Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Chester Beatty Library Expedition: Guestpost by Peter Malik

The following is a report by Peter Malik, who was invited to join the CSNTM expedition to photograph the Chester Beatty papyri – photos which have just been published on-line (see previous post). A nice videoclip from the expedition in which Peter appears has also been published by the CSNTM.

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At the end of July 2013, I was privileged to join the CSNTM team led by Dan Wallace and spend a couple of days (July 29–31) at Chester Beatty Library, studying P47, the earliest extensive manuscript of the book of Revelation. The invitation to join was due to friendly supportive efforts of one of the ETC’s Blogmeisters, Dr. Tommy Wasserman, who—without my prior knowledge of his cunning plans (!)—essentially set everything up, so I could come to CBL and study the MS while Dan and his team would be shooting it.

Besides simply being interested in the NT MSS in general and in the early papyri in particular, the main reason why I went to CBL to inspect P47 is that this MS is the main subject of my doctoral thesis, supervised by Dr. Peter M. Head (the other Blogmeister). Quite surprisingly, very little has been written on P47. Royse (Scribal Habits, 359) tells us that “[t]here have been remarkably few studies devoted to P47, and most of the attention given to it has concentrated on its textual relationships,” and Parker (Introduction, 234) further observes “[t]here seems to be no thorough palaeographical study of this codex.” Hence, I decided to take this challenge (at this partially) and take a closer look to see if more could be said about this MS, its scribe, and its text.

During my brief stay, I tried to check the discrepancies I found (having studied the images at VMR) especially in the editio princeps, Comfort & Barrett, and Royse. From the high-resolution images and, moreover, from the autopsy it soon became clear that much more can be seen in the MS than from Kenyon’s great, but dated edition.

Besides having fun with simply seeing the real thing in its own right, main highlights of the trip included several unspotted corrections (mostly of one letter), being able to observe much more transparent signs of scribal re-inking (at times virtually untraceable in the editio princeps, though now quite clearly visible in the images), and Dan’s kind offer to make microscopic and UV photographs of the more problematical spots. All I can say now is that I’ve got a lot of material to work with, and I know already that I’ll have to come to CBL again! I also can’t forget to mention that the new images produced by the CSNTM folks (finally on both white and black backgrounds) are of much superior quality to those made previously, so there’s a lot to be excited about in that regard as well.

Overall, it was all great fun. Among others, I owe my gratitude to those above mentioned folks, who made this trip possible, including my supervisor, who encouraged me to pursue this project as well as to see the MS. I also thank my college (Peterhouse) for providing all the necessary funding.


  1. A nice post Peter.
    Many thanks to Dr. Daniel Wallace and his team at CSNTM for the high quality pictures and to the folks at the Chester Beatty Library for posting these treasures online.

  2. Well done, Peter! Sounds like it was a great opportunity. I may have some questions for you re. P47 now! Will you be at SBL this year?
    --Zach Cole

  3. Thanks for the kind words, Zach. It's all just in the humble beginnings at this point. But I shall be at SBL. Do you plan to be at the ETC dinner? At any rate, my (probably accurate) guess is that you'll be at all the NT TC sessions, so we'll have plenty of opportunities to meet up. Btw, congratulations on your paper. I'm looking forward to it (and I, too, may have some questions with respect to W).

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