National Bible museum on horizon

Baptist Press
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Posted: Aug 25, 2011 4:52 PM
National Bible museum on horizon
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)--Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has teamed up with the Kansas City business community to promote a greater awareness of one of the nation's premier biblical artifact collections.

The Green Collection encompasses more than 40,000 biblical antiquities currently featured in the worldwide traveling exhibition "Passages." The items eventually will form the core of a permanent international, non-sectarian museum of the Bible, according to its website. The collection's first artifact was purchased by Steve Green, president of the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts retail chain, in 2009.

More than 200 of Kansas City's business, educational and religious leaders listened to Green as the featured speaker at a mid-July luncheon at Kansas City's historic Union Station. Also participating were Scott Carroll, director of the Green Collection and an ancient and medieval manuscript scholar, and Cary Summers, CEO of the Nehemiah Group and designer of the Passages' traveling exhibit.

"Our primary purpose in co-sponsoring this event with J.E. Dunn Construction and Union Station was to introduce the Kansas City community to this phenomenal collection," said R. Philip Roberts, Midwestern's president.

"I was amazed at the quality and richness of it when I saw the opening exhibit in Washington, D.C.," Roberts said, "and I wanted to draw the attention of as many people as possible to it. The collection's richness and variety, in terms of time and width of impact and resources, as well as the enormous quality historically of all that is involved, is amazing. It is also our hope to see some of it, if not all of it, here in Kansas City in the near future."

Green noted that the collection was started because a survey on interest in a Bible museum yielded some surprising results. More than 90 percent of the respondents affirmed two of the survey's questions -- "Do you believe the Bible still applies to today's problems or was it only practical years ago?" and "Is America more in need of the Bible today than ever before?"

"This just goes against what we would hear in the popular culture," Green said of the survey's findings, "and this gave us great confidence that what we'd be doing, there'd be a market for. The acceptance and interest level for having a museum dedicated to the Bible -- the most incredible book ever written and that has had the greatest impact on our society of any other book -- there needs to be a museum that tells that story in a very solid academic way."

The Hobby Lobby president said he felt a need to get the word out about the collection while it awaited a permanent home. He enlisted Summers' help to design the traveling exhibit, a 14,000-square-foot interactive multimedia exhibition featuring rare biblical manuscripts, printed Bibles and historical items including a Dead Sea scroll text, ancient biblical papyri, portions of the Gutenberg Bible and multiple first editions of the English Bible through the King James Version.

According to the Passages website, more than 300 of the world's rarest artifacts are presented in thematic settings that depict significant historical periods of time and are brought to life with animatronic historical figures, creative films and interactive elements.

A companion program, the Green Scholars Initiative, allows undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students hands-on access to the artifacts. The initiative has assembled a team of world-renowned scholars who direct research projects at 70 universities and seminaries throughout North America and is designed to foster collaboration between established and young scholars to pioneer new biblical discoveries.

"The Green Scholars Initiative flips the traditional paradigm, which is leading institutions controlling ancient documents and doling them out to whomever they want, or you come to them and work by their terms," Carroll said. "We thought, 'What if these things were entrusted in the hands of excellent scholars and mentors and democratized, distributed around the country?' When the entire thing is up and running, then hundreds of students will be involved and impacted by this process.

"The different research initiatives are overseen by the leading scholars in the world via the Internet, and items are entrusted predominantly to traditional undergraduate institutions," Carroll continued. "So there are sophomores and juniors working on the earliest texts in the New Testament and involved in the publication of those things. This will raise up a generation of capable young scholars who are invigorated and excited about studying these things."

Carroll will return to the Kansas City area on Oct. 25-27 to lecture at Midwestern Seminary about the Green Collection and about the importance of historical biblical research.

Green said the intended results of the collection are threefold: to present the history of the Bible; to depict the impact of the Bible; and to tell the story of the Bible.

"We have probably the most ignorant population we've ever had in our society because it's been taken out of our schools," Green said. "We want to be able to, in a simple way, explain to them, 'Here's what the Bible is.' Ultimately, it's about the fact that we are sinners; we need a Savior; and Christ was that, and He came to die for us that we might have life."

The collection's leadership currently is researching the best location for a permanent museum, with Washington, New York and Dallas being strongly considered, Green said. The Passages traveling exhibit is currently on display at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art until Oct. 16.

T. Patrick Hudson is director of communications at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.

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