This may be the oldest copy of a Gospel to ever exist. A piece of the Gospel of Mark, dating back to 90 A.D. was found in a papyrus-wrapped mummy mask. The oldest surviving copies before this discovery were Biblical gospel texts dating back to 101 to 200 A.D.
The papyrus sheet the text was written on was reused for the mummy mask.
Many believe that mummies have the golden masks, encrusted with jewels, but that level of mummification was reserved for the wealthy or royalty. Most people’s masks were made out of recycled material like papyrus, according to SmithsonianMag.com.
In order to retrieve the text without damaging it, the research team applied a method of ungluing the papyrus without obscuring the paper’s ink. About three-dozen researchers are using this technique to analyze hundreds of texts from mummy masks.
“We’re recovering ancient documents from the first, second and third centuries,” Craig Evans, a professor of New Testament studies at Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, told Live Science.
Evans is part of a large team of researchers working on the project, which is based in Oklahoma City. “The scholars involved are from all over the world,” he told FoxNews.com.
The academic said that the team has uncovered documents from a range of eras. These include not just Christian texts, but classical Greek texts like copies of stories by Homer and even personal letters.
Fox News says for the researchers examining the mummy mask, the text’s discovery marks a significant achievement. Evans said that the text could offer clues about how the Gospel of Mark might have changed over time.
A first volume of the various texts found on the mummies will be published by the researchers later this year. How cool is that?
Written by Katie McGuire. Follow Katie on Twitter @GOPKatie