the James Donaldson linguistic argument that Barnabas and Hermas are not 4th century

Steven Avery

the evidence points to a strong confirmation of Hilgenfeld's opinion that that Codex is not earlier than the sixth century

James Donaldson gives a summary in 1877 (note: this was referenced by Gardthausen in his 1879 edition of Griechische Palaeographie.)

The Theological review, Volume 14 (1877)
The Shepherd of Hermas
James Donaldson review of:
Oscar Gebhardt and Adolph Harnack's Hermas edition from the Apostolic Fathers series
Guilielmus Heyne on the dating of Hermas
Heinrich Behm on dating and authorship and more
George H. Schodde on the Ethiopic Hermas
Walter Cassels (Supernatural Religion). (The last was actually only referenced en passant.)
p. 504-519

... Putting all these circumstances together, we think that the best solution of the problem is to suppose that we have, as the basis of our present Greek manuscripts, a recension and modernized version belonging to the sixth or seventh century, and that the editor used all the materials at his command, having probably in his possession large portions of the original text, but filling up gaps from some Latin translations, introducing parts from some modifications of the text, such as those of pseudo-Athanasius, and clothing the whole in the language current among the Christian populace of his day. We may add that the texts of Hilgenfeld and Gebhardt partake somewhat of the character which we have assigned to our sixth-century recension. They have used the Latin translations to amend the Greek, and where the Greek is defective they have re-translated the Latin into Greek.

The hypothesis we have proposed we do not deem by any means certain. The subject is one which awaits fuller investigation. We have been compelled to omit considerable portions of our argument, for they would occupy too much space; but it is enough to draw attention to some of the most prominent characteristics of this curious problem. It is not one of great consequence, as far as the substance of Hermas is concerned. It has much more to do with the date of the Sinaitic Codex, and the evidence points to a strong confirmation of Hilgenfeld's opinion that that Codex is not earlier than the sixth century. - p. 514

Note, that is not a terminus ante quem, it is given as a terminus post quem, the earliest date. The earliest date for Sinaiticus. And, historically, the 6th century has its own difficulties, clashing with other positions taken for Sinaiticus authenticity, leaving us with a strong evidence that can be consistent best with 19th century creation. To be clear, in textual circles even 6th century would have been late enough to make the convoluted theories of Hort that much more impossible.

As far as can be determined, the position of Donaldson never received a response from Sinaiticus 4th century defenders.

Some of the earlier material is here:

Sinaiticus - Hermas, Barnabas linguistic, history anomalies

Steven Avery - Oct 31, 2014


The Gardthausen section is at a time when the dating of Sinaiticus was still subject to scholarly discussion. Thus he mentions the 500s in reference to Hilgenfeld and Donaldson (p. 145) Gardthausen is summarized as early fifth century, according to Ropes.

Viktor Emil Gardthausen (1843-1925)

Griechische Palaeographie
Viktor Emil Gardthausen
p. 143-149

Google translation
But there are, however, attempts made him much further back zoom. Hofffmann maintains the Ambrosian and Syrian palimpsest Iliad as older than the cod. Sinaiticus, while Hilgenfeld and Donaldson placed it in the 6th century for linguistic reasons, as in the Old and New Testaments the genuine optative occurs frequently [Donaldson, p. 511], while in Hermas it occurs only once. Even such forms as (Grk) can be found only when Hermas in c. Sinaiticus and the Leipzig fragments.

Es sind aber allerdings Versuche gemacht, ihn bedeutend weiter herabzurücken. Hoffmann hält die Ambrosianische und die syrisch rescribirte Ilias für älter, als den cod. Sinaiticus, den Hilgenfeld £ und Donaldson) aus sprachlichen Gründen in das 6. Jahrhundert setzten, weil im Alten und Neuen Testament der wirkliche Optativ öfter, beim Hermas nur einmal vorkommt. Auch solche Formen wie (Grk) finden sich nur beim Hermas im c. Sinaiticus und in den Leipziger Fragmenten.

p. 145 dating.jpg

This shows us that Hilgenfeld was including linguistic reasons for Sinaiticus to not be 4th century.

The Syriac palimpsest of the Iliad referenced from Karl August Julius Hoffman (1812-1869), Codex Nitriensis, is dated to the 6th century. The Ambrosian Iliad is an illuminated ms. placed in the 5th century.


For a review of the Hilgenfeld-Tischendorf differences:

The Journal of Sacred Literature and Biblical Record, Volume 5 (1861)
The Age of the Sinaitic Codex
p. 495-500

Theological Review (1864)
Notes on the Codex Sinaiticus

The abject scribal (leaving aside textual) corruptness of the manuscript, later emphasized out by Burgon in 1871, was one point emphasized:

Undue weight, in his opinion, has been attached by the editor to the beauty and form of the uncial characters. An un-theological friend well versed in palaeography, whose opinion he asked, drew from an inspection of the writing the same conclusion at which Hilgenfeld had arrived through another process,—viz. that the MS. could not be older than the sixth century. ... The text of this Codex of the New Testament is disfigured by constant mis-spellings, and abounds in violations of all the laws of flexion and syntax. ... Hilgenfeld sees in the barbarism of the Sinai tic text clear proofs of a later age and a declining culture, and thinks our MS. may possibly have been the work of some monks of the convent of St Catharine, where it was discovered, and which was not founded till 530 A.D. p. 215-216

... traces of illiterate carelessness. ... In the Sinaiticus, these phenomena reach their height The force of Hilgenfeld's argument depends on the character of the variations exhibited by the Codex Sinaiticus,—whether they are merely the less usual forms of words, and modes of expression and construction, such as we know existed in the Hellenistic and colloquial Greek of the apostolic age, and would naturally find a place in the Christian writings of that period,—or whether they are such as are evidently traceable to the simple growth of barbarism. p. 216

... could not, therefore, have been written earlier than the sixth century, subsequent to the foundation of St Catharine's monastery in 530 A.D Hilgenfeld regards the internal character of this MS. as in full accordance with this supposition of its date. He looks on it as a hasty transcript by ignorant and incompetent scribes, whose astounding blunders have caused endless trouble to its numerous correctors. It abounds in omissions; which can only be ascribed to haste, as this is not a usual fault in the worst manuscripts. Hilgenfeld has given a list of these. Some blunders, resulting obviously from the same cause, are scarcely credible. ... p. 21-220

Judging from the instances alleged by Hilgenfeld, which have been taken from all parts of the New Testament and which we have in every instance carefully verified by a reference to the original text, we should say that the Sinaitic text is generally very corrupt, abounding with extraordinary violations both of grammar and of sense. We have rarely turned to a single passage referred to by Hilgenfeld, without finding in the context some other example of corruption... (p. 221)

This was one of the major Hilgenfeld concerns that fourth century was far too early. Donaldson confirmed Hilgenfeld, from the linguistic elements of Barnabas and Hermas, some of which is above.
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Steven Avery



Then there is a considerable number of passages preserved to us in Greek by Origen and other writers. The Sinaitic Greek differs often from this Greek, and agrees with the Latin translation, especially the Palatine. There is every, especially internal, probability that the Greek of the ancient writers is nearer the original than the Sinaitic.

The Apostolical Fathers: A Critical Account of Their Genuine Writings and of Their Doctrines (1864)
James Donaldson (1874) (1864)


3 Vis. ii. 3.


Codex Sinaiticus Project
Q93 f2r, Hermas 7:4

. εριϲ δε μαξιμω ε̣ιδου θλιψειϲ ερχεται εαν ϲοι φανη δοκη παλιν αρνηϲαι εγγυϲ κϲ τοιϲ επιϲτρεφομενοιϲ ωϲ γεγραπται εν τω ε ελδαδ και ωδατ μωδατ μωδατ τοιϲ προφητευϲαϲιν εν (verso) τη ερημω τω λαω ·

Hermas 3[7]:4 But thou shalt say to Maximus, "Behold tribulation cometh (upon thee), if thou think fit to deny a second time. The Lord is nigh unto them that turn unto him, as it is written in Eldad and Modat, who prophesied to the people in the wilderness."

Ante-Nicene Christian Library
Frederick Crombie translation - (1827-1889)

Blessed are all they who practise righteousness, for they shall never be destroyed. Now you will tell Maximus: Lo! 1 tribulation cometh on. If it seemeth good to thee, deny again. The Lord is near to them who return unto Him, as it is written in Eldad and Modat,who prophesied to the people in the wilderness.”

1 Now you will say: Lo! great tribulation cometh on.— Vat.
Lo! exceedingly great tribulation cometh on.—Lips.

PBodmer 38 confirms the early and accurate Hermas text with the great tribulation.

PBodmer 38 cover.jpg

PBodmer 38 section.jpg

In the quote above, when it said
"E sembra presuppore (ma dopo Μαξιμω) μεγαλη."
E seems to presuppose (But after 'Maximo'), megale."
E is Ethiopic
is the note on p. 73 is saying that Ethiopic translation seems to reflect Maximus rather than magna?

Bodmer 38 having:
ις δε Μαχιμω ιδου θλιψεις ερχε

the same dubious reading as Sinaiticus, that looks like it comes from a Latin retorversion, lessens the ability to use this as a singular late dating Sinaiticus evidence.

Maximw: mana L1 (Magno em. Hilgenfeld); anche il Paris. Lat. 11553 (Sangermanensis1) non utilizzato finora per per il testo di L1 ha magna ecce tribulatio che deve essere mantenuto; E sembra presupporte (ma dopo Maxivmw)/ megavlh.

Maximw: manuscript L1 (Great em. Hilgenfeld); also the Paris Lat. 11553 (Sangermanesus) not used so far for text of L1 behold a great tribulation which must be maintained; And it seems it presupports (but after Maxivmw)/ megavlh.

Anger & Dinsdorf (1856) have the correct megale.

Page 9, Visions II, 3
Ereis de idou thlipsis erchetai megale sfodra.
Ερεισ δε ιδου θλιψις ερχεται μαγαλη σφοδρα

However, per Tischendorf, the corruption was in his text (this is from his post Anger publication)

Tischendorf, 1856, page 5, Visions II, 3

Ereis de Maximo Idou thlipsis erchetai
Ερεις δε Μαξιμω (6) Ιδου θλιψις ερχεται
The footnote:
6) ερεις δε μαξιμω: ita prorsus apogr.

That means "exactly like the apograph" -
Exactly what the copy in front of me says.
So Anger and Dindorf changed the text! Tischendorf says he wrote it as the text SAYS.


The idea is simple ..

there is nobody named Maximo / Maximus in Hermas, yet the Sinaiticus Greek has Maximus due to the late Latin-->Greek error

There was a translation to Latin and in the Latin "great tribulation" changed when the "great" became maximo -- this loose Latin Palatine text retroverts back into the Greek (and then to Sinaiticus) where it forces the faux text "say to Maximus, tribulation" when the original Greek has the great tribulation.

A good question is whether ANY early Greek supports Maximus and whether it is simply close to iron-clad evidence of a late Latin retroversion. So far, it looks late.


In David's book p. Is the World's Oldest Bible a Fake? 153

But now we come to maximum overkill. As I said, all but one of the Latin translations of the Shepherd of Hermas are pretty much the same. But one stands out: the Palatine Codex 150 of the Vatican Library.

And one example above all convinced me that Simonides’ Lipsiensis and the Sinaiticus Hermas both seem back-translated from the Vatican Palatine Codex: Visions ii.3. There is more than one numbering system. Online it’s called Hermas 7:4.
David book 2.jpg

As Donaldson showed, it’s supposed to say “But say thou, behold, great tribulation cometh.” In Latin, great is “magna.” In Greek, great is “megale.” And “thlipsis megale” is exactly the term “great tribulation” used three times in the New Testament.

But the Vatican’s Palatine Codex changed “magna” to “maximo.” That’s like changing “great” to “greatest.” Or, Maximo could be the name of a person, “Maximus.” Either way, it’s the wrong word. Guess what Simonides’ Lipsiensis says? Maximo!

Guess what the Sinaiticus did with the Greek? It also transliterated Maximo!

David second pic.jpg

In fact, in Donaldson’s words, “Now we find that the text of the Pastor of Hermas found in the Sinaitic codex is substantially the same as that given in the Athos manuscript. The variations are comparatively slight.”

He also wrote:

Then there is a considerable number of passages preserved to us in Greek by Origen and other writers. The Sinaitic Greek differs often from this Greek, and agrees with the Latin translation, especially the Palatine.
And there isn’t anything earlier they could have copied.

Additional analysis with David W. Daniels:

The Greek would have been:
thlipsis θλιψιν for tribulation and
megale μεγαλη for great
"great tribulation"

correct Greek word)--> megale, μεγαλη

As is seen in the early papyri.

p. 73 of Papyrus Bodmer XXXVIII, Erma: Il Pastory (Ia-IIIa visione) (Cologny-Geneve: Fondation Martin Bodmer, 1991)
"Behold a great tribulation" - that must be maintained.
Also on p. 73:
"E sembra presuppore (ma dopo Μαξιμω) μεγαλη."
Seems to presuppose (But after 'Maximo'), megale

and this is in the NT with tribulation.
Matthew 24:21 θλιψις μεγαλη
Revelation 2:22 (accusative case) θλιψιν μεγαλην


the general Latin Vulgate texts say:
magna - which means "great" and corresponds to "megale" μεγαλη in Greek

L1 (Latin Vulgate) is "magna ecce tribulatio che deve essert mantenuto"

(μεγαλη translated correctly to Latin) -- magna


the corrupted Latin would be as in the Palatine (Palatinus) and this error for "great" is ONLY in this one spot:
error: maximo (maximum - greatest) instead of the correct
magna - magno (great). - that's "great" which is a comparative, they should never have changed magno to maximo

maximo makes no sense back translated into Greek.

(maximus is an intensive - a superlative)


Sinaiticus Latin retroversion error

(Greek word brought back from wrong Latin into Sinaiticus) Μαξιμω ( μαξιμω )


Retroversion Error

(correct Greek word)--> megale, μεγαλη
(translated correctly to Latin) -- magna
(Latin tweak, change of form) -- maximo
(Greek word from wrong Latin becomes name) — Maximo Μαξιμω
(μαξιμω in Sinaiticus leads to nonsensical variant “speak to Maximus”)
Question for research.

We want to see if the name error existed in the Latin.

If the Palatine Codex 150 actually has the word capitalized or not.
If not - then it's a superlative for a comparative, greatest for great.
If it's capitalized, the copyist take it for a person, Maximus.

Either way the Greek is wrong with Maximus and has come from the late Palatine.

Another question is the date of the Ethiopic ms and how it got a dual reading.
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Steven Avery

Barnabas edition - emendations and historical speculattions previously proposed by modern scholars

"Barnabas... and it contains many of the conjectural emendations previously proposed by scholars."

James Donaldson (1864)

noch die Fragmente des Hirten ab, einer Schrift von glei-
chem Ansehen mit Barnabas, die im Originaltexte für
gänzlich verloren gegolten hatte, bis ihn 1855 der viel-
berufene Grieche Simonides, theils abschriftlich theils in
drei Papierblätteru des 14. Jahrhunderts, vom Berg Athos
nach Leipzig brachte. Aus mehreren Gründen hatte ich
diesen an vielfacher Verderbniss leidenden Text für eine
mittelalterliche Rückübersetzung aus dem Latein ange-
sehen; der uralte Sinaitext überzeugte mich bald, dass
diese Ansicht, wenigstens in Bezug auf das Ganze, eine
irrthümliche gewesen.

Quote from Donaldson about proposed emendations that made it into Barnabas

This is very similar to the phenomenon of gearing a forgery to include the historical speculations of scholars.
As discussed:

"warnings of Lykurgos, could not resist the investigations of the profoundly learned Egyptian scholar, Lepsius, who was the first to detect the cooked-up text, partly derived from his own works and the works of Chevalier Bunsen" - Simonides

Gentlemen's Magazine (1856)

And this next explanation is stronger.

About 1855, Simonides offered to Karl Richard Lepsius, then Professor of Egyptology at Berlin and considered the founder of modern Egyptology, a Greek manuscript written by one Uranius of Alexandria and containing a history of the kings of Egypt. Delighted to find an ancient work that so precisely confirmed his own theories on the early history of Egypt, Lepsius advanced 2,000 thalers to the Prussian Academy to allow it to buy the manuscript (assuming a rough equivalency between an 1855 thaler and an 1855 dollar, that would be some $60,000 today).

The Jesus' Wife Papyrus in the History of Forgery (2015)
Christopher. Jones

The precise confirmation should have been a warning, but it played to the pride of Lepsius.

And I believe similar is proposed in the NT. Emendations that match other proposals (perhaps "eye of a needle" changed would qualify, Matthew 19:24).

Even discussed by Jan Krans.

This matching of historical speculation is discussed in the BCHF forum as well.

Sinaiticus - Hermas, Barnabas linguistic, history anomalies

Where I do indicate we should be cautious about the Donaldson quote, as we do not have the specifics.

Simply put, Donaldson, for linguistic reasons, believes that the Barnabas text is not an authentic 4th-century Greek text. Later, he goes into this more.

Note: his reference to: "contains many of the conjectural emendations previously proposed by scholars" may be ironic. It has often occurred that non-genuine texts base themselves on modern scholarship to fill in the gaps, and has been a smoking ink-spot. And Simonides was accused of using published texts and emendation suggestion improvements at times. However, I would not press the point without first knowing many of the emendations, and also whether they were published as a group, and how strong are the matches.
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Steven Avery

This quote is special, and should get its own thread.

"There are many circumstances in this narrative calculated to awaken suspicion, and there are other circumstances of an equally suspicious nature which I have not mentioned. But those who are most competent to judge, have allowed that it seems a genuine ancient manuscript."
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Steven Avery


εριϲ δε μαξιμω ε̣ιδου θλιψειϲ ερχεται


magnus, magna -um, maior -or -us, maximus -a -um ADJ
large, great; powerful; big; tall; long; broad; extensive; spacious;

magnus, magna -um, maior -or -us, maximus -a -um ADJ
large, great; powerful; big; tall; long; broad; extensive; spacious; ADJ 0 0 DAT S M SUPER ADJ 0 0 DAT S N SUPER ADJ 0 0 ABL S M SUPER ADJ 0 0 ABL S N SUPER
maxi ADJ
greatest/biggest/largest; longest; oldest; highest, utmost; leading, chief;
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Steven Avery

From Bill Brown\

He gives Donaldson the following words as being "late"

Bounos - first occurs in the 5th century BC and is found in Luke 3:5 and in the dative form in Luke 23:30.
Sumbios - first occurs in Aristotle (4th c BC) and also in the Testaments of the 12 patriarchs, finalized by 2nd century CE
Katachuma - occurs in Aristophanes (who lived 4th and 5th century BC)

America The Babylon - 2 | PDF | Bible Prophecy - Scribd
1667150373581.png › document › America-the-Babyl...
... that is also found in Luke 3:5 as it sits almost side by side with the word "hora". Now this word for hill that we see in Luke 3:5 is the word "bounos".
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Steven Avery

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.
Joseph Verheyden -

This is only Barnabas

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