– Cory Mansfield
How did we get to this point?
Sitting on a plane headed to Turkey, you tend to ask yourself questions like this. Weeks earlier, some acquaintances had asked for help. We were business people—with ancient Bibles, to be more specific. The idea was to collect historical Bibles with the hopes of one day opening a museum for the Bible in Dallas, Texas.
“There’s a great opportunity to acquire a very old manuscript of the gospel of John written on purple vellum with gold lettering,” they said. “A family owns it and is motivated to sell it.”
The family sent us a little homemade video of the manuscript. They kept it in an ornate silver case. It was precious to them.
“Perhaps you can go with us to Turkey and have a look at it. While we are overseas, we can arrange to meet with other contacts we have as well.”
We live in the business world. So it’s easy for us to approach opportunities through that lens. And that’s what we did here. Our family has had a love for the Bible, so there was a natural interest in the idea of celebrating it. We liked the idea of a museum for the Bible, and we certainly liked the thought of helping folks acquire a collection of Bibles, and rather more important, Bibles of historical and religious value.
We thought about the opportunity as a family and decided to go for it. So I left with our acquaintances in November of 2009. The family who owned the artifact had asked if we’d meet them in their hometown.
“We’ll meet you in Istanbul,” we said. So we flew out to Istanbul.
The family lived in a very unstable rural area where just a few weeks earlier, two Baptist missionaries were killed during their travels. We decided not to go to their hometown. It was too dangerous. And they did not make the trip to meet us in Istanbul. In the end, the family decided not to sell the manuscript, and therefore we never acquired it. Unbeknownst to me, the trip to Istanbul was only the beginning of this new adventure.
On this first trip, our contacts took me to Israel as well to meet with several dealers in the world of Bible collecting. We attended several meetings, with people in Turkey and Israel, about Bible-related collections that might be available for sale. Even though we made the trip to inquire about the gospel of John artifact in Istanbul, I began to get excited about the mounting opportunities to put together a more extensive Bible collection that could become a central feature of a museum for people around the world to visit.
While in Istanbul, I remembered going to a museum exhibit and wondering about some of the items that were being displayed. They claimed that one piece of wood was part of the cross that Jesus died on. The chances of that were slim to none, and it was an indication of the challenges we would face in this world.
Because of people’s passion for this book, many folks are willing to believe anything, desperately wanting to prove what they believe to be true. As with any valuable collectible, there are always con artists trying to take advantage of those who are passionate about collecting those items. Even as we were touring Jerusalem, it was pointed out that many of the “Holy” sites may not be the actual site they claim to be. In Jerusalem, for example, there are very few places that could be the actual spot where Jesus walked. Many of the streets from the first century are several feet under the current roads of Old Jerusalem. The desire to connect with a person’s faith is real and powerful. That passion, as with any passion, can be preyed upon.
The market for forgeries is real, and it is one of the dangers in this world of collecting artifacts. All museums have them. The forgers become more sophisticated, as does the equipment to detect their forgeries.
I returned to Oklahoma City, and life went back to normal. Over the next several months, we were kept informed on new opportunities to purchase historical Bibles and manuscripts. As purchase opportunities arose, we would consider a buy. The passion for these items lit up in us like a spark beneath dry wood. It’s only a matter of time before the fire rages.
The trip to Turkey and Israel was eye-opening. To see firsthand many biblical artifacts! This was a whole new world we knew nothing about but were excited to explore. Little did we know we’d embarked upon an adventure that would prove to have meaning for us as a family, for our nation, and for the world.
Steve & Jackie Green are co-founders of Museum of the Bible and authors of This Dangerous Book: How the Bible Has Shaped Our World and Why It Still Matters (Zondervan). Steve is President of Hobby Lobby, the largest privately owned arts and crafts retailer in the world. Steve and Jackie provide unique insight and commentary into the Bible’s role in our culture and in their personal life. Since 2009 they have been planning for the presentation of various archaeological finds pertaining to the Bible and the world’s most impressive display of materials relating to the Bible’s original writings, its preservation, and its distribution around the globe.
Taken from This Dangerous Book by Steve & Jackie Green. Copyright © [2017 by Steve & Jackie Green. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.