Wolfville, Nova Scotia (Wednesday, 21/01/2015, Gaudium Press) Craig Evans, Professor of New Testament Studies at the Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, Canada, told Live Science that he and his reach team have discovered what could be the oldest known manuscript of the Gospels.
|Prof. Craig Evans during a recording of a documentary at
Caesarea Philippi, Israel. Photo: Craig Evans.
The discovered text may correspond to the year 90 or even earlier. Specific data is still being withheld, according to the researcher, who is part of a group of several experts working in private archaeological sites. The results will be published sometime in 2015.
“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.
The technique is to undo masks mummies who were prepared by gluing pieces of papyrus, employing techniques who will not ruin the original ink. Among the texts found, experts recognized what would be a fragment of the Gospel of Mark and could be the oldest manuscript known till today.
Although the technique has been controversial because it involves the destruction of the masks, the expert stated that private parts which are not applied quality specimens that could be exhibited in museums. Evans told Live Science, “We’re not talking about the destruction of any museum-quality piece.” Instead numerous documents of great historical value could be recovered.
“From a single mask, it’s not strange to recover a couple dozen or even more” new texts, he told Live Science. “We’re going to end up with many hundreds of papyri when the work is done, if not thousands.” he predicted.
Although the first-century gospel fragment is small, the text will provide clues as to whether the Gospel of Mark changed over time, Evans said.
His own research is focused on analysing the mummy mask texts, to try to determine how long people held onto them before disposing or reusing them. This can yield valuable information about how biblical texts were copied over time.
“We have every reason to believe that the original writings and their earliest copies would have been in circulation for a hundred years in most cases – in some cases much longer, even 200 years,” he said.
This means that “a scribe making a copy of a script in the third century could actually have at his disposal (the) first-century originals, or first-century copies, as well as second-century copies.”
With information from Live Science.