'Oldest Known Gospel' Found in Mummy Mask

Researchers say Mark fragment pre-dates 90AD
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2015 2:59 PM CST

Ancients apparently used various papyrus documents to create mummy masks—including what may be the earliest known fragment of a New Testament gospel, LiveScience reports. Confirming information that leaked in 2012, professor Craig Evans says he's among the researchers who peeled apart the glued layers of a mummy mask and discovered a Gospel of Mark fragment dating to 90AD or earlier. That's at least a decade older than any known gospel copy, so the fragment could potentially show how the gospel was changed over time. The find will be published this year, but Evans won't say more because he's signed a non-disclosure agreement. In fact, he says, he's only talking now because another researcher already blabbed about it. "[We] have to honor the [privacy] request of the museums, universities, private owners, so forth," says Evans.

Other scholars are fuming over the practice of ungluing the ancient papyri, saying it destroys bona fide mummy masks. Evans is "totally oblivious to the destruction of archaeological material," writes an archaeologist in what LiveScience calls a "scathing blog post." (But Evans says the masks are just ordinary people's "low-end," papyrus-and-glue fare—not the Pharaohs' magnificent gold versions.) Another blogger contends that Josh McDowell, "a Christian evangelical apologist with no scholarly credentials," is part of the project and admits in a video "that he doesn't know what he is doing." Evans, however, says the team will recover hundreds "if not thousands" of papyri from the first three centuries AD, including Christian documents, "classical Greek texts, business papers ... personal letters" and copies of stories by Homer. (See why one historian says Homer "wasn't a person.")

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.