One Oklahoma family is playing a key role in assembling one of the world's largest collection of Bibles and Bible-related artifacts for a future National Bible Museum. Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., and his father, founder David Green, are helping the National Bible Museum scout a site for its permanent location.
According to Debbie Schramm, a spokesperson with Saxum PR, the collection currently consists only of the Green family's private assemblage of Bibles, various related manuscripts and antiquities.
Steve Green said his family has been assembling the collection for many years.
"There is a love of the Bible in my family that has been passed down for generations," he said. "That love for the Bible has led us to be collectors."
David Green told The Journal Record that the family's collection is "probably one of the largest, if not the largest private collection of Bibles in the world."
According to Steve Green, the short list of possible sites to house the collection includes Dallas, New York and Washington, D.C. When asked if Oklahoma City was a possibility, he said, "Nothing is out, but we do want a major metropolitan area where the collection can be enjoyed by the most people possible. I think Oklahoma City only ranks about 44th nationwide."
Scott Carroll, professor of history at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Mich., has been tasked with compiling and organizing the Greens' collection.
"We'd like as many people as possible to have access to this collection. Ideally, I want it to be as appealing to a second-grader as it is to a language scholar," said Carroll, who noted the value of the collection to scholars is immeasurable. "Scholars will have access to digitized copies as well as to the manuscripts themselves. We'll place items in colleges, universities, synagogues and churches, sometimes for observation and to take the museum to the people."
The National Bible Museum is designed to be nonsectarian, and access will be granted to scholars of any or no faith. Carroll said he hopes people of all kinds will visit.
"We have no covert, missionary plans here," he said. "When people of other faiths visit, we want them to feel at home. This collection holds great interest for Jews and Muslims as well."
Included in the collection are several Hebrew texts of the Tankan (Jewish scriptures), texts of the Targum (an Aramaic translation of the Tanakh) and one of the largest collections of Hebrew scrolls, many of which survived the Holocaust.
"The Bible is important to the three Abrahamic faiths," Carroll said, "but it is, without argument, the most published book ever. It is the entree for the study of art, history, language and religion; it's the ideal book to teach on a broad range of topics."
According to Schramm, the collection is currently being stored in a secure, climate-controlled facility, the location of which they are not divulging. The confidentiality is due to the value of the collection, which Carroll described as "priceless, invaluable really."
"The collection includes ancient antiquities, especially artifacts that illustrate the historical and cultural background of the Bible, sizable collections of cuneiform tablets, biblical and non-biblical papyri, extremely early Bible texts, and numerous manuscripts in every known language prior to the Gutenberg Bible," Carroll said.
One of the most important items in the collection is a manuscript that includes extensive passages of the Bible written in Palestinian Aramaic. Prior to the discovery of this manuscript, no extant texts of the New Testament had ever been discovered in that language, and the dating of the manuscript, circa the year 500, makes it one of the oldest, near-complete Bible manuscripts in the world.
Carroll said he is continuing to help the Greens locate items, and they are negotiating purchases at a time when conflicts in the Middle East makes transactions more difficult.
According to Steve Green, no target date has been decided for choosing a location or opening the museum. Until then, Carroll will continue to add to the collection, placing an indelible Oklahoma stamp on arguably one of the most important academic and cultural resources available anywhere in the world."Greg Horton
photo Richard Rolle's Psalms, the earliest scriptures in English