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By Kayla Reeves
Baylor researchers are bringing biblical history to life in Vatican City this Easter season.
Dr. Scott Carroll, research professor in manuscript studies and biblical tradition at the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion, is the director of a 5,000-square-foot exhibit of rare religious artifacts at the Vatican. The exhibit is intended to bring together people of many faiths that have a common history, and Carroll has been working on it for more than a year.
The exhibit is composed of more than 150 religious texts and artifacts from the Green Collection —the largest private collection of religious relics in the world — and from the Vatican Museum and other private collections.
The exhibit is set up in a series of highly detailed rooms “meant to immerse you in the dramatic story told by this one-of-a-kind assemblage of items,” Carroll wrote in an email to the Lariat. For example, there are rooms replicating the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, and Westminster Abbey’s Jerusalem Chamber, where the King James Version of the Bible was translated.
The items on display show the resilience of the Bible in times of great persecution, Carroll said. These items include scrolls that survived the Spanish Inquisition and texts burned by Nazis during the Holocaust.
The exhibit is called Verbum Domini, which means “Word of the Lord” in Latin. The exhibit embodies Pope Benedict XVI’s hope to renew people’s passion for reading God’s word, Carroll said, and it displays the shared traditions and biblical history of Jewish, Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox faiths.
Dr. David Jeffrey, distinguished professor of literature and humanities, has been working with the Green Collection at Baylor for more than a year and gave a lecture about the research at the exhibit in Vatican City this week.
“It is a beautiful exhibit,” Jeffrey said. “It’s been attended by cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church, bishops, scholars and ordinary people — even the stewardess from my flight.”
Carroll said the exhibit demonstrates the importance of the Bible throughout history.
“Together, the items in this exhibit tell the story of how God’s word has come to us — the story of how thousands of believers of the Jewish and Christian faiths throughout history have lived and died to protect, preserve, translate and access this great book,” Carroll said.
Carroll has scoured the globe for some of the items in the Green Collection, which makes up about two-thirds of Verbum Domini.
He and the Green family, who also own the chain of Hobby Lobby stores, have made the collection available for undergraduates to study.
“Scholars and student-scholars at some 30 universities worldwide are currently conducting groundbreaking research on the more than 50,000 items in The Green Collection through the Green Scholars Initiative, and Baylor is the academic hub of all of this research,” Carroll said.
Just a few weeks ago Baylor researchers discovered what might be the oldest text of the Gospel of Mark ever found, Carroll said.
Jeffrey said he believes the Green Collection is the most valuable collection in the world for Christian intellectual study.
There are eight Green Collection religious projects at Baylor, all with students researching and working on them as well, Jeffrey said.
“It’s exciting for them, and we want to give them personal experience working with texts of the tradition,” he said.
This will be the first time artifacts from the Green Collection have been on display in Europe. Carroll said he believes this exhibit is the next step on the path to a permanent museum for the Green Collection.
Verbum Domini is free and open to the public from March 1 through April 15, just outside of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.