Hobby Lobby Founders Launch Bible Exhibit in Oklahoma

The words "high-tech" and "ancient artifacts" don't usually go together but at the new "Passages" Bible exhibit, which debuts Monday at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, high-tech robots are combined with ancient Bible manuscripts to help bring the story of translation and preservation of the Bible to life.

One room features first edition-works of 16th century Protestant reformer William Tyndale, best known for translating large parts of the Bible into English. An animatronic likeness of Tyndale, who was sentenced to death for heresy, delivers his final words as he is being choked to death.

St. Jerome also resurrects from the grave as an animatron in a cave setting, where he is transcribing the pages of the Bible into Latin by candlelight.

By the time visitors are done with exploring "Passages," they will have experienced over 14,000 square feet of interactive Bible history spanning over 2,000 years. The non-sectarian, worldwide traveling exhibition is based on The Green Collection, one of the world's largest private collections of rare biblical texts and artifacts. The Green Collection is owned by the Green family, the founders and owners of arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby.

The exhibit tells the story of the Bible by immersing the visitor in a historical environment, whether it's a synagogue or replica of the printing press. Animatrons, detailed placards, touch screens, flip books, and hands-on activities help bring a new sense of appreciation to the cost of human life and sacrifice that went into making the Bible available today.

The launch of the exhibition in Oklahoma City was to celebrate the 400th anniversary of King James Bible.

"We didn't just want to create an experience. We wanted to make it memorable," said Dr. Scott Carroll, director of The Green Collection, to The Christian Post.

"Often times, Christians think the Bible comes to us magically and it kind of showed up at the bookstore. But it's actually been the hard work of individuals and in many places of the world it has been their risk of life. Tens of thousands of people died for the privilege of owning a Bible."

Even a nonbeliever can enjoy the exhibit, according to Carroll. The displays were created to be "intellectually enriching" and "non-offensive," he said.

"The Bible has had a tremendous impact. If you are a person of culture, you must know something about the Bible because it has impacted everything from arts to politics and religion to philosophy. It's part of being an educated person," Carroll told reporters at a preview event Friday.

Located on the third floor of the Oklahoma City museum, "Passages" includes one of the earliest pieces of Genesis, a portion of a Gutenberg Bible, and Codex Climaci Rescriptus, one of the earliest-surviving, near-complete Bibles, and the most extensive early biblical texts in Jesus' household language of Palestinian Aramaic.

Since Codex is made up of a number of books that were recycled, some of the text written on papyrus have not been legible until now. Carroll said they are currently working with Oxford University to use special computer and light techniques to recover the never-before read texts.

"We believe [Passages] will be a very entertaining, educational, interactive experience. It was our intent to make it as broad of an appeal so that from children to scholars will be intrigued by what we have put together," Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby and son of the company's founder, said Friday.

A total of 300 items of the Green Collection, comprised of over 40,000 pieces, make up the permanent exhibition. An additional 200 items will be rotated.

"They would see in one place items that they would have to travel around the world to see," Carroll told CP.

The largest room of the exhibit in Oklahoma City spotlights the King James Bible, the most translated English Bible version. First editions of the King James Bible are on display in a gallery made to be an exact replica of Jerusalem chamber of the Westminster Abbey, where the final editing of the version was completed. A glass table also shows other books used by scholars in their translation work for the King James Bible.

The Green family plans to build an international museum in the future to display collection and future pieces that tell the story behind the most influential, best-selling book of all time.

"We are interested in telling that story in a permanent museum," said Green last week. "We would love to tell the history of the book, the impact of the book and ultimately the story of the book as well. But that story, that endeavor is several years off. We are currently looking for a location for that."

Carroll told CP that the planned project will be "the only nonsectarian museum dedicated to the Bible in the world." He said they also plan to continue the traveling exhibits and open satellite museum sites around world.

"Passages" will run until Oct. 16, 2011, at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.

After that, the Bible exhibit will head to Vatican City and is tentatively scheduled to hit New York City and London during winter.

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