different
times, yet even the latest before breathings and accents came into use—all

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