The Chester Beatty Papyri at CSNTM!

The Chester Beatty papyri, published in the 1930s and 1950s, are some of the oldest and most important biblical manuscripts known to exist. Housed at the Chester Beatty Library (CBL) in Dublin, they have attracted countless visitors every year. It is safe to say that the only Greek biblical manuscripts that might receive more visitors are Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus, both on display at the British Library.

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) is pleased to announce that a six-person team, in a four-week expedition during July–August 2013, digitized all the Greek biblical papyri at the Chester Beatty Library. The CBL has granted permission to CSNTM to post the images on their website (, which will happen before the end of the year.

The New Testament papyri at the CBL include the oldest manuscript of Paul’s letters (dated c. AD 200), the oldest manuscript of Mark’s Gospel and portions of the other Gospels and Acts (third century), and the oldest manuscript of Revelation (third century). One or two of the Old Testament papyri are as old as the second century AD.

Using state-of-the-art digital equipment, CSNTM photographed each manuscript against white and black backgrounds. The result was stunning. Each image is over 120 megabytes. The photographs reveal some text that has not been seen before.

Besides the papyri, CSNTM also digitized all of the Greek New Testament manuscripts at the CBL as well as several others, including some early apocryphal texts. The total number of images came to more than 5100.

CSNTM is grateful to the CBL for the privilege of digitizing these priceless treasures. The staff were extremely competent and a joy to work with. Kudos to Dr. Fionnuala Croke, Director of CBL, for such a superb staff! This kind of collaboration is needed both for the preservation of biblical manuscripts and their accessibility by scholars.


Daniel B. Wallace, PhD

Executive Director

Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts

5 Responses to “The Chester Beatty Papyri at CSNTM!”

  1. I don’t want to sound cynical, but so what?

    Skeptics rarely deny the early appearance of Biblical Papyri. What they deny is that the stories reported within them accurately describe the events.

    Impressive would be a papyrus of Marc’s Gospel between 50 and 60 BC.

    Friendly greetings from Europe.
    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

  2. Yes, that would be impressive! But you are being quite unrealistic about the data. The New Testament is better attested–with more and earlier manuscripts–than any other Greco-Roman writing. By far. The date of the earliest (fragmentary) manuscripts for the average classical author is more than five centuries removed from the original. By that time, we have the whole New Testament reproduced multiple times in the manuscript testimony. If skeptics were consistent, they would have to be, on average, 1000 times more skeptical about the text of the average classical Greek author than they are about the New Testament text. Your comments show that there is no consistent logic among skeptics.

  3. PS I just noticed: you said between 50 and 60 BC. That would not just be impressive, it would be impossible!

  4. Lothars Sohn says: “Skeptics rarely deny the early appearance of Biblical Papyri.”

    Not any more they don’t. They used to, but the papyri put a stop to it. So that is the answer to your “so what”.

  5. Kudos by the thousands for You Dr. Wallace and your team for taking on this task and for what you have already done, and will do in the future! Only God Himself can really reward you for the blessing you and your team are for anybody really serious about the Word of God and it’s transmission through the ages. How wonderful not to have the need to have to hide anything! How great to have people who reveal everything available! God bless you all!

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