By MEDIA LINE—
The parchment looks fragile, and holes dot the page, but the letters are as clear as when they were written 1,500 years ago. A piece of a prayer that at one time was meticulously set onto papyrus by a scribe.
This is one of more than 200 ancient biblical objects that now fill a hall in the Bible Lands Museum, which last week opened an exhibit titled “The Book of Books,” where visitors come face to face with almost 2,000 years of the history.
The exhibit is one of the most extensive collections of biblical manuscripts and texts to date. From prayers written on silver amulets to meters-long scrolls to leather-bound Bibles, the exhibit traces the development of Christianity back to its Judaic origins.
The founder of the collection, Steve Green, is the president of Hobby Lobby, an American craft store chain. Green, who is a devout Baptist, said in a speech that the exhibit is meant to bring the materials closer to the common people and to unite Christians and Jews.
“We hope that this exhibit will bring us together under a book that we all love, the book of Scriptures,” Green said.
The exhibit showcases a small fraction of the estimated 40,000 objects that Green has collected over the past three years. Many visitors were taken aback at the scope of the material being shown.
“The impact on everyone walking into the exhibit, the visual impact, the drama, the power of this show is just riveting,” Amanda Weiss, the director of the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem told The Media Line. “I’ve been living with this for some time and it still impresses me greatly. But people walking through the front door for the first time are simply in awe.”
‘Way to find personal relationship with God’
The display will be in Jerusalem until mid-May, when it will travel to Vatican City in Italy before eventually heading to Washington, DC, for its permanent exhibit. Green said that his organization is currently building a 400,000 square foot (37,000 square meter) museum next to the Smithsonian, with the opening to take place in early 2017.
Heather Reichstadt, the curator of antiquities for the Green Collection, described the exhibit as a way for viewers to “find a personal relationship with God.
“They (the Green family) said that they wanted to share the word of God,” Reichstadt told The Media Line. “Normally very few people would be able to view these texts because they would be in private hands, but now anyone can view them here for free.”
The display includes many rare pieces, like the Codex Climaci Rescriptus, a manuscript of the Old and New Testaments that dates back to the sixth and eighth centuries of the Common Era. The Codex, which is written in both Christian Palestinian Aramaic and Greek, was listed at $1 million by the Sotheby’s auction house prior to its sale to the Green family and is one of the most prized pieces of their collection.
The exhibit also has a significant portion of a Gutenberg Bible, some early Bibles from Martin Luther, and two original versions of the King James Bible from 1611, referred to as the “he and she Bibles.”
The Green family has set up the Green Scholar Institute (GSI), which allows for both established and new scholars to come together and examine the original manuscripts and texts. The institute will be housed at the permanent exhibit in Washington when it is completed.