At my debate with Bart Ehrman (1 Feb 2012, held at UNC Chapel Hill) over whether we can recover the wording of the New Testament autographs, I made the announcement that a probable first-century fragment of Mark’s Gospel had been recently discovered. I noted that a world-class paleographer had dated this manuscript and that he was pretty darn sure that it belonged to the first century. All the details will be coming out in a multi-author book published by E. J. Brill sometime in 2013. Several newspapers and magazines have covered the story already. John Farrell, writing for Forbes, wrote a brief article on it, followed up by an update (now incorporated with the first article). He is working on a third article that will discuss new technology that may help us to be more precise in our dating of the manuscript. In particular, there is a newly developed carbon-14 dating method that does not destroy the object it is dating. That’s always a good thing when it comes to ancient manuscripts! The inventor is Professor Marvin Rowe of Texas A & M. His assistant, Dr. Karen Steelman, wrote her dissertation on this new procedure. I met with both of them recently and discussed the possibilities of using this technology for dating ancient manuscripts.
You can see the Forbes article here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnfarrell/2012/02/27/fragments-of-marks-gospel-may-date-to-1st-century/. Stay tuned for follow-ups! In the meantime, the best attitude for all to have is “wait and see.” Über-exuberance or dismissive skepticism are both unwarranted responses based on the information supplied so far. But when the fragment is published along with six other early New Testament papyri (all from around the second century), the scholarly vetting will do its due diligence. It should be fun!