Konstantin von Tischendorf

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Konstantin von Tischendorf around 1870
Title page of the text of the Codex Sinaiticus published in 1862, published under the auspices of Tsar Alexander II in Saint Petersburg ( Petropolis )

Lobegott Friedrich Konstantin von Tischendorf (born January 18, 1815 in Lengenfeld , † December 7, 1874 in Leipzig ) was a German Protestant theologian and manuscript researcher. He became more widely known as the discoverer of the Codex Sinaiticus , the oldest completely preserved manuscript of the New Testament.


Tischendorf was the son of a doctor who came from a paper mill dynasty and enjoyed his first school education in Lengenfeld. From 1829 he attended the grammar school in Plauen . From 1834 on he studied theology and philology at the University of Leipzig . This, he graduated in 1838 with a doctorate from and two years later was able to, also in Leipzig, habilitation .

From 1838 to 1839 he was a teacher at Pastor Zehme's educational institution in Großstädteln near Leipzig. Here he met his future wife Angelika Zehme (1822–1905), the daughter of the house, whom he married in 1845. Eight children were born in the marriage, including the diplomat Paul Andreas (1847-1914), the lawyer Johannes (1850-1923) and the painter Angelika (1858-1917).

After completing his habilitation, he became a private lecturer , but was rarely active as such, but went on several extensive study trips to France , Great Britain , Italy and the Middle East . In 1845 he returned to Leipzig and began to evaluate his research results. At the end of 1845 Tischendorf was appointed associate professor and in 1851 honorary professor. Eight years later he was entrusted with the ordinariate of theology and biblical palaeography .

As one of the most important researchers of the text history of the New Testament , he contributed significantly to a scientifically proven Bible text. Among other things, he deciphered the Codex Ephraemi Syri , discovered the Codex Sinaiticus and researched the Septuagint . In addition to the texts of Bible manuscripts, he also published other manuscript texts, including a number of Apocryphal writings .

On May 5, 1873, Tischendorf suffered a stroke from which he did not recover. He died at the age of sixty on December 7, 1874 in Leipzig. Caspar René Gregory continued his work , who brought out his last publications posthumously.

On the occasion of his 200th birthday in January 2015, Tischendorf's hometown Lengenfeld commemorated the manuscript researcher with a large exhibition put together by Tischendorf biographer Alexander Schick (Sylt). Around 3000 visitors saw the exhibition. The festival publication Tischendorf and the oldest Bible in the world were published for the anniversary . The mayor of Lengenfeld intends to rename the city to "Tischendorfstadt Lengenfeld".

The Codex Sinaiticus

Catherine's Monastery, 2008

Throughout his life, Tischendorf looked for old Bible manuscripts because he saw it as his task to provide the theologians with a Greek New Testament, the text of which was based on the oldest manuscripts. He wanted to get as close as possible to the original sources. Tischendorf made his greatest discovery in the St. Katharinen Monastery on the Sinai Peninsula , which he visited in May 1844 and again in 1853 and 1859 with financial support from the Russian Tsar.

In 1862, Tischendorf published the text of the Codex Sinaiticus found there for the 1000th anniversary of the Russian monarchy in a splendid four-volume facsimile edition and also an inexpensive text edition, so that every theologian should be able to study the text of this ancient Bible manuscript himself.

Shortly after the Codex Sinaiticus was discovered, Tischendorf came up with the idea of ​​donating the manuscript to Tsar Alexander II to the monks. This idea was received positively, but could not be carried out immediately because the newly elected archbishop of the monastery was not confirmed by the patriarch in Jerusalem. Since the dispute over the person of the archbishop could not be resolved, Tischendorf had the manuscript on loan from the monastery in September 1859 for the purpose of publication against a Russian voucher (issued by Prince Lobanow-Rostowski , the Russian ambassador in Constantinople) Signing a receipt. This “receipt” is still shown in St. Catherine's Monastery to this day and has been the subject of heated discussion for decades, with Tischendorf being accused of theft. However, the receipt says: "The manuscript has been entrusted to me under the condition that is laid down in the ... letter from Mr. Lobanow of September 10, 1859 (No. 510)". This Russian voucher was rediscovered in 2004 in the old tsar's archives. There it says: “... before the newly elected chief [archbishop] knows that he is recognized by the High Porte , Mr Tischendorf wishes to take the manuscript with him as a loan to St. Petersburg so that he can check his copy on the original while it is being printed. In support of Mr. Tischendorf's wish, I declare that if it is deemed possible to agree, this manuscript will remain the property of the Brotherhood of Mount Sinai until the ruler officially presents it on behalf of the Brotherhood of His Imperial Majesty ".

Only about 10 years later (1868) was a new archbishop elected, who was recognized by the Jerusalem Patriarch and who then made the donation. With this donation, Tischendorf's loan receipt became obsolete. The monastery correctly sent Prince Lobanov's certificate back to Moscow. They just forgot to enclose Tischendorf's "receipt". All documents relating to this matter (including the deed of gift) are published on the Internet with images.


  • While he was still a student, Tischendorf was awarded prizes for writings made during the course of studies in 1836 and 1838 by the theological faculty of the University of Leipzig.
  • In 1843 he received an honorary doctorate from the Breslau Theological Faculty.
  • In 1865 the University of Cambridge appointed him Dr. of Law and Oxford University for Dr. of Civil Law.
  • In 1865 he became a Royal Saxon Privy Councilor.
  • In 1869 he was raised to the hereditary Russian nobility.
  • In 2003 the asteroid (48425) Tischendorf was named after him.

Fonts (selection)

Complete list of publications in Christfried Böttrich: Bibliography Konstantin von Tischendorf (1815–1874). Universitätsverlag, Leipzig 1999

Travel reports

  • 1846: Journey to the Orient. 2 volumes. Leipzig: Bernh. Tauchnitz jun.
    • Volume I: [Malta, Alexandria, Cairo, Sinai, Jerusalem] ( Google )
    • Volume II: [Jerusalem, Palestine, Beirut, Constantinople, Athens] ( Google )
      • English edition 1851 (anonymous): Travels in the East. By a pilgrim . London: Longman, Brown, Greene, and Longmans ( Google ) Modern reprint: Cambridge University Press 2011
  • 1862: From the Holy Land . Leipzig: FA Brockhaus ( Google )
    • French edition 1868: Terre-Sainte. Avec les souvenirs de sai le Grand-duc Constantin . Paris: C. Reinwald ( Google )

Editions and text history of the NT

The edition of the Codex Ephraemi Syri rescriptus, produced with great effort, established Tischendorf's reputation as an editor of Bible manuscripts. It is a difficult to decipher palimpsest and at the same time an important biblical manuscript from the 5th century. One of his most important works is the 1869-1872 in two volumes published critical octave edition of the Greek text of the New Testament ( Editio octava critica maior ) accompanied by a critical apparatus with all text variants that he and his predecessors in manuscripts and Fathers had found .


  • Caspar René Gregory:  Tischendorf, Constantin . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 38, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1894, pp. 371-373.
  • Matthew Black, Robert Davidson: Constantin von Tischendorf and the Greek New Testament . University of Glasgow Press, Glasgow 1981
  • Christfried Böttrich : Tischendorf reading book. Biblical Research in Adventures. Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Leipzig 1999. ISBN 3-374-01744-4 (Contains, among other things, several of Tischendorf's letters to his wife and offers important source material).
  • Christfried Böttrich , Sabine Fahl, Dieter Fahl: The dossier of the Russian Minister Golovnin from 1862 on the question of the “Codex Sinaiticus” . In: Scriptorium 63/2, 2009, pp. 288–326.
  • Christfried Böttrich : The find of the century. Discovery and history of the Codex Sinaiticus . Leipzig 2011, ISBN 978-3-374-02586-2 .
  • Christfried Böttrich : One Story - Different Perspectives. The Case of the Codex Sinaiticus . In: Scot McKendrick, David Parker, Amy David Myshrall, Cillian O'Hogan (Eds.): Codex Sinaiticus - New Perspectives on the Ancient Biblical Manuscript . London 2015. (Proceedings of the July 2009 conference at the British Library, London).
  • Jürgen Gottschlich : The Bible hunter. The adventurous search for the original version of the New Testament. Links, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-86153-594-2 (popular science description).
    • English edition: The Bible Hunter. The Quest for the Original New Testament . Ex. John Brownjohn. House Publishing Limited, London 2013.
  • Andreas Höhn: From towns to the Sinai - an obsessive traveler . In: Leipziger Volkszeitung , February 22, 2011, p. 19.
  • Stanley E. Porter: Constantine Tischendorf. The Life and Work of a 19th Century Bible Hunter. Including Constantine Tischendorf's When Were Our Gospels Written? Bloomsbury, London - New York 2015.
  • Alexander Schick: Tischendorf and the oldest Bible in the world - The discovery of the Codex Sinaiticus in the Katharinenkloster . Jota Verlag, Muldenhammer 2015, ISBN 978-3-935707-80-0 .
  • Otto Schlisske: The treasure in the desert monastery. The adventurous discovery of the oldest Bible manuscript by Constantin von Tischendorf. Kreuz-Verlag, Stuttgart 1953.
  • Ludwig Schneller : Tischendorf memories. Strange story of a lost manuscript. Memories of his son-in-law. Leipzig 1927, 1929; Schweikardt-St. Johannis, Lahr-Dinglingen 1954, 1983, 1991. ISBN 3-501-00100-2 (detailed history of the discovery of the Codex Sinaiticus).
  • Ihor Ševĉenko: "New documents on Constantine Tischendorf and the Codex Sinaiticus" . In: Scriptorium 18 (1964), pp. 55-80 ( pdf ).
  • Tischendorf . In: Deutsches Adelsarchiv (Hrsg.): Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels . tape 131 of the complete series, Adelslexikon Volume XIV. CA Starke, Limburg an der Lahn 2003, OCLC 249494278 , p. 463 .

Web links

Wikisource: Constantin von Tischendorf  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Konstantin von Tischendorf  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

See also

Individual evidence

  1. DNB 122739159
  2. ^ The History of the acquisition of the Sinai Bible by the Russian Government in the context of recent findings in Russian archives . (English internet edition). The article by AV Zacharowa was first published in: Montfaucon: Études de paleographie, de codicologie et de diplomatique . Moscow / St. Petersburg 2007, pp. 209–266. Alexander Schick: Tischendorf and the oldest Bible in the world. The discovery of the Codex Sinaiticus in the Katharinenkloster, Muldenhammer 2015, pp. 123–128 and pp. 145–155.
  3. ^ The History of the acquisition of the Sinai Bible by the Russian Government in the context of recent findings in Russian archives . (English internet edition).