OKLAHOMA CITY - Leaders of the Oklahoma-owned Hobby Lobby retail chain have acquired hundreds of religious artifacts and are helping to open a Bible museum.
Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby, said Wednesday his family has been helping to develop the National Bible Museum. He said he and museum leaders are evaluating several sites, including Dallas.
Green said the idea of a museum housing Bible collections and items of historical biblical significance captured his family's interest about four years ago. He said his family became involved in acquiring artifacts in the past year.
"We have had passed down to us, from my parents and my grandparents, a love for God's word and have been passionate about that," he said. "We believe in the Bible and believe it's the most incredible book that's ever been written."
Green said Dallas is the top of museum leaders' list of possible sites.
"That doesn't mean that if another great location in another metro area came up, we wouldn't look at it, though I think it needs to be one of the larger metro areas in the country, and I think they would agree as well," Green said.
The museum is a nonprofit organization co-founded by historian Scott Carroll, a professor at Cornerstone University in Michigan, along with D. Jonathan Shipman and Daniel Centurione. Carroll is the museum's executive director, and Shipman is chief executive officer. Carroll said Shipman has been involved with the acquisition of artifacts, donor relations, strategic planning and real estate, while Centurione is operations manager.
Carroll said Wednesday the museum collections will include one of the earliest-known, near-complete Bibles, recently acquired by Hobby Lobby. He said items destined for the museum are being housed in Oklahoma City.
The museum will include religious antiquities, medieval manuscripts and a comprehensive group of Bibles and rare books. The collection includes some of the earliest printed Bibles, some of the most significant Protestant and non-Protestant Bibles and editions of the Jewish Tanach, or Hebrew Bible, a full range of English, American and missionary Bibles and other historical records. Carroll said the museum also will house an extensive collection of Jewish scrolls, several of which survived the Holocaust.
He said Hobby Lobby recently acquired several items for the museum, including portions of the Codex Climaci Rescriptus, which he said is one of the earliest near-complete Bibles in the world. Carroll said the artifacts are significant because they make up the only surviving text of New Testament Scriptures written in Jesus' household language.
"The handwriting indicates that the text that's been preserved actually dates within a couple of generations of Jesus' life," he said. "It's very, very unique on a number of levels."
Carroll said officials hope the museum will serve as an engaging educational site for people of all ages, a "museum of the Book." He said he foresees the museum providing resources for advanced academic studies and offering educational programs for public schools, universities and seminaries.
"The Bible itself, whether someone believes it or doesn't believe it, is the most influential book in history," Carroll said. "To understand how it was put together and how it was passed through time, the struggles that surround it, the artwork that adorns it, the language that it is translated into, the whole development of the printing press, is to understand that the Bible really becomes a platform on one level to understanding human history.
"On another level, for people of faith, it becomes a platform for understanding the soul and God."