Ira Rabin - the cancelled tests of 2015 - BAM at the Leipzig Library

Steven Avery

The proposed tests by BAM:

I originally met Dr. Ira Rabin at a 2014 talk at Hofstra University where she described the DSS testing.

Von: Steven_ Spencer []
Gesendet: Dienstag, 8. Dezember 2015 09:34
An: Rabin, Ira
Betreff: Sinaiticus testing?

Hi Dr. Rabin


When you were in the USA, you mentioned some plans for Sinaiticus testing, involving the Leipsig materials.

Would you be able to inform me of the status of those testing plans? They sounded fascinating and could
be of great assistance in the science of the manuscript.


Steven Spencer
Hyde Park, NY, USA

(347) 218-3306
Dear Steven,
sorry, I didn't answer your email. I was going to but it slipped my mind.
Unfortunately, teh study that was scheduled for April 2015 was cancelled that is the reason why I have never written to you.
I am not sure we will be allowed to conduct it. There is a new director of the conservation department who decided that he isn't interested.

Sorry to dissapoint you.
Bet regards,
Ira Rabin

Dr. Ira Rabin
BAM Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung
FB 4.5 Kunst- und Kulturgutanalyse
Unter den Eichen 44-46
12203 Berlin
Tel.: ++49 (0)30 8104 - 3817 (Büro)
Tel.: ++49 (0)30 8104 3865 (Labor)
Fax: ++49 (0)30 8104 - 1427
On 09 Dec 2015, at 10:20, Steven_ Spencer <> wrote:
Hi Dr. Rabin
Thanks. That is too bad. I wrote to Leander Seige and he said .. nahh, we're not planning anything. Can you share
who is the Conservation department head who, for now, put the kabosh on what would be an incredibly interesting study.

Dear Steven,
may I inquire about the reasons for your interest in the Codex?
Best regards,
On 12 Dec 2015, at 14:18, Steven_ Spencer <> wrote:

Hi Dr. Rabin,

Greetings. I cc:d you my letter to Leander Seige and Ulrich Johannes Schneider because of your special level of expertise, helpfulness, and how you saw the Sinaiticus testing plans change. Please allow me to give a little backdrop, some of this may be familiar to you, some may be only marginally interesting. I realize that this may be a lot more than what you asked.

Sinaiticus has a very unusual provenance and condition, as well as linguistic controversies. The manuscript suddenly appeared in the 1840s, and we do not find any historical information in catalogs or personal journey accounts or monastery records that point to its earlier placement. There were scholars like Adolf Hilgenfeld (and, I understand., David Trobisch today) that have questioned the ultra-early 4th century dating, noting various concerns. Significantly, there were direct claims made around 1860 that the manuscript had been subject to tampering to make it look older, and some mangling. Such as removal of the binding. It appears to have been seen by Uspensky in his two visits as a full codex, from 1845 to 1850, so the removal would have been in the 1850s. These accusations came from a gentleman that had been in Athos and in the Sinai monastery. His credibility was helped by the Sypridon Lambros Mt. Athos catalogs that were published in 1895 and 1900, when many principles were deceased. (This was highlighted in a book by James Anson Ferrer, Literary Forgeries.) On the other hand, the oft-repeated Indiana Jones accounts of the history given by Tischendorf, of saving the manuscript from the flames, arose 15 years after the purported events of his 1844 visit, they are not supported by his 1844 correspondence, which is more consistent with the questionable taking of the manuscript. And the saved from burning story was created in a time of delicate political maneuvering. It became a very helpful story in garnering support. And this story has been considered as a myth by many. If so, what actually happened?

The New Finds of 1975 support the idea of a period of manuscript turmoil by including parts adjacent to what was brought out by Tischendorf or Uspensky. And by including the final part of Hermas, which had been the subject of a major textual Greek-Latin linguistic fracas and ms. controversy beginning in 1856. So there are many unusual elements, even without discussing in any depth the history and linguistics of the Barnabas and Hermas sections. (These elements had been referenced by the Scottish scholar James Donaldson. Apparently a "Sinaitic" text of Barnabas had been published in 1843 in Smyrna! By the same individual who had claimed to be involved in the making of Sinaiticus.) Just as an ironic aside, despite supposed heavy use over almost 1700 years and multiple proposed unbindings and rebindings, every single sheet of the New Testament is intact.

We ended up with essentially two distinct manuscripts, that had been originally the same (joined at the hip textually, the smaller one is in the midst of the larger.)

One in Germany, the Codex Frederico-Augustanus, the materials that left Sinai in 1844, of white parchment, clean, unstained. Which matches the description that was given from the 1845 visit of Uspensky (white parchment) when he saw the rest of the full 100% manuscript (he saw everything except the 1844 material, plus he likely saw the full Hermas). And this is also what Ernst von Dobschütz saw in Germany in 1910 (fine snow-white parchment) in Leipzig and what we see today in Leipzig, 43 leaves, 10% of the manuscript, white and virtually stain-free. Rather unusual after the supposed 1650+ years of heavy usage. (The modern theory of the ms. has multiple correctors working in the medieval period, in addition to unbinding and rebinding.)

The rest of the manuscript was white in 1845, yet is yellowed with age and heavily stained. And this was the sufflava description was given by Tischendorf in 1862 when he published the larger mass (90%) of the manuscript in 1862.

There is a real question as to whether the condition of the German (Codex Frederico-Augustantus) manuscript is consistent with a heavily used 1700 year manuscript. Or, conversely, why did the bulk of the manuscript become so different, so "yellowed with age" and stained, between 1844 and 1862? Testing could answer many questions.

Yet, for all the display and photography and hoopla over the years, the manuscript has never been subject to any real scientific materials testing. This is pointed out in the Codex Sinaiticus Project site, even to how there has not been rudimentary checking of ink composition!

There is a large gap in the science of Sinaiticus compared to many other ancient manuscripts. The provenance issues cry out for close scientific examination. (As was done with the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Vinland Map, the Archimedes Palimpsest and other manuscripts.) It would have been wonderful to have real science applied to the Sinaiticus manuscript materials. However, the people who have control of the manuscript might prefer not to risk unpleasant results. Especially since 2009, when the CSP online made apparent the colour and condition anomaly. Thus it can become expedient to make excuses for no testing.

Steven Spencer
Dutchess County, NY

(347) 218-3306
On 13.12.2015, at 00:45, Steven_ Spencer <> wrote:

Hi Dr Rabin,

Appreciate your interest!

Thank you for such a detailed account.

Do you suspect that only the Leipzig part might be forgery?

No such suspicion :) . The two parts of the manuscript were produced together, as the texts tie together.. Whether they were produced in 350AD, 600AD or 1840 AD. Also the handwriting is the same where the two documents are continuous.

I believed that this manuscript is beyond any suspicions because
a) the monks confirm that it was taken by Tischendorf

True. However, they have no record of it before 1840. And apparently there is a 1700s catalog by Nikephoros Marthalis Glykos, but nothing is produced that relates to the ms. Thus, if it was brought to the monastery around 1840, as was accused, the monks could simply play along with the big discovery. After all, it brought them $ and goodies, in the big dispute years from 1859-1869. Plus, once the momentum of seeing things published occurred, and great interest by Brits and Russians, why raise questions?

Most of the monastery people would not know the full story, and could just as well have thought it had been hidden in some backroom library. Although they all said that Tischendorf acted unethically. In 1844 he simply took the 43 leaves, without any sanction, and did not publish where they came from. The 1859 situation looks to be quite dicey as well. Some say he ran off with it to the Russian Consulate in Cairo, and then the complex negotiations began, the Russians having a lot of leverage.

b) there are some folios found in Sinai that belong to this manuscript

What that shows is that there was mangling of the manuscript, probably related to Tischendorf or Uspensky, in the 1840s and 1850s. Some of the folios connect to what was brought out, which is like a smoking parchment. Some relate to the missing part of Hermas, and Tischendorf had a definite reason not to want the full Hermas section published. After his dispute and embarrassment where he accused the Simonides Hermas of being from medieval Latin. He actually retracted the accusation. (This is rather a complex area.) Afawk, there is no indication that the folios found in Sinai go back before 1840. I've read what is available on the New Finds. Sometimes it has been claimed that it was sealed earlier, in the 1700s. but that is pretty much impossible with the fragments in it that were part of the finds of Uspensky or Tischendorf.

c) the colour and condition of parchment strongly depend on the environment and the initial processing

Keep in mind that it was all one document in 1844-1845, when Uspensky described it as "white parchment". What went out in 1844 is still white parchment (which is difficult for a heavily used 1650 year old manuscript.) What left in 1859 was already yellow with age and heavily stained, unevenly, even by 1862. The question is .. how did it get that way? If it was deliberately discoloured (lemon-juice, herbs, tea), as was accused at the time, that is at least evidence that something is off in the official narrative. And the fact of human intervention would be consistent with a recent production (although not absolute proof.)

The Temple scroll had perfectly white sections upon unrolling but now its colour is mostly yellow.

Understood. However, the Sinaiticus manuscript was already described has sufflava by 1862. Other than what is relatively nearby to you in Leipzig, most everything is yellow and stained. So the question is how did it got that way? e.g. If it were special problems in Russia (e.g. from 1862-1933) why was it already described as "yellow with age" by 1862? This was the Russian (Tischendorf) and English (Scrivener) type of description, based on the large part of the manuscript being yellowed even when it arrived in Russia.

As to the anomaly of the white part being different than Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, Bezae, Washintonius, etc. ... I would think it would be easier for a rolled-up scroll in a cave to remain white over 1500 years than a heavily used (annotations throughout the centuries, like the Arabic writing, bindings coming and going) codex.

However, that is only the secondary issue. The main issue is not the impossibility of there being such a pristine 43 leaves, but the huge distinction already between what came out of Sinai in 1844 and what came out in 1859. Especially knowing that there was motive, means and opportunity for some tampering with the formerly white ms. precisely in those years. If Tischendorf had brought out a fully clean, unstained, white manuscript, surely some people would have said:

"are you suuurrrre?" (that is a line from a movie, My Cousin Vinny). It really does not look so old. Maybe that story of it being recent should be revisited.

With all this said I would definitely like to understand how it was made. It seems to be a split variety - but I was unable to check whether both flesh and hair splits were used.

This is a parchment area where I know very little :). Anything you share, I am thankful.

I haven't seen any codicological study of it but I will enquire.

Sounds good.

This is the main information easily available.

Codicology: the history of the structural features of the Codex Sinaiticus
Flavio Marzo

simple codicology might answer some of your questions.

It would definitely be a big help. However, most of the information that is out there that comes out of the British Library crew is confusing, and at times unlikely and contradictory. e.g. The information from Jongkind, Parker and the CSP scientists is very hit-and-miss. It is very hard for them to coordinate anything about bindings, inks, retracings, vellum condition, etc.

A simple example, there is a theory that a new binding was created in 1844. The evidence for that theory is not hard evidence, it comes out of trying to reconcile the Tischendorf and Uspensky accounts. However, the Tischendorf account is pretty clearly a myth, something created many years later for political convenience, so it should not be used for as codicological evidence.

The ink is most probably of iron-gall type and many of the leaves are eaten through. In absence of the water damage it would indicate an ancient processing technology.

There is quite a variation of inks within the text. Afaik, none of the 43 leaves in Germany have this type of damage, so much of the damage on the rest likely happened after 1844. And maybe in the tricky years of 1850-1862 when the binding was off and tampering was possible. Maybe in that 1859 year when Tischendorf was in Cario, either at a hotel privately, or perhaps working with the Russian Consulate. (Stories vary.) He talked of two Germans who helped him transcribe the full text, I have some inquiries in as to what happened to that supposed copy. Did it poof away? Did it ever exist?


CSP Encouraging Research --- maybe

Report on the different inks used in Codex Sinaiticus and assessment of their condition
Sara Mazzarino
The Codex Sinaiticus inks have never been chemically characterized, and the type and proportions of ingredients mixed together have never been determined.
Therefore, the composition of the writing media can only be roughly guessed by observing their visible characteristics and their degradation patterns.

Possible areas for further research and analysis
Real time monitoring
Condition and environmental history
Treatment of iron gall ink on parchment
Codicology stain mapping
Analysis of website information

Partnership Agreement
"To undertake research into the history of the Codex"


I believe the decision not to make analytical study resulted from inner-political disputes of the Library. Initially, our study was welcomed. However, one person (who is neither an expert in parchment nor could personally profit from the study) managed to stop it. Best regards, Ira

Very interesting. One possible motive, and I highlight possible, would be discomfit if the tests showed some surprising things. Even if they showed that the ms. was ancient, but not fourth century. The groups caught on in the last year that the parchment condition was an issue, especially since there was some correspondence with the Brits. On a totally unrelated field, some skeptics asked for C-14 dating on a web petitions. (About which I am skeptical :).) So they might have just decided, let's not take any risks, let's not rock the boat. Science can wait.

Steven Spencer
Dear Steven,
Thanks a lot! Most interesting!
1. But I must assure you that the decision NOT to study was not dictated by fear of unpleasant discoveries. I was present at the main discussion. The fellow who knows nothing if this ms but happens to be simply the head of conservation was mad that the testing was decided without his knowledge but with blessing of the conservator of the ms.
He made a dramatic speech that the name could be damaged by analysis and that HE doesn't need to know anything about the materials to preserve it.
2. Today some of the Leipzig leaves are completely eaten through ! But others are not . This was the main reason for the conservator of the manuscript to request the analysis .
The damage must have occurred in Leipzig but no one knows when.
I did want to test the inks -
their composition is more than interesting for my inks studies!
Best regards

Sent from my iPhone
Last edited:

Steven Avery


I don't know what BAM tests are

Which is one reason why the wide array of BAM tests on parchment and ink are far more effective than simply C-14, which tends to lead to controversy. Looks like you agree with my position.

Those who want to understand the:

Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung

testing could start with these DSS papers:

Non-destructive Investigation of the Dead Sea Scrolls (2008)
hosted at:

New results in Dead Sea Scrolls non-destructive characterisation. Evidence of different parchment manufacture in the fragments from Reed collection (2018)

In 2014 Dr. Rabin spoke on Unveiling the Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Hofstra University, and that is when she first shared about the planned tests on Leipzig Sinaiticus,

Steven Avery

I keep hearing this but without any context. What is BAM? What "superb tests" were planned? Why had Leipzig scheduled these tests in the first place, especially if it had something to hide? What reason was given for cancelling the tests?

I surmise that the tests were cancelled because the ongoing tug-of-war between the Monastery and the European libraries had caused an agreement on all parties not to do any destructive testing on the Sinaiticus, but I'll await your explanation.


BAM from Berlin, under a lady named Dr. Ira Rabin, worked on the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Most of their testing is totally non-destructive.

In 2015, they were invited to test Leipzig Sinaiticus.
The Leipzig library changed their mind the day they arrived.

Dr. Ira Rabin
BAM (Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung, Berlin)

Dr. Rabin was talking about the DSS tests at Hofstra.
Some examples of the papers.


Quantifying degradation of collagen in ancient manuscripts: The case of the Dead Sea Temple Scroll

Characterization of the Dead Sea Scrolls by advanced analytical techniques

New results in Dead Sea Scrolls non-destructive characterisation. Evidence of different parchment manufacture in the fragments from Reed collection

Solid-state and unilateral NMR study of deterioration of a Dead Sea Scroll fragment

Provenance studies on Dead Sea scrolls parchment by means of quantitative micro-XRF

Characterization of the writing media of the Dead Sea Scrolls

On the Origin of the Ink of the Thanksgiving Scroll (1QHodayot a )

3D Micro-XRF for Cultural Heritage Objects: New Analysis Strategies for the Investigation of the Dead Sea Scrolls

In-situ Damage Assessment of Collagen within Ancient Manuscripts Written on Parchment: A Polarized Raman Spectroscopy Approach

Archaeometry of the Dead Sea Scrolls