A text that may be the oldest copy of a gospel known to exist — a fragment of the Gospel of Mark that was written during the first century, before the year 90 — is set to be published. At present, the oldest surviving copies of the gospel texts date to the second century (the years 101 to 200). This first-century gospel fragment was written on a sheet of papyrus that was later reused to create a mask that was worn by a mummy. Although the mummies of Egyptian pharaohs wore masks made of gold, ordinary people had to settle for masks made out of papyrus (or linen), paint and glue. Given how expensive papyrus was, people often had to reuse sheets that already had writing on them. In recent years scientists have developed a technique that allows the glue of mummy masks to be undone without harming the ink on the paper. The text on the sheets can then be read. The first-century gospel is one of hundreds of new texts that a team of about three-dozen scientists and scholars is working to uncover, and analyze, by using this technique of ungluing the masks, said Craig Evans, a professor of New Testament studies at Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. "We're recovering ancient documents from the first, second and third centuries. Not just Christian documents, not just biblical documents, but classical Greek texts, business papers, various mundane papers, personal letters," Evans told Live Science. The documents include philosophical texts and copies of stories by the Greek poet Homer. [See Images of Early Christian Inscriptions and Artifacts] The business and personal letters sometimes have dates on them, he said. When the glue was dissolved, the researchers dated the first-century gospel in part by analyzing the other documents found in the same mask.Lots more at the link. Suffice it to say that as of right now, we don't know how much of the text there is, nor what it says. The text is supposed to be published later this year, but was originally scheduled to be published a couple of years ago, and was held up for some unknown reason. Nor do we know how it compares to the accepted version of Mark that we have.
Here’s a rather skeptical article from CNN. The fact that the publishing date has been pushed back to 2017 is a little odd to me. Especially given how long they’ve been talking about it. And how little. Granted, I’m a layman and I understand wanting to dot your I’s and cross your T’s and all, but it still smells a little hinky to me.
And I’m not sure how I feel about ruining these masks in the first place. It reminds me too much of the 19th century. “Screw you Everyone Else! We want Jesus!”
Fixed a typo.
Yeah, I’m not surprised that there’s questions, and even if it’s legit, it proves nothing about if Jesus was real or not. The destruction of the masks isn’t a good thing, but even if the scraps recovered are nothing more than the balance sheets from a bar, they still can teach us a lot. And after all, it’s not like we’re using them as locomotive fuel as happened with mummies in the 19th century.
Or worse: tonics and patent medicines.