Ancient biblical manuscripts being digitised in Dublin

Some of the oldest and most important known biblical manuscripts have been digitally photographed to preserve them for future generations.

The Chester Beatty Papyri include the oldest known manuscript of Paul's letters, dated to around AD 200, the oldest manuscript of Mark's Gospel and portions of the other Gospels and Acts dating to the third century AD, as well as the oldest manuscript of Revelation, also dating to the third century. At least one of the Old Testament document in the collection dates back to the second century AD.

The manuscripts are housed at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin and were digitalised over the summer by the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM), an organisation devoted to preserving ancient biblical texts for future generations.

Dr Daniel B Wallace, Executive Director of CSNTM, headed the six-man team that worked at the library over four weeks in July and August to produce 5,100 digital images, including all of the Greek New Testament manuscripts at the library and some early texts that theologians do not consider divinely inspired, such as the Book of Enoch.

The painstaking work included using specially designed equipment to cradle the manuscripts while they were being digitised in order not to damage them.

"The photographs, made with state-of-the-art digital equipment, reveal some text that has not been seen since ancient times," said Dr Wallace.

CSNTM will post the images on its website later this year.

Dr Wallace offered a special thanks to the staff at the Chester Beatty Library.

"This kind of collaboration is needed for the preservation of biblical manuscripts and their accessibility by scholars," he said.