private - Joseph Verheyden - Sinaiticus related scholarship

Steven Avery

Verheyden, Joseph. “The Shepherd of Hermas.” In The Writings of the Apostolic Fathers. Edited by Paul Foster, 63–71. T&T Clark Biblical Studies. London and New York: T&T Clark, 2007.
This provides both a basic overview of the Shepherd and a valuable critical engagement with recent research.

Has written on

Sinaiticus with bibliography in Lire Domain
Correctors - Cpamph and more

James Donaldson (in our correspondence)

and other topics.

Joseph Veryheyden (b. 1957)

Lire demain. Des manuscrits antiques à l'ère digitale.
Read, Write and Correct: the Scribe and the Perfect Text (2012)

Joseph Verheyden


These are my Linkman page-by-page notes going through the book online, 3 pages not available.

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Steven Avery

Feb 2018 - JV responds to my letter with reasonable points

This is in a bit of reverse order.

Joseph - 2018 - response
Steven - 2018 - enhance 2016 post
Steven - 2016 - post

Dear Sir,

Here is a quick and short reply to your comments.

a. I am indeed familiar with the comments of Donaldson. As far as I know he twice spoke out on Barnabas Sin. In 1864 he concludes the text is not genuine (p 254). Ten years later he is less outspoken and concludes that the Sin Barnabas is "either a very corrupt MS. of Barnabas, or a translation based on the Latin" (316-7). I do not see much evidence for the latter option, but the first one is of course always a possibility, which says something on the quality of the text (tradition), but nothing on its genuineness.

b. Elliott's book remains in my opinion a good presentation. What evidence are you referring to when saying that he left out (on purpose?) salient data? He can of course not be blamed for what he could not yet know. By the way, such is also the case for Donaldson: three of the four words he says in 1874 (p316) are not found elsewhere or only in Suida and a later author, are now attested in pre-Christian and early Christian literature (see Montanari's dictionary). The fourth (anthropopoiètos) is a verbal form, the verb is attested as well.

c. I am not a chemist but "decoloration" can happen. Are you sure this is really "artificially coloured"? If so, how does it disprove the genuineness of the ms and the text it contains? Maybe one tried to make the ms look older, but it does not prove the text it contains is a fake.

With all good wishes


Van: Steven Avery <>
Verzonden: zaterdag 17 februari 2018 12:40
Onderwerp: Shepherd of Hermas linguistics - James Donaldson - Simonides</>

Hi Professor Verheyden,


Below is an earlier note I sent to you in 2016.

And I would like to ask you two questions for 2018.

a) Are you familiar with the material from the Scotish scholar James Donaldson? Where he asserts that the Tischendorf dating of Codex Sinaiticus is way off, based on the linguistics of Hermas and Barnabas (he uses the original Tischendorf argument against the Hermas of Simonides). He also expresses a healthy skepticism about the whole account.

b) You reference the Simonides paper of James Keith Elliott as a "brilliant monograph". However, he omitted some of the most salient data, and today we know a lot more. We can even see, looking at the Codex Sinaiticus Project, where the bulk of the manuscript from 1859 is artificially coloured yellow, while the 1844 section in Leipzig is white parchment, as was described by Uspensky for the whole ms. This is quite an amazing confirmation of an essential part of the Simonides-Kallinikos history.

Any assistance and feedback appreciated!

Steven Avery
Dutchess County, NY


March, 2016

I enjoyed your article in Lire Demain, Read, Write and Correct: The Scribe and the Perfect Text

On another area where have written prime material, I have a little question about the Hermas fragments of the Codex Sinaiticus in the New Finds, which can now be seen here:

Shepherd of Hermas, 65:5 - 66:6 library: SC folio: scribe: B2
Shepherd of Hermas, 67:1 - 68:5 library: SC folio: scribe: B2
larger fragment

Shepherd of Hermas, 91:4 - 93:5 library: SC folio: scribe: B2
Shepherd of Hermas, 93:6 - 95:5 library: SC folio: scribe: B2
Do you know if there is any study yet on the actual text?
We are especially interested if there is any close connection between this text and either of the Simonides texts.

Any help appreciated!


Steven Avery
Dutchess County, NY
(347) 218-3306
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Steven Avery

my Feb response to the three points

Subject: colour and condition of the Sinaiticus 1844 and 1859 sections

Feb 18, 2018

Hi Professor Joseph Veryheyden,

> JV
> c. I am not a chemist but "decoloration" can happen.

There is great difficulty finding any explanation for the pristine white parchment condition of the 43 folia in Leipzig. The ms. was supposed to be heavily used, also traveled, for 1500+years. We have here an unusual confluence of circumstances.

historical observation
The full codex ms. was identified as white parchment in 1845 by Uspensky
(the Leipzig 1844 sections were gone by then, sitting in the Leipzig library, and could not be changed)
The Leipzig pages were identified as white parchment by Dobschütz in 1910.
They are white parchment today, as we see very clearly from the Codex Sinaiticus project.. Every one of the 86 pages.

Yet Tischendorf told the world that the whole ms. is sufflava. And Scrivener, relying on Tischendorf, says "yellow with age". No distinction was made for Leipzig and St. Petersburg. The facsimile of Tischendorf smoothed out the difference. The fiction that Tischendorf had created had been maintained by stashing the ms. sections far apart. And pointing all the scholarship to his facsimile. The fiction was maintained by the desire for the textual establishment to accept his theories and representations. And many accepted even the absurd lies he told about the discovery, such as saving the leaves from fire. Even the 2011 pictures in the Hendrickson and British Library publication were adjusted to hide the colour distinction.

We do not have the expected grime in either locale.
We have a ms. in "phenomenally good condition" (Helen Shenton, British Library), supple, easy page turning. (This can be seen in a BBC video.)

Even if the whole ms., Britain and Germany, was in this same colour, it would be a matter of great perplexity.
How could it really be the age claimed?

There is no science to a real antiquity ms. resisting the physics of aging and yellowing.

One example given was a Dead Sea Scroll taken out of a jar.
While whitish coming out, the scroll quickly yellowed.

The ms. experts tend to ignore the problem, because the Sinaiticus ms. is "known" to be fourth century. So let's change the subject. Maybe we can modify the science of parchment and ink to match what we know is true of Sinaiticus. Circularity.


However, the soup thickens.

Simonides and Kallinikos said that the ms. had been coloured in the 1850s. Using substances like lemon-juice and herbs.

Nobody ever checked this accusation by simply looking at the ms sections closely. (And the ms. has never had materials testing.) This changed when the true manuscript photos, done with great professionalism, was put online in 2009 by the Codex Sinaiticus Project. Oops.

This colouring in the 1850s would lead to a:

white parchment 1844 BEFORE in Leipzig and a
yellowed 1859 AFTER in the British Library

This is exactly what we see, courtesy of the Codex Sinaiticus Project.
And, for added pizazz, you can see streaky staining on the British Library pages.


> JV
> Are you sure this is really "artificially coloured"? If so, how does it disprove the genuineness of the ms and the text it contains? Maybe one tried to make the ms look older, but it does not prove the text it contains is a fake.

If Tischendorf and/or his allies stained the major part of the ms. in the 1850s, it is very strong evidence that there was deliberate deception involved. And as a friend said:

Why stain what you think to be the treasure of a lifetime, the oldest and best manuscript in history?

It's like the guy who got a gold medal, and was so excited that he went out and had it bronzed!

At this point, we have to conclude that the Simonides explanation is essentially correct. Everything fits. Now, of course, that does not tell us much about the textual aspects, but it does tell us that the ms. itself was created c. 1840.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that Benedict copied a 4th century ms. perfectly in creating Sinaiticus. From the point of view of textual science, that would not matter. The ms. is 1840s. And it is a fairly new parchment, clumsily coloured to make it look yellow.

In fact, the text is a hybrid mess, full of errors. There are various theories about how it was made.
However, the bottom line is simple .. the Sinaiticus ms was made c. 1840.

Thanks for listening! :)

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Steven Avery

I ask JV about Tischendorf palaeography

June 10, 2018 - (I did not remember that I had responded to the three parts from JV. Anyway, I wanted to go in another direction.)

Hi Professor Verheyden,

Thanks for your fine response in February on James Donaldson, the James Keith Elliott book and the question of the apparent colouring of the 1859 section of Codex Sinaiticus.

Recently I switched email programs (from Eudora to TheBat!) so I will put our previous correspondence in a planned letter #2, continuing on those thoughts. Btw, James Keith Elliott did nicely respond to my inquiry about one major omission, the James Anson Farrer article in Literary Forgeries.


First, though I want to raise a new topic: :)

In your article from the Lausanne 2011 conference:
"Read, Write and Correct: the Scribe and the Perfect Text"

(A bit hard to get outside of Google books, even hard to find in Worldcat, although I found an ebook today. As I am missing the p. 461-63 continuation.)

You make an astute comment about Skeat's notice that Tischendorf did not really back up his palaeographic dates with any examples, analysis or explanation:

They had the summary preceded by the fairly disturbing comment, "In no case does he give any details of the characteristics of the various hands he professed to identify, and we must assume that, in the main, he was guided solely by the general appearance of the script" (Milne and Skeat 1938:18).
Whew. Agreed. In that context, here is an interesting page online, where we have Tischendorf writing to Uspensky, and this relates to his "pick-em" centuries dating:

Overall, it does not seem that the palaeographic experts today really give any support to the Tischendorf dates (other than the fact that the scribes on the main text script were using a common ancient uncial boxy script. Which can give a terminus post quem, but surely not a terminus ante quem.)

Recently, I have been working on making some of these Sinaiticus palaeographic puzzles visible online. Like the three crosses note and the two colophons, and many other elements, including the page which has the 1845 writing of Tischendorf, and can be compared, parchment and ink, to writing that is supposed to be 1100 and 1500 years earlier.

A bit more to come. Your thoughts greatly appreciated!


Steven Avery
Dutchess County, NY USA
(347) 218-3306

Note that my comment on pick-em dates was partly because I had misunderstood the letter to Uspensky, but since it applies to Tischendorf in general there was no problem.
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Steven Avery

looking forward to Sin puzzles - comments on Tisch and magisterial palaeography

June 17, 2018 - JV

Dear Sir

thanks for the mail. I am sorry to read you did not get full access to the Lausanne conference proceedings volume. I should check but I do not know if I still have a copy of the original paper I can send you; I sure do not have a pdf (but I have of course a copy of the book).

I am looking forward to what you plan to put online re "Sin puzzles", but we should in any case not put too much trust in T.'s estimations for dating hands. He was not a paleographer and moreover, the discipline has moved on. Yet there remains a number of scholars who still put great faith in "magisterial" authority, esp in the Italian paleographer school.

Best wishes

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Steven Avery

Sept 17, 2018

Dear Steven

I pick up on your mail of June 26. A couple of loose comments.

In general: coincidence is a strange phenomenon, too strange indeed to build much on it, certainly not enough to counter a majority opinion, for the simple reason that even if what is said is true it has the ring of "coincidence" around it. That said, I am afraid you are jumping to conclusions with regard to the relation between Athos ms and Sin. The similarity between both has nothing remarkable and is what one would expect of mss transmitting the same text. It does not prove and one cannot argue on this basis that there must be a direct literary connection between the two. All one needs to assume is that Athos was copied from a model that was close to Sin. In order for you to argue for the other direction, you should show passages (mistakes) in Sin that can only be explained, or made very plausible, if Sin depends on Athos; but is there anything like that?

Finally, re the analogy with Barnabas (and earlier edition by Simonides): I have never heard of Simonides' 1843 Barnabas edition. Can you provide the bibliographical details?

I also had a look at the texts you posted on Tischendorf-Plug-in-the -Date. Personally I am not such a big fan of blogs etc because it tends to fragmentize the evidence too much, which I am afraid is also what is happening here. There are bits and pieces of arguments and "evidence", but it is left to the user to bring these together in an orderly manner. In my opinion, the best way to state an argument is to write a formal essay, well structured and focusing on one or more problems, thereby clearly stating the problem and then offering a plausible (alternative) solution. Maybe with the knowledge you have gathered it is about time to do just that and submit it to an academic journal for broader circulation among the guild.

Best wishes

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Steven Avery

2020 Note - Preparation

Sept 4, 2020

Dear Professor Verheyden,

May you have been blessed with health and well-being in these last years, and the years ahead!

Back in 2018, you shared excellent information on Sinaiticus and Hermas and Barnabas in our correspondence. We touched on the Latin and later Greek word questions that came forth from James Donaldson, the question of scholarship of the New Finds and what they might show vis a vis the Hermas editions of Simonides, and various questions on authenticity of Sinaiticus. And we discussed the James Keith Elliott book (since then, in April 2018, he has gracefully acknowledged to me that he was unaware of the James Anson Farrer article on Simonides in Literary Forgeries.) And I compliment your knowledge and skill in these areas.

If you do not mind, I would like to follow up on three points tonight. For me, it is a real pleasure to correspond with a scholar who understands many issues and is on top of his game.

1) On the James Donaldson linguistic issues, on Barnabas he mentioned a short group of words that he felt were inconsistent with a 4th century text. You showed that his claims on about five words in Barnabas have now been superseded. Fair enough :).

And I wonder if you have looked on his Shepherd of Hermas list, which David Daniels put into a chart form in his book? And I have taken the pages and placed them online here:

Five pages from David's book

After the four chart pages, David continues with a discussion of Hermas Visions 3:1 which is 9:4 on the CSP., and possible Latin origin for sampselion, kerbikarion, lention and karpasinon. And whether maximo was a retroversion from the Palantine. And I could put up those pages as well.

Even on a short glance, I would appreciate your feedback as to whether there is "any there there". And I realize one could try to allow for Palatine influence on Sinaiticus by pushing the date about 200 years later, but that is a bridge that travels pretty far and winding, especially in the full context of evidences.

2) My second point is simply a note that we are looking at the issue of the Zosima Moscow Bible being used as a source for Sinaiticus. Whether scribal features indicate a source->target relationship. Simonides said at least three distinct times that the Zosima edition was a source for the Athos manuscript. Perhaps we will have a bit to share with you on this topic. We do have the grace of Georgios Babinotis in Athens being of assistance when we have a focused question (he actually weighed in on the question of the solecism in the short Greek text of the earthly witnesses as well!) Anyway, this is just an FYI at this point.

3) My third note has to do with the overall schema that can point to non-authenticity. This includes the "phenomenally good condition" (Helen Shenton), two videos that are truly amazing to watch, the colour distinction between the British Library and Leipzig (we touched on this a smidgen) and the historical forensics of Simonides with Kalliikos actually accusing the 1859 section of the manuscript of being colored by. This was said repeatedly in 1863, and would be a truly absurd accusation if it was done without inside knowledge.

So, would you like a bit of a presentation on these issues?
Is it something that you find edifying?
And I would be happy to try to make the best short presentation yet.

Thanks for your help, feedback, and consideration!

Steven Avery
Dutchess County, NY, USA
(347) 218-3306
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Steven Avery

21 November 2022 05:08
To: Joseph Verheyden <>
Subject: update on Sinaiticus and Hermas projects

November 20, 2022

Dear Professor Joseph Verheyden,
Here is an update. There is one question in here, but mostly I just appreciate your feedback and want to keep you up to speed and in the loop.

The 1998 Martin Leutzsch book is ordered, it comes from Germany so we are looking into an inter-library loan from Boston College to speed things up, my techie is south of Boston. Great recommendation.
We found the 1976 Anton Hilhorst book online, Sémitismes et latinismes dans le Pasteur d'Hermas, and it is very helpful. In the opening section he tries to address Donaldson but I think Hilhorst largely misunderstood the Donaldson argument. Still, it is an incredibly helpful section.

Perhaps the single most interesting word is maximo μαξιμω in Visions 7:4, where Hermas is describing great tribulation but an error morphs it into a person Maximus in many editions. Two competing English translations as well. We found the very strong section where Tischendorf attacks the word as late (before his.. ahem .. awkward retraction of sorts, but he never retracted the specifics.) There are no papyri for that section (remember, in general we would like to check Donaldson Latin-influence words with the papyri, one reason for Leutzsch). However, the Ockham-friendly explanation of how our friend Maximus got into Athous and Sinaiticus is the Palatine influence, where the error began in the Palatine by mistranslating the Greek. This is qualitatively different from other words because it looks like you have an error shared in Athous and Sinaiticus by retroversion.
Now it would be good to have the manuscript layout of Vulgata and Palatine for the word, not sure the best source yet for that, maybe Leutzsch will help? Emanuele Castelli can likely help with the Ethiopic.


We are doing some special work following up on the Coislinianus (HPaul 015) connection to the Sinaiticus Ca corrector per Wilhelm Bousset in the 1894 section Der Kodex Pamphili (mentioned en passant by Kirsopp Lake and Skeat.) With part of that manuscript in Mt. Athos, there is a sense that there is a much simpler explanation of how the Coislinianus and Sinaiticus manuscripts are connected. Simpler than the vulgate version of Sinaiticus history, which always has the starting ultra-dubious presupposition of the 4th century theory of Tischendorf. :) And then proceeds in circularity.


And we are also emphasizing the three crosses note, which looks to be dated by a classic case of theological palaeography. In the sense that the simple fact that it is clearly a 'scriptorium' (early production) note is ignored and even rejected sans analysis or explanation. If it was accepted that this note is a scriptorium note the standard Sinaiticus dating would immediately fall apart. So the topic is generally kept hidden from the palaeographic scholars.


Hope you enjoyed this update!
Any feedback appreciated!
Grace and peace in Jesus name,
Steven Avery
Dutchess County, NY USA
(347) 218-3306

Steven Avery

A quick reply:

Hilhorst is excellent for the vocabulary study; should always be used/checked.

For the Latin versions: see now the 2014 edition of Christian Tornau and Paolo Cecconi for V (P should follow). For the Ethiopic, see, in addition to Castelli whom I know well, Ted Erho who is working on this for a while.