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Some of oldest surviving biblical manuscripts go on display in Dublin's Chester Beatty Library

First Corinthians 14:34 - 15:5 of Pauline Epistles on display at the Chester Beatty library in Dublin. Picture by Brian Lawless, Press Association
Ed Carty

Some of the oldest surviving biblical manuscripts are on display in Dublin.

The texts, which caused a global sensation in 1931 when they were bought by Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, contain both Old and New Testament books and date from 200 to 400AD.

And as Easter approaches, the library named in the collector's honour is showing St Paul's Letter To The Corinthians, which recounts how Jesus Christ died, was buried and rose again.

Jill Unkel, curator of the Western Collection at the Chester Beatty Library, said: "It's a very, very significant collection.

"It's the earliest collection of Pauline epistles on book. There are surviving fragments dated earlier but it's the earliest known collection.

"They are really important finds for biblical scholars, for Christian scholars and for a lot of Christians who come to the library to see these texts."

The manuscripts were written in Greek on papyri in Egypt and contain no illustrations.

They were said to have been found on the banks of the Nile in the 1920s, although the exact location is unknown.

It took Sir Alfred Chester Beatty the best part of a decade to gather all the manuscripts by contacting dealers in Cairo and elsewhere.

It is believed that they were written by Christian scholars for the elite who had converted to the faith or for the hierarchy to promote the religion.

Among them are The Book Of Numbers, which was the oldest surviving book of the Bible until the Dead Sea Scrolls were unearthed.

There is also the oldest manuscript of Paul's letters (dated AD200) and the oldest surviving codex or book containing all four Gospels and the Acts Of The Apostles.

Parts of the collection are on permanent display in the library.

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