open letter to scientists, researchers, historians, polymaths, Bible scholars and believers

Steven Avery

This note was sent to a scholar (name removed, minor adjustments). Yet it is now adopted as open letter to the science and Bible text communities.



We have been doing some studies on the Codex Sinaiticus. We have noticed that few people since the 1800s discovery actually handled and commented on the manuscript, and those comments were themselves fascinating. Gavin Moorhead, of the British Library, is an example of one who has handled the English section of the ms. And Gavin repeatedly referred to the physical condition of the Sinaiticus manuscript parchment as "exceptional" on the Codex Sinaiticus Project website.

The Codex Sinaiticus Project (CSP) superb digitization efforts (thank you ITSEE, a job well done!) made the manuscript available for further study, which the CSP specifically invited private individuals and groups to continue. In this regard, we have developed linguistics and historical studies, working off a diverse library. We are communicating with the British Library on issues like the colour variance, and with a number of writers in skills like manuscripts, vellum and ink, palaeography, codicology, historical forensics and the Bible text. We have found that private scholars, scientists, professionals, polymaths and researchers often seem to have a better picture than do the official "textual criticism" scholars. The textual scholars approach the Sinaiticus ms with many presuppositions that are backwards, that have textual theories as primary sans physical examination. And they are often continuing from conclusions made in a time of extremely limited physical examinations of the 1860s-1880s. In the public arena, we have had a number of interesting recent examples like ms. 2427 and the Archimedes Palimpsest (from which Tischendorf took a leaf!) where handling and physical science of the ms. have been key.

As an example of an individual commentary, the image specialist at Leipzig, Elisabeth Fritsch-Hartung, was willing to go on the record with a reserved yet helpful comment:

"the pages were in a very good state according to conservation standards."

Even a simple comment like that we find very helpful, due to the situation that so few individuals have handled the Leipzig Sinaiticus, or the UK uncial manuscripts, like Alexandrinus, Bezae and Sinaiticus. Similarly the youtube videos by various individuals have shown the fine, supple, apparently youthful condition of the Sinaiticus manuscript when they show it being handled. While a manuscript like Codex Alexandrinus is said to be only handled with super-caution, due to its aged brittleness and ink flaking. (Skeat and Milne said the Alexandrinus parchment was "limp, dead" in comparison to Sinaiticus.)

Yet, as Kathryn M. Rudy in Dirty Books: Quantifying Patterns of Use in Medieval Manuscripts Using a Densitometer, 2010 has pointed out, there are important elements in manuscript research that are really hands-on, and can be lost in books and digitization analysis. In fact, this happened to a large extent in the 1800s even with Codex Sinaiticus when all the attention was placed on the printed facsimile copies. There was virtually no discussion of the condition of the vellum, which would be expected to be a #1 consideration in a true scientific examination.

As a recent example, with the Dead Sea Scrolls a group in Berlin, BAM, Bundesanstalt f?r Materialforschung und-pr?fung, did world-class hands-on materials testing of the parchment in ink. And even gave special talks on the conclusions. In contrast, with Sinaiticus no physical testing has ever been done (BAM was scheduled in 2015 to do the Leipzig pages, this was cancelled.) BAM is fiercely independent and respected.

We can also point out that there is a concern when the science and examinations and papers are done under the auspices of an individual or organization that has a vested interest in the conclusion, there can be misdirection, and the results may be tepid or skewed a bit. Uncomfortable explanations and interpretations of the data and science simply are invisible and are by-passed. We are concerned that some of this dynamic occurred with Sinaiticus in the 1800s. The situation today may be only marginally improved

(One specific example: The British Library can speculate on reasons for the Leipzig-England marked colour variance, in those speculations the possibility that the England 1859 pages were coloured by hand to help give an "appearance of age" is not considered as a possibility, even though it fits all the historical, physical and descriptive evidences to a "T" .. )

Interestingly, even in the time of the original discussions and debates on the manuscript authenticity and age in the 1860s, Constantine Tischendorf made unusual efforts to keep the two sections of the ms. logically and physically separate. And the ms. generally inaccessible.

Thus, the CSP project had huge benefits, even beyond the wildest expectations, for research.

Historically, few saw either part of the ms., much less both. Ironically, the description given of the 1844 Leipzig section, fine, snow-white parchment, was very different than the yellow with age description given for the 1859 St. Petersburg section now in England. Yet this was never noticed in the literature, it only became obvious by using the new Internet resources, which allow you to find quotes from 1845 and 1910. (We even had the Uspensky section from his 1845 visit professionally translated.)

And I will note as an aside that one Russian scientist Nikolai Alexandrovich Morozov (1854-1946), wrote that the manuscript had to be much younger, and handled far less, than the normal version of the Sinaiticus story. Due to its excellent flexible and supple and clean condition, and lack of handling grime (for a ms. that was theorized to have a millennium and more of rather extensive handling.)

There is a danger today that manuscripts are only seen by books and computer. We consider the hands-on manuscript comments to be some of the most important, and we were wondering if you would share some of your experience, on the record or off. We believe that the manuscript history of Codex Sinaiticus needs a careful revisiting.

Any assistance, thoughts, sharing your experiences and feedback will be appreciated.
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Steven Avery - Researcher
Dutchess County, NY
Sinaiticus Authenticity Research Team