Some ancient Egyptians apparently used a tiny "gospel," believing it could tell their future—even though its oracles were rather vague. Princeton University professor Marie Luijendijk discovered a 1,500-year-old book called the "Gospel of the Lots of Mary" and figured it would tell Jesus' life story or collect his sayings, LiveScience reports. Then she read its 37 oracles, a few of which mention Jesus, and realized "gospel" was used in the original sense of "good news." And like other "lot books," it was designed to predict the future. The book's title "is very significant," says Luijendijk. It indicates the importance of predictions "being [seen] as good news. Nobody who wants to know the future wants to hear bad news in a sense." She says the book's owner randomly selected oracles and interpreted them to predict the future.
The text is inspired by Mary, "the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ, she to whom Gabriel the Archangel brought the good news," the book says. Written in the Egyptian language of Coptic, the oracles include material from Matthew, Luke, Proverbs, Job, and Psalms, and are "Christian in nature," the Daily Mail reports. They include advice like, "If you are patient a little, the matter will prosper through the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," and "Go forward immediately. This is a thing from God." Remarkably, the book is just 3 inches by 2.7 inches, possibly to conceal it from church leaders who frowned on divination. The book was also inexpensive to produce, New Historian notes, and appears much used, with ancient fingerprints still in the margins. (Read about the "oldest-known gospel" found in a mummy mask.)