I’ve selected this piece from the terrific website of the Trinity Network ( http://www.trinity.ie/CMS/) in Dublin, written by their dynamic senior leader Fergus Ryan. I came across some teaching tapes by Fergus many years ago on the Kingdom of God and it was some of the most refreshing and challenging material I had heard in an Irish context. Later he cropped up on the radio in an interview with Pat Kenny and again I was so impressed at the way he handled himself and the authentic manner in which he communicated the gospel. Fergus was formerly an airline pilot and studied theology at Trinity College. Nowadays apparently as well as his leadership role he enjoys painting.
The astonishing hoard of Biblical manuscripts had been uncovered near Cairo between 1928 and 1930, and purchased by Mr Chester Beatty. It soon became clear just how significant it was. Here was a book containing the earliest copies of the four Gospels and Acts, a century earlier than any others in existence. Another book contained most of Paul’s letters. These had survived the great destruction of sacred books ordered by Emperor Diocletian in AD 303. But not only do the Chester Beatty manuscripts contain New Testament texts, but Greek translations of parts of the Old Testament which are even older than some of the existing Hebrew texts. Here is almost the entire book of Genesis (missing from London and Rome) and the larger part of the book of Daniel (at least 700 years older than the copy in the Vatican).
In 1953 Sir Chester Beatty chose to make Dublin his home, and donated his wonderful collection of Biblical and other oriental manuscripts and European old master prints to Ireland. Amongst the latter are Albrecht Durer’s famous woodcuts of scenes from the Book of Revelation. In 1959 Pope John XXIII wrote to Sir Chester expressing his ‘pleasure and satisfaction’ at his contribution to Biblical study.
The Chester Betty papyri are amongst Ireland’s most precious treasures. But the most precious of all is the ordinary English translation of these wonderful documents on our own bookshelf at home. This too is the very breath of God, ‘the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.’ (Paul’s second letter to Timothy)