In november 2017, the Museum of the Bible will open in Washington, D.C., two blocks from the National Mall. Like many of the city’s other museums, it is designed to attract hordes of visitors each year, and it will be vast—eight stories tall, and covering 430,000 square feet. Despite its location and size, however, it isn’t a government institution. It’s private, backed by the family of David Green, a wealthy businessman from Oklahoma City, better known as the founder of the Hobby Lobby retail chain, and it will house artifacts from the family’s stunning collection of biblical manuscripts, Torah scrolls, Dead Sea Scrolls, and cuneiform texts. The Greens’ collection is one of the largest private collections of such artifacts in the world, comprising some 40,000 objects—many of which, remarkably, were unknown to scholars and the general public before the Greens acquired them. And the Greens made their first purchase only six years ago.It does indeed raise difficult and disquieting questions, but I am not inclined to render a judgment until I see a good bit more information. So far, as we already knew, there is a federal investigation. After four years it has not led to charges, but who knows what will come of it? I shall keep an eye on the situation with interest, but unless and until there is clear evidence of illegality that leads to charges, it is only fair to give the Green Collection the benefit of the doubt. Watch this space.
That’s a startling pace of acquisition, especially given the fraught and specialized market for biblical antiquities, and it raises difficult questions about how the Green family has acquired its artifacts, and why.
Meanwhile, additional background on the Green Collection and the Museum of the Bible is here and links. And Roger Pearse's very different perspective on the work of the Green Collection is worth remembering now and again.