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.