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Secrets of Mount Sinai: Story of the Codex Sinaiticus Hardcover – 23 Sep 1985

4.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Orbis Publishing; First Edition edition (23 Sept. 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0856135283
  • ISBN-13: 978-0856135286
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 15.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 621,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Recent scholarly finds such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gnostic Gospels have shaken the very fabric of Christianity. The author of this remarkable book suggests that further shocks of this kind are in store for us. They are contained in the so-called Codex Sinaiticus, 347 pages of ancient manuscript whose history alone is an intriguing story. Originally found in the mid 19th century in the monastery of St Catherine at the foot of Mount Sinai, they were sold by Stalin in 1931 for £100,000 to the British Museum, where they remain to this day. The author, who recently went to the monastery himself, begins by telling the story of how St Catherine's came to be there, and of how the Codex was found and 'borrowed' from the unsuspecting monks by an unscrupulous German scholar named Constantin Tischendorf. He then proceeds to examine the Codex itself.
What exactly is it about these long-lost pages that makes them so central to the current controversies within the Christian church? First, they represent one of the two oldest surviving texts of the Bible in existence - the whole of the New Testament and most of the Old. They also, argues the author, throw new light on Christianity itself by the omissions and alterations they contain. This earliest text of St Mark's Gospel, for example, contains no account of Christ's appearance to the disciples after the Resurrection; the text of large sections of St John's Gospel appears to have been heavily reworked; in the same gospel the story of the woman taken in adultery is a later insertion.


Customer Reviews

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Format: Hardcover
This book includes some interesting information, copied from other sources, but it is spoilt by the author's sensationalist style and his clear antagonism to his subject matter, Tischendorf, Scripture and Christianity. Although the author was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1962, a number of years later he apparently left the church, becoming a full-time journalist, according to the biographical paragraph about him in the dust jacket, which was most probably written by him.

The author's extremely critical attitude to Tischendorf (exemplified in pp. 86-88 and also in many other places) seems to be inspired by his lack of sympathy for the simple form of Christianity that Tischendorf followed, that of an evangelical protestant who revered the authority of the Bible above all other authority.

The author constantly quotes from writers, but never gives page numbers or even the names of the works from which he is quoting, and his "Selected Bibliography" lists just three articles, eight books and some unpublished letters. This greatly reduces the value of the book for the purpose of serious research.

The book contains many factual errors that one would not have expected from the pen of a former Church of England vicar - such as "Barnabas introduced St Paul into Christianity" (pp. 171-2), Paul attacked idols in Ephesus (p. 69), Deuteronomy is "the fourth book in the Old Testament" (p. 159 - it is the fifth).

The author mistakenly claims that the Codex Sinaiticus "dramatically force[s] us to reconsider one crucial element in Christianity: the resurrection of Jesus Christ himself" (p. 23).
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Format: Hardcover
I wonder if the correspondent who is so gently and cleverly dismissive of this book has read it, or simply misunderstood it. Bentley never lost his faith. The Tischendorf story is very different from that recounted by our correspondent, and most importantly, Bentley's story is a knowledgeable account of how it is that the Codex Sinaiticus, without doubt the most ancient and credible version of the Bible has no account of the Resurrection in Mark's gospel nor some of the other miracle stories. He doesn't disparage those who choose to take the bible literally, he just explains with some patience how it is that our modern day Bible was in part assembled from literary fragments and verbal traditions.

The book has nothing to do with the loss of faith. Bentley, who is no longer with us would say quite the opposite.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A well researched book with plenty to make one wish for more. It is an on going story, and one that will have some more turns and twists.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An ongoing read of great interest , a lucky find .
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars 8 reviews
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Biblical Studies at its best... 31 Mar. 2002
By Iyad T. Alashqar - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The main idea of this book revolves around the oldest new testament manuscripts known to man. Those manuscripts have the complete record of the New Testament from the year 340 AD and on...
One of the chapters is totally dedicated to the history of the monastery of St. Catherine where the manuscripts were found by one of the pillars of biblical studies, Constantine Tischendorf in 1859...
Daringly constructed...
Excellently done...
Extremely challenging...
Amazingly informative...
Beautifully satisfying...
Tremendously comprehensive...
Gigantically convincing...
Bravo...
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sensationalist & repeatedly inaccurate 18 Feb. 2013
By TRA - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book includes some interesting information, copied from other sources, but it is spoilt by the author's sensationalist style and his clear antagonism to his subject matter, Tischendorf, Scripture and Christianity. Although the author was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1962, a number of years later he apparently left the church, becoming a full-time journalist, according to the biographical paragraph about him in the dust jacket, which was most probably written by him.

The author's extremely critical attitude to Tischendorf (exemplified in pp. 86-88 and also in many other places) seems to be inspired by his lack of sympathy for the simple form of Christianity that Tischendorf followed, that of an evangelical protestant who revered the authority of the Bible above all other authority.

The author constantly quotes from writers, but never gives page numbers or even the names of the works from which he is quoting, and his "Selected Bibliography" lists just three articles, eight books and some unpublished letters. This greatly reduces the value of the book for the purpose of serious research.

The book contains many factual errors that one would not have expected from the pen of a former Church of England vicar - such as "Barnabas introduced St Paul into Christianity" (pp. 171-2), Paul attacked idols in Ephesus (p. 69), Deuteronomy is "the fourth book in the Old Testament" (p. 159 - it is the fifth).

The author mistakenly claims that the Codex Sinaiticus "dramatically force[s] us to reconsider one crucial element in Christianity: the resurrection of Jesus Christ himself" (p. 23). This claim is not supported by the actual text of Codex Sinaiticus, which records the accounts in the gospels of Matthew, Luke and John of the resurrection appearances of Christ, as well as the angel reporting his resurrection in Mark's gospel. Codex Sinaiticus also includes the accounts of Christ's resurrection appearances in Acts chapter 1, the sermon of Peter on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2, which has as its central point the resurrection of Christ: "This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses" (vs. 32). It includes the preaching and teaching about the resurrection of Christ throughout the New Testament, including, naturally, the famous chapter on the resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15.

Bentley's book thus becomes a vehicle for the expression of his own loss of faith or lack of faith, and this detracts from the information it contains. He speaks (p. 148) of the "supposed appearances" of the resurrected Christ and turns (on p. 143) for scholarly support to a book published in 1924 (although, as usual, he does not provide the name of the book). By 1985, when Bentley's book was published, the theories from which he quoted had long since been shown to be based on inaccurate premises and mistaken understandings.

I note that James Charlesworth, who wrote the Foreword writes of the monks of St Catherine's monastery as being "abused by western imperialism". It is therefore with surprise that I read a few pages later (on p. 14) that in the late 1970s or early 1980s Bentley - for all his protests of respect for the monks - paid local people for a days' work with two cigarettes.

The book contains a helpful index and an appendix that reproduces extracts from a translation of "The Epistle of Barnabas" and "The Shepherd of Hermas".

Those desirous of knowing more would probably do better to read "Codex Sinaiticus" by Tischendorf himself, published in an English translation by the Lutterworth Press, apparently in 1934 (it is undated) and "Codex Sinaiticus: The Story of the World's Oldest Bible" by D. C. Parker, which is published by The British Library Publishing Division and is available from Amazon.
2.0 out of 5 stars I Wish I May, I Wish I Might 30 April 2016
By Randle Rector - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I gave "Secrets of Mount Sinai" two stars, but I wish I could give it more. For me this book was both intellectually stimulating and easy to read, having been written in a popularizing style. It is full of fascinating historical research and narratives of adventures which the author really brings to life. It would be a real pleasure for me to recommend this book to the average person, but I cannot, for three main reasons. As I discuss them, I will refer to the author of this book as simply "the author". I do not want to criticize a man, only wrong ideas.

1. The author is generally objective, but when referring to orthodox and conservative Christians what may be his bias (and I say may be) appears to show through. He seems to represent them as always being "shocked", or else "suppressing" something. No doubt this is true in certain cases, but it would have been better if he had not painted with so broad a brush.

2. When I got to the second half of the book it became clear that one of the author's main objectives is to promote his belief that Jesus only rose from the dead "spiritually". Now, in the New Testament the word "spiritual" does not simply mean "religiously oriented". It is equivalent in meaning to our word "supernatural". When you read the New Testament and see the word "spiritual", mentally substitute the word "supernatural" and you will have the right concept. According to the apostle Paul in I Corinthians chapter 15, a "spiritual body" is a physical body made alive by the Holy Spirit and given supernatural abilities. It is not non-corporeal or immaterial.
The author of "Secrets of Mount Sinai", however, means that Jesus rose from the dead immaterially and could only be seen in visions. To prove this, he tries to use the supposed short ending of Mark at chapter 16 verse 8 (as found in the Codex Sinaiticus). The problem is that even if you take a minimalist approach and accept only those manuscripts with the most omissions from the text, the traditional orthodox doctrines are still there.
For example, James H. Charlesworth points out in the Forward to "Secrets of Mount Sinai" that the prophecy of the resurrection in Mark 14:28 is confirmed by the angel in Mark 16:7--"He goeth before you (leading you as a shepherd) into Galilee: there shall ye see Him, as He said unto you". The author would say they had to go to the Galilee to see a vision, yet in Mark 16:6 the angel had just said, "Behold the place where they laid Him". He didn't say, "By the way, that's Jesus' body lying over there, but that doesn't matter because he rose spiritually". No, the body was missing; and that body, now living with eternal life, is what they would see in the Galilee. The author of "Secrets of Mount Sinai" does mention the phrase "the empty tomb", but he never really deals with it.
He also imples that because Matthew and Luke include touchable resurrection appearances and may have been written later than Mark, using Mark for their structure, therefore they are less reliable. Mark was associated with the apostle Peter, and the very early Church Father Papias stated that Mark acted as Peter's "interpreter". The content of Mark's gospel came from the preaching and teaching of Peter, so that we could very well call Mark's book "The Gospel According to Peter" (not to be confused with the apocryphal "Gospel of Peter"). However, even if you accept the theory of Markan priority, it's entirely possible that the apostle Matthew was the first to publish a gospel, written in Hebrew or Aramaic. He then read the later Mark in Greek, agreed with it, and reedited his own material using Mark as a basic structure to which he added his own eyewitness testimony and information from other sources. People in this ancient time were not as concerned with originality as we are today; "Just the facts, ma'am". (I'm not saying this is the exact way it actually happened, but it certainly could have, and something like it did). In addition, Luke interviewed people who were eyewitnesses, and consulted whatever sources he could find. For his own reasons Luke arranged Mark's account in order for the purposes of his gospel and incorporated additional material from his own careful research. So the resurrection accounts in Matthew and Luke are just as reliable as the one in Mark.

3. On page 195 the author quotes the seventh century "great orthodox mystic", St. Maximus the Confessor, as saying that the ultimate goal of ascetic Christianity is for human beings to become deified: "Man becomes God, thereby completely abandoning all that belongs to him by nature...". This is the opposite of God's will. God created man to be a part of nature, and provided for what is fallen in his nature to be redeemed, not abandoned. Also, in Jesus, God became a man, while yet remaining God. It is not that a man became God. "Man becomes God" is the primaeval lie of the serpent to Adam and Eve. The Holy Spirit will not take over and make this happen. because the concept is evil. Sadly, it has now been held up for us by a supposed saint as an expression of "holiness".
The author adds, "Fascinatingly enough, this notion of the resurrection is far more spiritual than the concept of a resurrected corpse with which many once erroneously supposed St Mark ended his Gospel". I beg to differ.

As I said, I surely wish I were able to recommend this book because of all of the good that is in it, but not if it would influence someone to believe these serious errors.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 10 Feb. 2016
By aromamaven - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Insightful story on "backstory" of our current Bible. Also, Epistle of Barnabas quite eye-opening.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Secrets of Mount Sinai 22 Nov. 2013
By william callan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is an excellent book and probes the religious aspects of the Codex Sinaiticus as well as the historical location of its preservation for many many centuries..
St Catherines is a fascinating place. I had the privilage of visiting the monastery and climbing Mt. Sinai in 2010 and I was most impressed by the fabulous chapel and the display of ancient manuscripts near the reception area. I was amazed to see a blank space reserved for the Codex Sinaiticus with a caption stating bluntly "STOLEN." The monks are still very adament that the book should be handed back even though the British Library looks after it so well and have it on public display.
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