April 5th, 2011
01:00 AM ET
By Gabe LaMonica, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Steve Green owns a lot of Bibles, and he’s starting to show them off.
The president of Hobby Lobby, a national chain of craft stores, Green bought his first biblical artifact less than a year and a half ago. But his is already considered one of the world’s largest private collection of biblical texts and artifacts, and Green is taking it on tour in advance of opening what he says will be a national Bible museum.
The tour kicked off last week with a party at the Vatican embassy in Washington that highlighting samples from a 14,000 square foot traveling exhibition, which is called “Passages.” It’s a prelude to the high-tech Bible museum Green wants to open in the next five or so years.
“The Bible has had a huge impact on societies - politics, the arts, science, music, literature,” says Green, who is Christian. “The impact of the book is a story that we feel needs to be told and that is what we are interested in doing - and encouraging people to consider what it has to say.”
“We believe it is the most incredible book that’s ever been written,” he says. “It is a book that has been ridiculed and vilified and yet loved.”
Passages will appear at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art from May to October before moving to St. Peter’s Square in Rome. The exhibit will arrive in New York City sometime this winter.
Green says he’s unsure of the location for his eventual museum but that he wants it to rely heavily on digitized Bibles, so that visitors and scholars can interact with them.
Some items from the Green Collection are now on exhibition at museums and specialty libraries in the United States and Europe.
The collection’s 30,000 biblical antiquities emphasize Jewish, Catholic and Protestant contributions to the book.
“The Bible didn’t come from Mount Sinai to Moses and end up in a Red Roof Inn desk drawer,” says Scott Carol, director of the collection.
“There was a process and Passages tells the dramatic story of that process,” says Carol, a former college professor specializing in biblical manuscripts.
From cuneiform tablets dating back thousands of years to parts of the Dead Sea scrolls to brilliantly illuminated psalmodies (collections of psalms), Green’s collection encompasses Bibles and books that helped influence the Bible’s formation.
The collection includes one of the largest repositories of cuneiform tablets. The clay tablets, named for the wedge-shaped script in which they were written, are important tools for translating ancient biblical writings.
The collection also includes a large portion of a Gutenberg Bible, which provoked the 15th century revolution in printing, and a King James Bible, an influential English translation that’s marking its 400th anniversary this year.
Then there’s the so-called Wicked Bible from the 17th century, so named because it accidentally omits the word “not” in the commandment “Thou shall not commit adultery.”
The collection’s gem is the Codex Climaci Rescriptus, one of the world’s earliest surviving Bibles, thought to be from sometime between the 6th and 8th centuries.
Written in Palestinian Aramaic, the language used in Jesus’ home, the collection worked with Britain’s University of Oxford to develop a technology that uncovered the earliest known New Testament, also from between the 6th and 8th centuries, from a layer in codex.
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