Craft Shop Family Buys Up Ancient Bibles for Museum
By GERALDINE FABRIKANT
OKLAHOMA CITY — At least one example of the printed word is in great demand even in the digital age: ancient Bibles.
With a goal of establishing a national Bible museum of great depth and size, the evangelical Christian family behind the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores has been spending heavily to amass a collection that has set dealers buzzing in the staid world of rare books.
Specialists estimate the family has bought illuminated, or decorated, manuscripts, Torahs, papyri and other works worth $20 million to $40 million from auction houses, dealers, private collectors and institutions, some of which may be selling because of financial pressure.
The man leading the effort is Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby, a private company based here that is a favorite of scrapbook makers, do-it-yourselfers and home decorators. The company, founded by his father, David, in 1972, now numbers 439 stores and has generated a family fortune that Forbes magazine estimates at $2.5 billion.
With money to spare, the younger Mr. Green, 46, has found a passion to complement his vocation, and is working with specialists in deal-making and history who, using company money on behalf of the family, began buying with a flourish about six months ago.
“They have caught everyone’s attention because no one in recent memory has spent so much so quickly on Bibles,” said Dr. Eric White, curator of special collections at the Bridwell Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
The collection now includes more than 30,000 items, according to Mr. Green and his team. Some of those were shown to The New York Times at Hobby Lobby offices in Oklahoma City, including a New Testament papyrus from the second century A.D., a lavishly illustrated and illuminated Martin Luther New Testament and a Spanish Inquisition Torah.
“The goal is to create a museum around the story of the Bible,” Mr. Green explained. “No book has been persecuted as much or loved as much. Its incredible story needs to be told.”
Mr. Green is Pentecostal, but other family members worship in churches of other denominations, including Baptist and Assemblies of God. The family gives to a variety of Christian causes, Oral Roberts University and evangelical ministries among them, and adheres to Christian principles, closing its stores on Sundays, playing Christian music in them and operating Mardel, a separate chain of religious bookstores...more...
The Times has a story in the business section of the Hobby Lobby's Steve Green's new Bible Museum. Green is a Pentecostal.