The Green collection founder and his bible museum

A commenter draws my attention to a most interesting article in the Washington Post:

Hobby Lobby’s Steve Green has big plans for his Bible museum in Washington

The Bible museum taking shape in the building over the Federal Center SW Metro station started out in a very different location and with a very different message.

The project was planned for Texas in the late 2000s. Green told reporters he intended to put it in Dallas because so many church-going Christians live there. The mission statement on its initial nonprofit filing documents was clear: to “bring to life the living word of God … to inspire confidence in the absolute authority” of the Bible’s words. Green wanted to hand out Bible tracts to visitors, who would exit the museum singing “Amazing Grace,” said Scott Carroll, a specialist in biblical manuscripts who advised Green’s Bible-collecting and museum efforts from their start in 2009 through 2012.

Today, the message has undergone a drastic revision. The Web site for Green’s traveling Bible exhibit, “Passages,” says the museum “will be dedicated to a scholarly approach to the history, narrative and impact of the Bible.” Green says he now supports a museum approach that is nonsectarian and non-proselytizing.

The skeptics have another reason to embrace this new museum. Substantive funding for Bible scholarship and exploration is scarce. At a time when polls show that Americans are increasingly ignorant about the Bible and religion, the Greens are happily pouring hundreds of millions into preserving, researching and taking public what’s called the Book of Books.

… things turned sharply in 2009, as Green worked with Carroll to start building his collection.

The economy crashed, and several private donors and major institutions started dumping assets. Green went on a three-year buying spree. “We were looking at good buying. We thought: ‘This is worth much more than they’re asking. Let’s buy it.’ ”

Green bought Dead Sea Scroll fragments, Babe Ruth’s Bible, the Codex Climaci Rescriptus — a bundle of manuscripts from the 5th to the 9th centuries that includes the phrase that Christianity teaches Jesus uttered on the cross: “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani” (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). Green owns the world’s largest collection of Torah scrolls.

As word spread of the Green Collection, some scholars panted at the possibility that items long held in completely private collections might be available for study.

It’s an interesting article on an interesting subject.

In the ruling class of the USA there seems to be a terrifying degree of bigotry towards their own backwoods Christianity, from which Green has emerged.  I have already seen vituperation from scholars which I can only characterise as motivated by the idea that “this is our space” and based purely on religious animosity.  But it would be a great pity if this antipathy was allowed to derail a project that should be of universal benefit.


4 thoughts on “The Green collection founder and his bible museum

  1. The thing that worries me is that Mr. Green seems to trust his buyer and his Bible expert to be what he hired them to be, and yet they seem to be getting up with stuff that he didn’t hire them to do. This is the problem with giving people access to money and authority in your name.

    PhDiva has some problems with provenance and import laws.

    The problem of course is that a rich guy’s buyer might even be getting a pass on this stuff legally (depending on how the country’s agencies run things), but we wouldn’t have any way to know.

    The other problem is that the cartonnage thing is clearly a case of text practices vs. object practices, and people in one field are often made unhappy by finding out what the other field has been doing for years under university approval or even as best practices. Usually it’s text people complaining about the object people, though.

    It seems like it wouldn’t even be necessary to physically take apart cartonnage in these days of scanning. But it’s also true that mummy stuff is so widely available that it’s been treated with liberties by many people in the history fields. When Egyptology changed their ways, a lot of the other fields didn’t; and if your Greek hand doesn’t know what your Egypt hand is doing, or doesn’t think it’s relevant, it’s not likely that either side is going to be happy.

    What I do think is ludicrous is treating Baylor, a major academic university, as if it’s some podunk shady place. Whatever Baylor is doing, they’re not doing it in the dark, or out of ignorance or fanatical Baptist zeal. They think they’ve dotted their I’s and crossed their T’s, and are doing normal academic things. It’s not a cutting edge place or a behind the times place.

    So logically, other US universities must be doing the same things for years, and nobody has been noticing or caring because Hobby Lobby wasn’t involved.

  2. Your thoughts are mine.

    I never heard of anybody protesting about taking cartonnage apart until now. There are endless amounts of more or less worthless late antique finds, scattered across the world and in attics, and everybody knows it. So I rather suspect that this complaint is mendacious, and motivated by spite or religious antipathy. It should certainly be done in a scholarly way, but there seems no doubt that it is being done in that way.

    Likewise what scholar in the world gives a damn about whether the Egyptian dictator did, or did not, approve the export of some worthless coffin in 1838 or whenever? The complaint is merely malicious, and clearly designed to harass and obstruct the discovery of texts.

    Most of the complaining is probably good faith, but some of it, I fear, is not. It is rather sickening to think that there are scholars out there, perfectly willing to leave ancient texts to be lost, merely in case some of the finds might gratify the Christians. Such scholars need to be dismissed from whatever posts they hold and despatched to flip burgers or whatever; for attempting to prevent the recovery of knowledge is the opposite of what the nation pays them for.

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