Constantin von Tischendorf

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Lobegott Friedrich Constantin (von) Tischendorf (January 18, 1815 – December 7, 1874) was a noted German Biblical scholar. He deciphered the Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, a 5th century Greek manuscript of the New Testament, in the 1840s, and rediscovered the Codex Sinaiticus, a 4th century New Testament manuscript, in 1859.

Tischendorf exemplified the buccaneer image of 19th century archaeology in his pursuit of unknown manuscripts. Alongside his industry in collecting and collating manuscripts, Tischendorf pursued a constant course of editorial labours, mainly on the New Testament, until he was broken down by overwork in 1873.



Tischendorf was born in Lengenfeld, Saxony, near Plauen, the son of a physician. Beginning in 1834, he spent his scholarly career at the University of Leipzig where he was mainly influenced by JGB Winer, and he began to take special interest in New Testament criticism. Winer's influence gave him the desire to use the oldest manuscripts in order to compile the text of the New Testament as close to the original as possible.[1] In 1838 he took the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, then became master at a school near Leipzig.

After a journey through southern Germany and Switzerland, and a visit to Strassburg, he returned to Leipzig, and set to work upon a critical study of the New Testament text. In 1840 he qualified as university lecturer in theology with a dissertation on the recensions of the New Testament text — the main part of which reappeared the following year in the prolegomena to his first edition of the Greek New Testament. His critical apparatus included variant readings from earlier scholars — Elsevier, Knapp, Scholz, and as recent as Lachmann — whereby his researches were emboldened to depart from the received text as used in churches.

These early textual studies convinced him of the absolute necessity of new and more exact collations of manuscripts. From October 1840 until January 1843 he was in Paris, busy with the treasures of the Bibliothèque Nationale, eking out his scanty means by making collations for other scholars, and producing for the publisher, Firmin Didot, several editions of the Greek New Testament — one of them exhibiting the form of the text corresponding most closely to the Vulgate. His second edition retracted the more precarious readings of the first, and included a statement of critical principles that is a landmark for evolving critical studies of Biblical texts.[2]

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