Hands trembling slightly from Parkinson’s disease, Professor Rodolphe Kasser picked up the ancient text and began reading in a strong, clear voice: "pe-di-ah-kawn-aus ente plah-nay.” These strange words were Coptic, the language spoken in Egypt at the dawn of Christianity. They had gone unheard ever since the early church declared the document off-limits for Christians.
This copy somehow survived. Hidden over eons in the Egyptian desert, it was finally uncovered late in the 20th century. Then it vanished into the netherworld of antiquities traders, one of whom abandoned it for 16 years in a bank vault in Hicksville, New York. By the time it reached Kasser, the papyrus—a form of paper made of dried water plants—was decaying into fragments, its message on the verge of being lost forever.