Rob Buckingham's Blog

Oldest Fragment of Mark’s Gospel Found

I’ve always had a fascination for archaeology – especially when it reinforces the truth of the Bible – so a recent article in the Christian Post really caught my attention.

The article reported:  “A team of scientists and scholars claim to have discovered the world’s earliest-known version of the Gospel, dating back to the first century A.D., which was found on a sheet of papyrus used to make an ancient mummy’s mask in Egypt.”  It is thought to be a written portion of the Gospel of Mark, that possibly dates back as early as 80 A.D.

The mask was discovered by Craig Evans, a professor of New Testament studies at Acadia Divinity College in Nova Scotia.  He explains, “that most ancient Egyptians, that were not pharaohs nor part of ancient Egypt’s elite social class, were mummified with masks made out of used sheets of papyrus because that was the most cost efficient way for the families to preserve the bodies of their loved ones.

“Because papyrus itself was so expensive, the families often used sheets of papyrus that had already been used to write on.  Evans further explained that many pagans, who had no respect for Christians, often used Christian writings to mask their dead loved ones, because they deemed the Christian writings as “trash.”

As a new technique was discovered that allows scientists to undo the mummy masks without destroying the centuries-old ink, scientists have been able to uncover many different secular and religious documents.”

Evans explains, “It was from one of these masks that we recovered a fragment of the Gospel of Mark that is dated to around 80 A.D.  We could have a first century fragment of Mark for the first time ever.”  Also in the discovery are some first-century Christian sermons.

Presently, the oldest surviving copies of Scripture are dated to the second century, between the years 101 to 200 A.D.”

Evans said Brill Publishers would publish the documents uncovered later this year.

The exciting thing about this discovery – and many others like it – is that it backs up the credibility and reliability of the Christian faith.   As archaeologists make further discoveries, it will encourage our faith to know it rests soundly on truth that was articulated two millennia ago or even longer.  It also helps us to “defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people” (Jude 3).


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