Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Dr. Stauffer on Codex Sinaiticus
Dr. Stauffer on Codex Sinaiticus
03/15/2006 - James White
I did a little looking around the net for materials by Dr. Stauffer, and very quickly ran across this article. And it took just a moment to read this:
The Codex Vaticanus (discovered in the Pope's library in 1481) and Sinaiticus (discovered in 1859 in a trash can at St. Catherine's monastery on Mt. Sinai) were the two texts that influenced the Alexandrian text type the most. I'm sorry, but any "scholar" who can't even get this story straight is not really worth reading, to be honest. I remember correcting Dave Hunt on this very same error a few years ago in St. Louis. Sure it is common to say this, but repeating an error does not make it true. And for someone who claims the level of expertise necessary to write a book on the translation of the Bible and the issues of the King James Version should surely know better than to repeat errors like this. What is worse, he cites from my book frequently, which means he knows this statement is factually untrue. Here is the section from my work:
The single greatest example of an uncial codex written on vellum is Codex Sinaiticus, which today is almost always abbreviated with the single symbol of the Hebrew letter “aleph,” written like this: a. This great codex contains the vast majority of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, in Greek. The story of how it was found(1) is evidence of God’s providence. Constantin von Tischendorf embarked on a journey to the Middle East in 1844 searching for biblical manuscripts. While visiting the monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai, he noted some scraps of parchment in a basket that was due to be used to stoke the fires in the oven of the monastery. Upon looking at the scraps he discovered that they contained part of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. This was exactly what he was looking for, and so he asked if he could take the scraps to his room for examination, warning the monks that they should not be burning such items. His obvious excitement worried the monks, who became less than cooperative in providing further information about manuscripts at the monastery. Years passed by. Tischendorf attempted to find more manuscripts at the monastery in 1853, but to no avail. Six years later he visited yet once again, and this time on the very evening before he was to leave he presented a copy of the Septuagint (which he had published) to the steward. Upon looking at Tischendorf’s gift, the steward remarked that he, too, had a copy of the Septuagint. From the closet in his cell he produced a manuscript, wrapped in a red cloth. The monk had no idea of the treasure he held in his hands, for this was none other than Codex Sinaiticus, which at that time was no less than 1,500 years old! Tischendorf, having learned his lesson years earlier, hid his amazement and asked to examine the work. He spent all night poring over it, and attempted to purchase it in the morning, but was refused. The story of how the codex was eventually obtained is long, involved, and controversial. It resides today in the British Museum.
So as you can see, Sinaiticus was not found in a trash can. It was clearly prized by its owner, and well cared for. The only reason Stauffer and those like him continue to repeat this story is for its impact upon those ignorant of history and unlikely to actually look into it for themselves. But for anyone serious about the subject, such dishonesty destroys one's credibility.
Codex Sinaiticus (a) is vilified more than any other manuscript by KJV Only advocates,(2) and for obvious reasons. So impressed were the scholars of the day like Tischendorf, Westcott, and Hort that claims were made for a (and another great codex, Codex Vaticanus,(3) abbreviated simply as “B”) that later study has shown to have been at best unbalanced. Westcott and Hort used a and B to produce their New Testament, a work that displaced the text used by the KJV, later known as the Textus Receptus, in scholarly studies. Because of this, even moderate KJV Only advocates will accuse modern textual critics and translators of “worshiping” a and B, though this is hardly a reasonable charge.(4)
Codex Sinaiticus is not nearly as bad as its enemies would say, nor as good as Tischendorf or others wished. It is not infallible, nor is it demonic. It is instead a great treasure, for a while the oldest manuscript known, and for all time a tremendously valuable asset to our knowledge of the New Testament text. Those who say it is “corrupt” normally mean it is different at places than the traditional text that underlies the KJV. Others accuse it of being so full of errors as to be almost useless. There are indeed many corrections in the text of a, but such is hardly surprising. A handwritten text that is used for 1,500 years is going to collect a few corrections along the way! Moreover, there is a note in the Old Testament portion that even indicates that at some point in the past there had been an effort to correct the manuscript to a different standard, which, of course, would produce a fair amount of alteration. Imagine taking an NASB and trying to make it read like an NKJV!
(1) For a fuller rendition of the story, see, Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration 2nd ed. (Oxford: 1968), pp. 42-45.
(2) Note the words of William Grady in Final Authority (Grady Publications: 1993), p. 100:
Within two years of England’s national acceptance of this depraved Catholic manuscript, the city of London was in smoldering ruins. “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” (Psalm 9:17).
(3) Vaticanus is attacked on the basis of its being found in the Vatican library. Of course, the fact that the vast majority of “Byzantine” manuscripts were copied by Roman Catholic monks in the centuries prior to the Reformation seems to be overlooked. Note the conspiracy-laden words of Grady (ibid., p. 101):
Strange as it sounds, the most heralded manuscript evidence for rejecting the King James Bible has yet to be handled by serious Bible-believing scholars! People like Beale, and Geisler and Nix have chosen a “slide presentation” put together by the most treacherous international gangsters in history over the blood-washed text of the Protestant Reformation!
(4) See for example D.A. Waite, Defending the King James Bible (The Bible For Today: 1993), p. 61, “They just about worship that manuscript.” This was just after alleging, inaccurately, that a was about to be burned (one will note that the steward at St. Catherine’s kept the manuscript in his cell, wrapped in a red cloth, hardly the way in which one treats trash). When Dr. Waite debated me in August of 1994, he dropped the “just about” and directly asserted that Westcott and Hort worshiped Sinaiticus.
00:01:00 - Category: King James Onlyism - Link to this article -