The Chester Beatty 

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 (CB) in Dublin (formerly the Chester Beatty Library or CBL), 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 from July–August 2013, digitized all the Greek biblical papyri at the Chester Beatty Museum of World Treasures. The CB has granted permission to CSNTM to post the images.


The CB chose to collaborate with the CSNTM for a number of reasons. First and foremost was their experience, with on-site digitisation of fragile materials throughout the world.

As the digitisers are also New Testament scholars, they provided subject matter expertise relating to the digitised materials. This resulted in the provision of notes, documentation and detailed metadata corresponding to the digitised materials that the CBL did not have the resources to prepare during the project. 

–Fionnuala Croke

Director, Chester Beatty


The New Testament papyri at the CB 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 CB for the privilege of digitizing these priceless treasures. Their staff was extremely competent and a joy to work with. Kudos to Fionnuala Croke, Director of CB, for such a superb staff! This kind of collaboration is needed both for the preservation of biblical manuscripts and their accessibility by scholars.

Click to view the CSNTM Library