1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Tischendorf, Lobegott Friedrich Konstantin von

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TISCHENDORF, LOBEGOTT FRIEDRICH KONSTANTIN VON (1815-1874), German biblical critic, the son of a physician, was born on the 18th of January 1815 at Lengenfeld, near Plauen, in the Saxon Vogtland. From the gymnasium at Plauen he passed in 1834 to the university of Leipzig, where he was mainly influenced by J. G. B. Winer (1789-1858), and began to take special interest in New Testament criticism. In 1838 he took the degree of doctor of philosophy, and 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, following the guidance of Karl Lachmann. In 1840 he qualified as university lecturer in theology with a dissertation on the recension's of the New Testament text, the main part of which reappeared in the following year in the prolegomena to his first edition of the New Testament. These early textual studies convinced him of the absolute necessity of new and exacter collations of MSS. From October 1840 till January 1843 he was in Paris, busy with the treasures of the great library, eking out his scanty means by making collations for other scholars, and producing for the publisher, F. Didot, several editions of the Greek New Testament, one of them exhibiting the form of the text corresponding most closely to the Vulgate. The great triumph of these laborious months was the decipherment of the palimpsest Codex Ephraemi Syri Rescriptus, of which the New Testament part was printed before he left Paris and the Old Testament in 1845. His success in dealing with a MS. much of which, owing to the fact that it had been rewritten with the works of Ephraem Syrus, had been illegible to earlier collators, brought him into note and gained support for more extended critical expeditions. From Paris he had paid short visits to Holland (1841) and England (1842). In 1843 he visited Italy, and after a stay of thirteen months went on to Egypt, Sinai, Palestine and the Levant, returning by Vienna and Munich.[1] From Sinai he brought a great treasure, forty-three leaves of what is now known as the Codex Sinaiticus. He kept the place of discovery a secret, and the fragments were published in 1846 as the Codex Friderico-Augustanus, a name given in honour of the king of Saxony. He now became professor extraordinarius in Leipzig, and married (1845). In the same year he began to publish an account of his travels in the East (2 vols., 1845-1846). In 1850 appeared his edition of the Codex Amiatinus and of the Septuagint version of the Old Testament (7th ed., 1887); in 1852, amongst other works, his edition of the Codex Claromontanus. In 1853 and 1859 he made a second and a third voyage to the East. In the last of these, in which he had the active aid of the Russian government, he at length got access to the remainder of the precious Sinaitic codex, and persuaded the monks to present it to the tsar, at whose cost it was published in 1862 (in four folio volumes). In 1869 he was given the style of “von” Tischendorf as a Russian noble. Meanwhile, in 1859, he had been made professor ordinaries of theology and of biblical paleography, this latter professorship being specially created for him; and another book of travel, Aus dem heiligen Lande, appeared in 1862. Tischendorf's Eastern journeys were rich enough in other discoveries to deserve the highest praise.[2] Side by side with his industry in collecting and collating MSS., Tischendorf pursued a constant course of editorial labours, mainly on the New Testament, until he was broken down by overwork in 1873. He died on the 7th of December 1874 at Leipzig.

The great edition, of which the text and apparatus appeared in 1869 and 1872,[3] was called by himself editio viii.; but this number is raised to twenty or twenty-one if mere reprints from stereotype plates and the minor editions of his great critical texts are included; posthumous prints bring up the total to forty-one. Four main recension's of Tischendorf's text may be distinguished, dating respectively from his editions of 1841, 1849, 1859 (ed. vii.), 1869-1872 (ed. viii.). The edition of 1849 may be regarded as historically the most important from the mass of new critical material it used; that of 1859 is distinguished from Tischendorf's other editions by coming nearer to the received text; in the 8th edition the testimony of the Sinaitic MS. received great (probably too great) weight. The readings of the Vatican MS. were given with more exactness and certainty than had been possible in the earlier editions, and the editor had also the advantage of using the published labours of S. P. Tregelles.

Much less important was Tischendorf's work on the Greek Old Testament. His edition of the Roman text, with the variants of the Alexandrian MS., the Codex Ephraemi and the Friderico-Augustanus, was of service when it appeared in 1850, but, being stereotyped, was not greatly improved in subsequent issues. Its imperfections, even within the limited field it covers, may be judged by the aid of C. E. Nestle's appendix to the 6th issue (1880). Besides this may be mentioned editions of the New Testament Apocrypha [De Evangeliorum apocryphorum origine et usu (1851); Acta Apostolorum apocrypha (1851); Evangelia apocrypha (1853; 2nd ed., 1876); Apocalypses apocryphae (1866)] and various minor writings, in part of an apologetic character, such as Wann wurden unsere Evangelien verfasst? (1865; 4th ed., 1866), Haben wir den echten Schrifttext der Evangelisten und Apostel? (1873), and Synopsis evangelica (7th ed., 1898).

See, in addition to the handbooks on New Testament criticism, Carl Bertheau's article on Tischendorf in Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopädie (3rd ed., 1907).


  1. See his Reise in den Orient (Leipzig, 1845-1846).
  2. The MSS. brought to Europe on the first two journeys are catalogued in the Anecdota sacra et profana (Leipzig, 1855, enlarged 1861). See also the Monumenta sacra inedita (Leipzig, 1846), and Nova collectio of the same (1855-1869). The 3rd volume of the Nova collectio gives the results of his last Eastern journey.
  3. The prolegomena remained unfinished at his death, and have been supplied by C. R. Gregory (cf. his Textkritik des Neuen Testamentes, vol. i., 1900).