First century text from the Gospel of Mark found in mummy mask

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
This mummy mask was one of the masks that the researchers took apart to reveal ancient papyri. This mummy mask is similar to the one that contained the first century gospel fragment. | PINTEREST/Craig Evans

NOVA SCOTIA, Canada (Christian Examiner) -- A team of scholars from Acadia Divinity College claim they may have found a fragment of the Gospel of Mark that dates back to the first century and they expect the find will reveal insight on whether the book's account of Christ changed over time.

According to Craig Evans, one of the researchers involved in the discovery, the biblical text is dated before 90 A.D.

Live Science first reported the writings were found on a sheet of papyrus used to create a mummy mask. While gold was the material of choice for the mummification of Egyptian Pharaohs, the masks of ordinary people were made of papyrus or reused papyrus sheets if new ones were too expensive.

Specifics of the findings have not yet been revealed because of a nondisclosure agreement signed by the roughly 36-member discovery team which keeps full details under wraps until they are published later this year.

But from a cultural perspective, even the use of the text to create the mask is telling.

"If you're a pagan with no respect for the Christians, you use their writings as trash and you make papier mache masks out of their stuff. And their new stuff includes the New Testament," Evans said according to the Washington Post.

The scholar explained the discovery was made possible because scientists developed a process for ungluing the mummy masks without damaging the ink of writings on the papyrus sheets used to create them.

While the process raises some controversy because it destroys the masks, he said the masks are not museum quality and many are "simply pieces of cartonnage" and he feels the results could be staggering.

"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.

This is the second time claims that the first-century Gospel text exists. A previous account was announced by Dallas Theological Seminary's New Testament scholar Daniel B. Wallace in 2012.