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Rare, ancient manuscripts on display in Art Gallery

September 29, 2011 : Mitzi Bible/Liberty University News Service

The Green Collection is the largest private collection of biblical manuscripts and artifacts in the world.

Liberty University students and the Central Virginia community will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view some of the oldest manuscripts in the world this weekend.

A special exhibit from the notable Green Collection in Oklahoma City, the largest private collection of biblical manuscripts and artifacts in the world, opened Thursday and will run through Saturday at the Liberty University Art Gallery.

The display features 55 items, including an original 1611 King James Bible, a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible, a 15th-century German Bible with hand-colored woodcuts, and even many different printed editions of the Bible in English before the introduction of the King James Version.

Students visit the Green Collection exhibit on Thursday.

The oldest items are cuneiform tablets that date back to 2000 B.C.; the latest item is the first legally printed Bible in America, the Aitken Bible, printed in 1782.

The exhibit is set up like a timeline, taking viewers through the historical development of the Bible.

Curator Joy Carroll said she hopes people “walk away with a little bit of a better understanding of the preservation of God’s word and a sense of how the Bible came to be in our hands in English today.”

“It has a long history and that history is still growing, and we’re part of that story,” she said.

The exhibit is free and open to the public. Hours are from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. It will also be on display at Thomas Road Baptist Church on Sunday.

Much of the collection has never been examined from an academic perspective and the Green family is hoping to partner with institutions to begin more study into the ancient texts through the Green Scholars Initiative.

The Green family, owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of arts and crafts stores, have collected more than 40,000 ancient texts and artifacts related to the Judeo-Christian story and have hopes of creating a national Bible museum. (Liberty’s Green Hall was an indirect donation from Hobby Lobby.) The collection has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today and other major news publications. Liberty is one of the first institutions to host this exhibit.

David Bebbington from the University of Stirling delivered the keynote address at a banquet on Friday, kicking off The Conference of the Quatercentennial Anniversary of the King James Bible.

The exhibit coincides with Liberty’s conference celebrating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible on Saturday, Oct. 1 from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Liberty Mountain Conference Center in Candlers Station shopping center.

The conference will feature many nationally known scholars, including several Liberty University faculty members. A banquet will be held Friday, Sept. 30 from 7 to 10 p.m. featuring keynote speaker David W. Bebbington, a noted scholar from the University of Stirling. (Registration is required for the banquet and conference. Admission to the conference is free for students with valid ID. Registration and other information on the conference can be found at www.liberty.edu/kjv400.)