4 February 1859

The Codex Sinaiticus is first discovered in Egypt.

On 4 February 1859, the Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in Egypt, in the Monastery of Saint Catherine, by the Leipzig archaeologist Constantin von Tischendorf. The Codex Sinaiticus is an ancient handwritten copy of the Greek Bible, and alongside the Codex Vaticanus, it is the finest Greek text of the New Testament. Also including much of the Old Testament, it is an inestimably important document in the history of Christianity. The Codex was written sometime in the 4th century between 325 and 360 AD, and is an Alexandrian text-type manuscript. The exact circumstances in which it ended up in an Egyptian monastery are still unknown; some think it may actually have been written in Egypt, while others say it was more likely written in Rome.

Constantin von Tischendorf paid his first visit to the Monastery of Saint Catherine in 1844, and discovered some parchments from an important ancient document, the Septuagint, casually discarded in a wastepaper basket. The German archaeologist was allowed to bring them back to his homeland, and deposited them in the Leipzig University Library. He returned for a second time in 1853, and then a third time in 1859—on this occasion under the patronage of the Russian Tsar Alexander II, who was extremely eager to recover any other lost manuscripts from the distant Sinai monastery. Indeed, von Tischendorf went on to discover one of the most important religious documents in existence, on 4 February.

The reason that the Codex Sinaiticus is so important is because it contains the earliest complete copy of the Christian New Testament, hand-written in the old Greek vernacular language of koine. In addition, the Codex also includes the Septuagint, an early translation of the Hebrew Bible that was adopted as the Old Testament by early Greek-speaking Christians. No other early version of the Bible has been so extensively annotated and corrected, and these corrections range from changes made by the original scribes in the 4th century to those made by monks in the 12th century. Thus it provides an invaluable insight into the history of book-making, the history of the Bible, and the reconstruction of the Bible’s original text.

Constantin von Tischendorf certainly provided immense assistance to generations of Christian scholars by bringing the Codex Sinaiticus from the Monastery of Saint Catherine to the Leipzig University Library. However, there is still a great, and unresolved, controversy over exactly how he extracted the Codex from the monks. And, to this day, the monastery still maintains that it was essentially stolen from them by a duplicitous German academic.

4 February 1974

The Symbionese Liberation Army kidnaps Patty Hearst in Berkeley, California.

On February 4, 1974, Patty Hearst, the 19-year-old daughter of newspaper publisher Randolph Hearst, is kidnapped from her apartment in Berkeley, California, by two black men and a white woman, all three of whom are armed. Her fiance, Stephen Weed, was beaten and tied up along with a neighbor who tried to help. Witnesses reported seeing a struggling Hearst being carried away blindfolded, and she was put in the trunk of a car. Neighbors who came out into the street were forced to take cover after the kidnappers fired their guns to cover their escape.

Three days later, the Symbionese Liberation Army, a small U.S. leftist group, announced in a letter to a Berkeley radio station that it was holding Hearst as a “prisoner of war.” Four days later, the SLA demanded that the Hearst family give $70 in foodstuffs to every needy person from Santa Rosa to Los Angeles. This done, said the SLA, negotiation would begin for the return of Patricia Hearst. Randolph Hearst hesitantly gave away some $2 million worth of food. The SLA then called this inadequate and asked for $6 million more. The Hearst Corporation said it would donate the additional sum if the girl was released unharmed.

In April, however, the situation changed dramatically when a surveillance camera took a photo of Hearst participating in an armed robbery of a San Francisco bank, and she was also spotted during a robbery of a Los Angeles store. She later declared, in a tape sent to the authorities, that she had joined the SLA of her own free will.

On May 17, Los Angeles police raided the SLA’s secret headquarters, killing six of the group’s nine known members. Among the dead was the SLA’s leader, Donald DeFreeze, an African American ex-convict who called himself General Field Marshal Cinque. Patty Hearst and two other SLA members wanted for the April bank robbery were not on the premises.

Finally, on September 18, 1975, after crisscrossing the country with her captors–or conspirators–for more than a year, Hearst, or “Tania” as she called herself, was captured in a San Francisco apartment and arrested for armed robbery. Despite her claim that she had been brainwashed by the SLA, she was convicted on March 20, 1976, and sentenced to seven years in prison. She served 21 months before her sentence was commuted by President Carter. After leaving prison, she returned to a more routine existence and later married her bodyguard. She was pardoned by President Clinton in January 2001.

4 February 1859

The Codex Sinaiticus is discovered in Egypt.

On this day in 1859, the Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in Egypt, in the Monastery of Saint Catherine, by the Leipzig archaeologist Constantin von Tischendorf. The Codex Sinaiticus is an ancient handwritten copy of the Greek Bible, and alongside the Codex Vaticanus, it is the finest Greek text of the New Testament. Also including much of the Old Testament, it is an inestimably important document in the history of Christianity. The Codex was written sometime in the 4th century (between 325 and 360 AD), and is an Alexandrian text-type manuscript. The exact circumstances in which it ended up in an Egyptian monastery are still unknown; some think it may actually have been written in Egypt, while others say it was more likely written in Rome.

Constantin von Tischendorf paid his first visit to the Monastery of Saint Catherine in 1844, and discovered some parchments from an important ancient document, the Septuagint, casually discarded in a wastepaper basket. The German archaeologist was allowed to bring them back to his homeland, and deposited them in the Leipzig University Library. He returned for a second time in 1853, and then a third time in 1859—on this occasion under the patronage of the Russian Tsar Alexander II, who was extremely eager to recover any other lost manuscripts from the distant Sinai monastery. Indeed, von Tischendorf went on to discover one of the most important religious documents in existence, on 4 February.