This morning I had an opportunity to take a private tour of the Steve Green collection of Bible artifacts in Atlanta. Green is President of Hobby Lobby, the privately held hobby store based in Oklahoma City known for proclaiming Christ in national ads.
The exhibit, called Passages, is temporarily on display in a retail shopping center. It’s a fascinating assemblage of remarkable material that should be of intense interest to any Christian. While I was already aware of the exhibit, I was completely unaware of both the quality and quantity of material on display here. I didn’t expect to find a handwritten will signed by Martin Luther the night prior to his excommunication, fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, or pre-reformation copies of the Bible.
Walking through the museum one encounters dioramas, videos and actual examples of scripture in various stages of preservation throughout history. Documents on display include:
- Dead Sea Scroll fragment of Genesis.
- Codex Climaci Rescriptus (one of the earliest near complete Bibles in the world), some of the earliest surviving scriptures in Greek, and Carolingian manuscripts.
- The Roseberry Rolle manuscript (the first translation of scripture into Middle English which predates Wycliffe’s translation by approximately 40 years) and a Wycliffe New Testament.
- Gutenberg Bible Book of Romans, Nuremberg Chronicle, and a first edition Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis.
- Handwritten letter by Martin Luther written the night before he was excommunicated by the Church.
- A first edition of Tyndale’s Obedience of Christian Man and a previously undocumented 1535 edition of Tyndale’s New Testament that he was working on while imprisoned in the Tower of London awaiting his execution for his translation work.
- First edition Coverdale (the first legal printing of the Bible in English), Matthew’s Bible, and Geneva Bible.
- First edition King James Version Bible, 1611.
- 1631 “Wicked” Bible (King James Bible with an egregious error in one of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:14).
- Illuminated manuscripts such as a heavily gilded Spanish Psalter and a manuscript in silver and gold decorated using micrography.
All of the artifacts are displayed in rooms containing recreations of historical settings spanning various periods of time. Being a temporary display, the sets are not Disney-level recreations but are comparable to and in many instances superior to what you’d find in other history museums. While viewing artifacts you’ll pass through such historical sets as:
- The cave in which St. Jerome translated the Bible into the standardized Latin Vulgate version.
- The stained glass adorned church of Scottish reformer John Knox
- The Jerusalem Chamber in Westminster Abbey, recreating the setting in which the translation of the King James Version was completed
- The shop of a printer to the king and has a working reproduction of a press used to print the first edition King James Bible.
- An artist’s studio and contains items from a wide range of locations and time periods intended to show the artistic tradition in Biblical productions.
- Jewish synagogue of Dura Europos, filled with items relating to the Jewish tradition such as Torah cases, Torah scrolls, temple lamps, and Megillah scrolls.
- A monastic cloister
- A medieval peasant’s hut
- A full-scale reproduction of Gutenberg’s press and displays early printed works called incunables (printed within the first 50 years of the introduction of printing in the West), and first edition printings of important works.
- A theater featuring a debate between Fathers Erasmus and Luther and Dr. Johann Eck highlighting the religious instability of the period which culminates in Luther nailing his 95 Theses to his church door.
- A set based on Anne Boleyn’s fall from royalty and William Tyndale’s imprisonment, culminating with his burning at the stake.
Watch more videos about the collection here. The collection hopes to find a permanent, first-class home in a major U.S. city to educate people about the history and impact of the Bible in an engaging and interactive manner. But for now, if you are in Atlanta or plan to be before June 30, 2012, stop by and spend a few hours. Your faith will be bolstered as you are reminded of the vast majority of historical evidence that the hand of God has preserved the written word of God through the ages. The collection only be open a couple more months. Find out more here. Located near Perimeter Mall, it’s within walking distance of the Dunwoody MARTA train station.
Thanks to Steve Green, Hobby Lobby, Chick-fil-A and others who have made this possible.