Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New High-Resolution Photographs of Ancient New Testament Manuscripts to be Available

Chester Beatty Papyri
Stunning, high-resolution images of the most ancient New Testament
manuscripts will soon be available for viewing on the Web.
Daniel Wallace and Larry Hurtado, among others, are reporting that Wallace’s Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) website will soon carry high, high-resolution images (up to 120 MB each) of the famous Chester Beatty papyri, which are among the oldest manuscripts of New Testament documents available.

(No word yet on the supposedly forthcoming first-century manuscript fragment from the Gospel of Mark).

These papyri are a real treasure – according to Michael Kruger (Canon Revisited), these and other manuscripts themselves are some of the earliest physical evidence of early Christianity that we have.

[They] hold tremendous potential in helping us understand the origins and development of the New Testament canon. For one, we have collections of New Testament books within a single manuscript that date to the second and third centuries, earlier than the time of many of our canonical “lists”. Moreover, many of the physical and visual features of these manuscripts—the codex form, scribal hand, and other inscriptional features—together provide a fresh window into the literary culture of early Christianity and how Christians would have viewed and used these texts (pg 234).

According to Wallace:

The New Testament papyri at the CBL (Chester Beatty Library) 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.

If you’re a student of the New Testament, this is exciting stuff. This library of photography will provide new and exciting insights into the world of the ancient church.

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