CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BP) — At the recent opening of the Passages Bible exhibition in Charlotte, N.C., Steve Green was described as “a man of no compromise who sticks to God’s Word and does everything at a level of excellence.” Green is the president of Hobby Lobby and owner of the world’s largest private collection of rare biblical texts and artifacts.
Passages showcases more than 400 items of great historical and biblical significance from the Green Collection. The full collection contains more than 40,000 items. The exhibit opened in Charlotte in September and continues daily through the end of February.
The 30,000-square-foot Passages exhibition provides a captivating experience that tells the dramatic story of the most debated, most banned, most read, best-selling book of all time.
The exhibit’s website describes Passages as an “innovative, interactive, family-friendly exhibit that showcases both the Old and New Testaments — arguably the world’s most significant pieces of literature — through a non-sectarian, scholarly approach that makes the history, scholarship and impact of the Bible on virtually every facet of society accessible to everyone.”
Green, a Southern Baptist layman from Oklahoma City, began collecting Bible texts and artifacts only three years ago when some friends expressed an interest in collecting Bibles.
“We heard about some people who were interested in starting a Bible museum,” Green said. Some opportunities were given to buy some Bibles at a good price. “We thought we would buy one or two to help out with the cause.
“We really liked the idea, so we kind of inherited it,” Green said.
As he began buying artifacts, word spread among dealers, and more opportunities became available. The size of the collection grew rapidly. After less than three years, the exhibit is in demand around the world, with invitations from Moscow, Seoul, Jerusalem and other locations.
Green’s vision grew out of his childhood. “Our family has grown up with a love for the Bible. My grandfather was a minister of the Gospel…. My dad is one of six kids,” Green said, recounting, “All of [my dad’s] siblings went into the ministry or married one in the ministry…. Dad is the only one that didn’t. He went into retail and became very successful.
“[Our family has] supported the distribution of the Bible around the world, so it was just a natural fit when this opportunity came up for us to tell the Bible story and help engage people with the Bible.”
From the beginning Green brought Bible scholar Jerry Pattengale on board to oversee the process of acquiring the most optimum artifacts. Pattengale now directs the Green Scholar’s Initiative in conjunction with the exhibition and the collection. He is a widely published author and the assistant provost at Indiana Wesleyan University.
“The Greens have had this long fascination with God’s Word and belief in it,” Pattengale said. “So, for the family to be able to research ancient texts, acquire them and put them in the public view was fascinating to them.”
Collectors around the world heard about the Greens’ interests and began calling to offer items for sale.
Now the items are in demand. “Some of our [material] is on display right now at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, as part of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit,” Pattengale said.
“We had 4,000 to come to a one-day exhibit on the campus of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.” The exhibit was at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., in August 2011.
Johnny Hunt, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., has included speakers from the Green Collection, including Steve Green, at his annual Timothy+Barnabas pastors’ events.
The first public display of the collection was launched in Oklahoma City last year in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Version. A smaller portion of the collection was exhibited earlier this year at the Vatican in Rome.
“The Green Collection has four legs,” Green said. “The first one is the biblical collection, then the Scholars Initiative, the Museum of the Bible … and the traveling exhibits such as this one in Charlotte and ‘Verbum Domini’ (Latin for ‘the Word of the Lord’), which was at the Vatican in Lent season this year.”
Green has announced a permanent home for the collection in Washington, D.C., having purchased prime property just three blocks from the Capitol for $50 million. He estimates it will take about five years to open the unnamed museum of the Bible. It will illustrate to visitors from all over the world how the Bible came to be, the impact it has had on the world, and the story that is told in this best-selling book.
“The museum is about the Book,” Green said. “It is not about a specific faith tradition. The Book goes through the Jewish, Catholic and Protestant traditions, so we’re telling the story of the Book — not a specific faith tradition.”
A spokesperson for the Green Collection said the Greens have amassed this collection “not to lock it away for safe-keeping or tuck into a think tank, but to share it with the world. They don’t consider themselves collectors. Their goal is to make the history, scholarship and impact of the Bible accessible to everyone.
“They want people of all faiths and no faith at all to visit Passages –- and ultimately, the Bible museum in D.C.”
The exhibit reaches deep into the past, but brings the strengths of modern, high-tech creativity to visitors of all ages. Green said more than 20 vendors across the country worked to build the displays which include robotic characters, eight hours of audio segments and interactive video screens.
School and church groups are welcome. Group discounts are available by calling Passages or visiting the exhibit’s website, http://www.explorepassages.com/. The exhibit also offers a free series of presentations from leading Bible teachers every Tuesday night.
For more information call 1-704-510-2281, email [email protected] or visit the website at explorepassages.com. This story appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. K. Allan Blume is editor of the Biblical Recorder.