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.

Worrying questions about the supposed new NT papyri from mummy cartonnage

In my last post, I noted that Peter Head pointed out that we have a forger active among us, who knows how to play to the predispositions of scholars.

I have just seen a very sound post by Roberta Mazza, discussing the supposed discovery of a bunch of interesting papyri from mummy cartonnage – papyrus reused to stuff the packing of mummies, and make up the coffins etc in the late period.  No doubt cartonnage contains much of interest.

But Dr Mazza is absolutely right in pointing out that we have NO previous examples of New Testament papyri from mummy cartonage; and noting the rather confused reportage coming out of the Green collection.

These are very sound questions.   Failure to see that the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” was too good to be true is what undid Karen King and Harvard.

A first century fragment of the New Testament?  Exciting if true.  But … too good to be true?  Quite possibly.  Particularly when we note that the recipient of the material is predisposed to believe that the material is genuine; just as the hapless Karen King was.

At the moment all we have is various bits of excited and not-too-knowledgeable comment from amateurs involved in helping in menial capacities.  I think the Green collection are absolutely right to be open-access with their finds; indeed it is essential to bring all available talent to bear.

We have an enemy of learning active in the world at the moment, remember.  Only a fool would neglect every precaution.  Particularly when a find might be too good to be true.

Papyri of St Augustine in the Green collection?

Via Tommy Wasserman at Evangelical Textual Criticism I learn of some rather exciting news!

The Baptist Standard reports (2012-07-10) from the same summer institute citing Jeff Fish (editor of the new Brill series) who said:

Scholars also mentored students editing some of the earliest fragments of the New Testament, with some dating to the second century, Fish said. Other discoveries are fragments of copies of some of St. Augustine’s commentaries on John’s Gospel and the Psalms, . . .

There is a little more on the session here, although no more about Augustine.

Also, it looks as if New Testament material will not relegate other material to the sidelines: Dr W. reckons that “the first volume will not contain the NT MSS”.  Information from this interview with Jerry Pattengale in Indiana Wesleyan University (2012-08-02):

Comprising of one to two new volumes per year, the new series will publish approximately 20 papyri with a thorough description, commentary with images, and web-based support for further resources.

The first forthcoming volume in the series, planned to be released in early 2013, is dedicated to an early 3c BCE papyrus containing an extensive, undocumented work by Aristotle on reason, and is currently being analyzed by a research group at Oxford University.

Of course the biblical material is no doubt of very great importance; but classical and patristic material is pretty interesting too!

Well done, Steven Green, for getting hold of all this stuff, and making it available!

A new work by Aristotle in the Green collection?

Today I  learned of the Green Collection, a large private collection of manuscripts and papyri.  It is owned by the Green family of Oklahoma, who are (a) billionaires and (b) Christians.  In consequence they have been collecting material of wide interest. 

Brill have announced a new series of publications for the papyri:

The new series fits well among Brill’s strong portfolio of Classical Studies and Biblical and Religious Studies publications, as well as its extensive list of digitized primary source manuscript collections. Comprising of one to two new volumes per year, the new series will publish approximately 20 papyri with a thorough description, commentary with images, and web-based support for further resources.

The first forthcoming volume in the series, planned to be released in early 2013, is dedicated to an early 3c BCE papyrus containing an extensive, undocumented work by Aristotle on reason, and is currently being analyzed by a research group at Oxford University.

The Green Collection contains over 50,000 items, and now holds nearly 15,000 papyri acquired from private collections in Europe, and continues to grow. The collection is approximately 70% Greek, 15% Coptic and 15% late Egyptian. The collection is currently unpublished and contains items of extraordinary importance, including some of the earliest Greek literary texts known, dating to the early 3c BCE. A major building near Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. was purchased in July 2012 to house an international museum for these items.

They are also working with scholars at Tyndale House in Cambridge:

The Green Collection has announced that the Codex Climaci Rescriptus – containing the earliest-known texts of Scripture in something close to Jesus’ household language – will return to the University of Cambridge in collaboration with the collection’s international research arm, the Green Scholars Initiative.

Top manuscript scholars from Cambridge’s Tyndale House will conduct intensive, high-tech research on the codex’s 137 reused vellum leaves, which feature overlapping layers of text. Recent technological breakthroughs developed by Green Scholars at the University of Oxford allow once unreadable, underlying text from the codex to be “lifted” to the surface for enhanced study through a process known as “multi-spectral imaging.”

In selecting Cambridge as the official research home of the Codex Climaci Rescriptus, Green Scholars Initiative Director Dr. Jerry Pattengale said, “Tyndale House is a perfect fit for this project given both its excellent scholars and its reputation in biblical studies. We are pleased with the strength of their ancient languages, from Aramaic, Syriac and Hebrew to Greek and Coptic – and, just as important, their passionate interest in biblical studies.”

They have launched the Green Scholars Initiative:

The Green Scholars Initiative is an international research project involving dozens of institutions under the auspices of The Green Collection, the world’s newest and largest private collection of rare biblical texts and artifacts.

Through thousands of cuneiform texts and papyri, Dead Sea Scrolls and Coptic texts to Gutenberg, Wycliff, Tyndale, Thomas à Kempis, Erasmus, King James and a litany of Reformation and post-Reformation original texts, the Green Scholars Initiative brings established and young scholars together to pioneer groundbreaking biblical discoveries

There will be a new museum in Washington:

A sampling of the Bible museum’s offerings — from the collection of more than 40,000 artifacts — have been displayed in the Passages Exhibit at the Vatican and in Oklahoma City and Atlanta and will soon appear in Charlotte, N.C.

All this is very encouraging for papyrus and manuscript studies: a family with the resources to collect and publish materials, and the desire to do so.  And for once it is being done from a Christian perspective too.  Well done!