1st Century Gospel of Mark Fragment


(Friday Church News Notes, January 30, 2015, www.wayoflife.org, fbns@wayoflife.org,866-295-4143) by David Cloud

It appears that a first century fragment from the Gospel of Mark has been recovered from an Egyptian mummy. The fragment was part of the mummy’s face mask, which was composed of papyrus sheets glued together in layers and painted. Scientists and scholars led by Craig Evans of Acadia Divinity College have discovered how to loosen the glue and extract individual sheets with the original ink writings intact (“Ancient Biblical text discovered in an Egyptian mummy mask,” Science Alert, Jan. 20, 2015). Evans told Live Science, “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. From a single mask, it’s not strange to recover a couple dozen or even more. We’re going to end up with many hundreds of papyri when the work is done, if not thousands.” The team has dated the Gospel of Mark fragment to about AD 90, by carbon-14, by handwriting analysis, and by the documents found with it. When the document is published, possibly later this year, more will be revealed, including what portion of Mark is written on the papyrus. The dating will then be critiqued by other scholars. This appears to be amajor find. It could be the earliest fragment of the Gospels ever found, which would further authenticate the authenticity of the New Testament Scripture and provide yet more evidence to refute the old liberal theory that the Gospels were written long after the events. Currently, the oldest Gospel fragment is the Rylands Library P52 (P stands for papyrus), a portion of the Gospel of John dating to between AD 117 and 138. Previously, the oldest portion of Mark’s Gospel extant was P45, which is dated to AD 200-250.

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