WASHINGTON — The Oklahoma City Museum of Art will be the first stop for a worldwide traveling exhibition of historic biblical texts and artifacts collected by Hobby Lobby President Steve Green, who announced here Thursday that the exhibition, marking the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, would open May 16.
“It will have some of the most incredible rare biblical artifacts in private hands in the world,” Green said. “It will tell the story of the history of the English Bible.”
Green unveiled plans for the traveling exhibition at the Vatican Embassy, where business, government, academic and religious leaders gathered to view some of the items that will be in Oklahoma City next month.
The interactive exhibition, called “Passages,” will encompass 14,000 square feet and be the worldwide debut of the Green Collection, one of the world's largest privately held collections of biblical texts and artifacts.
The exhibit at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art will run through Oct. 16 before a portion of it focusing on the Catholic contribution to the King James Bible goes to Vatican City. “Passages” then will go to New York, although a date has not been announced.
“The opportunity to present such a vast and important collection of biblical artifacts is exceptional,” said Glen Gentele, president and CEO of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. “The exhibition provides a once-in-a-lifetime experience for guests to engage with these rare materials at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.”
“Passages” will be composed of about 300 items from the 30,000-item Green Collection, which is directed by Scott Carroll, a specialist in ancient and medieval manuscripts.
“The Bible didn't come from Mount Sinai to Moses and end up in a Red Roof Inn desk drawer,” Carroll said. “There was a process, and ‘Passages' tells the dramatic story of that process.”
Carroll called the collection “an absolute treasure trove of material” that includes the second largest collection of Dead Sea scrolls and the largest collection of Jewish scrolls.
Green said the exhibition will trace the early transcriptions of the Bible through its translation into European languages and, ultimately, into English.
Among the items to be displayed, Green said, will be “one of the oldest, relatively complete Bibles in the world.”
Known as Codex Climaci Rescriptus, the Bible is the only surviving New Testament text in Jesus' household language of Palestinian Aramaic, Green said.
One of the earliest fragments of the Book of Genesis will also will be on display.
Green has amassed his collection in a short time, buying his first piece in November 2009. He said Thursday that he never anticipated collecting so many items but that he took advantage of opportunities to make multiple acquisitions.
He has been scouting locations for a permanent museum to house the collection, most of which is now in a warehouse in Oklahoma City. Green said Thursday that he is looking now in Dallas, New York and Washington, D.C., for a permanent home.
It likely will be “a few years down the road” before a site is selected and a museum built Green said.
“So in the meantime, what we have done, because we have a collection of Bibles that are itching to tell their story, we wanted to create a traveling exhibition that we can open up before our museum opens up,'' Green said.