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Oldest gospel in the world discovered in Egyptian mummy mask

Researchers have found what might be the oldest copy of a gospel—a fragment of the Gospel of Mark—in the papyrus used to make a mummy mask. They speculate that the fragment may date back to the first century CE.
Pharaoh mummy masks are usually made of gold, but masks worn by ordinary people were made of papyrus or linen, and glue. People usually reused sheets because papyrus was expensive during that time.
Scientists have recently developed a way to dissolve the glue holding a mummy mask together, allowing them to separate sheets of papyrus without harming the ink used to write on them.
Craig Evans, professor of New Testament studies at Acadia Divinity College in Nova Scotia, said that the first-century gospel is just one of hundreds of new texts being uncovered using this new technique. Some of the documents discovered had dates on them, allowing the researchers to estimate the age of the other documents in the same mask.
The fragment of the Gospel of Mark in question was dated through a combination of carbon-14 dating, studying the handwriting, and analyzing the documents found in the same mask. This led researchers to conclude that the fragment was created before the year 90.
“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.
Some scholars are debating whether or not the destruction of the mummy masks is worth the recovery of the documents used to make them. Evans argues that the masks are not “museum-quality” pieces anyway, and some are simply pieces of cartonnage.

Cartonnage is produced by soaking linen strips in glue and then covering a head-shaped model or the head of the mummy with the strips.
Evans said that he can’t say much more about the age of the text because of a non-disclosure agreement regarding the study. The scientists involved are limited in what they can share about the study until the formal publication of the research.
The first volume of texts obtained from the masks and cartonnage is set for publication later in 2015. — Bea Montenegro/TJD, GMA News