The Supreme Court is due to decide whether the owners of Hobby Lobby craft supplies stores can be forced by the federal government to include in their employee health insurance forms of contraception that are against their religious beliefs. The Green family, however, has set its sights on much more than a lawsuit against Obamacare: they hope to help Americans become more familiar with a book called the Bible.
As noted by Politico‘s Stephanie Simon, the Greens are “building a huge museum dedicated to the Bible a few blocks from the Mall in Washington, D.C., with as much public space as the National Museum of American History.”
In fact, the Green Collection, according to the Green Scholars Initiative website, “is among the world’s largest private collection of rare biblical texts and artifacts. Scholars have scoured the world to assemble the more than 40,000 biblical antiquities that today comprise the collection.”
The Green Collection, which had its debut in 2011, features items such as pieces of the Dead Sea Scrolls and rare illuminated manuscripts. As reported by Fox News, one manuscript, which was copied in 1156, contains the Gospels, Eusebian Canon Tables, and portraits of the Evangelists.
Another item in the collection is a rare Sephardic Scroll written on gvil, a specially processed skin, that was produced in northern Spain during the Spanish Inquisition in the 13th century, a period of Jewish persecution which led to Jews’ expulsion from the region.
Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby, wants to celebrate the Bible because it is a text that changed humanity. Last fall, he and his wife Jackie took their collection to Israel for the opening of a temporary Bible exhibit in Jerusalem’s Bible Lands Museum called “The Book of Books,” which featured portions of the Dead Sea scrolls, the Codex Climaci Rescriptus (one of the oldest copies of the Bible written in Palestinian Aramaic, the language of Jesus and his family), and original pages from the Gutenberg Bible.
“It’s a bit of a history of the Bible, starting from the Dead Sea scrolls going through the King James version, and many of the artifacts show that timeline,” Green told FoxNews.com. “With our collection as a whole, we wanted to encourage people to know their Bible better, whether it be here in America or anywhere around the world.”
That traveling exhibit will be part of the permanent museum in Washington, D.C., which, Green says, will open early in 2017. Green will serve as the museum’s chairman of the board and will oversee its expansion and outreach of the collection.
“The Book of Books exhibit will serve to delineate the relationship between the Jewish and Christian faiths by tracing the transmission of the biblical text over the last two millennia, spanning from the Judean wilderness to the nations of the world,” said museum curator Heather Reichstadt. “Visitors will enjoy some 150 artifacts displayed in immersive contextual settings that bring history to life.”
Green says his exhibit has been generally well received, though he is aware of the potential for “controversy” when religion is a focus of public attention.
“So far, it’s been well received everywhere we’ve been,” he said. “But there will be controversy; there will be people who don’t like the Bible for whatever reason. But we just want to educate people on a book that’s impacted our world and let them make their own choice.”
Green’s views are “beginning to stir concern, not just among the ACLU and atheist groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation, but even from some Bible scholars,” Politico states.
John Kutsko, executive director of the International Society of Biblical Literature, told Politico that a multi-million dollar Bible curriculum the Green family hopes to place in public schools is inappropriate both in a public school and in a private museum and that “by virtue of being adjacent to the Mall [it] gives the impression that it’s almost a national museum.”
Harry Stout, a professor of Divinity at Yale University and a consultant for the museum, however, said, “I can assure you, I would not be involved” if the Green family’s goal was to evangelize rather than provide scholarship on the Bible.
“They’re really interested in getting it right,” Stout said.