VATICAN CITY – This week Stan Rosenberg, director of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities’ centre for Scholarship and Christianity In Oxford, the home of BestSemester’s Oxford programs, will make his second trip to Rome in just over two weeks. On February 29 he attended the VIP preview of the Verbum Domini exhibit, a collaboration between the Vatican Museum and The Green Collection, the world’s largest private collection of rare biblical texts and artifacts. On March 16 Rosenberg will be one of the presenters during the Verbum Domini Speakers Series at the Vatican.
The Verbum Domini, or “the Word of the Lord,” exhibit opened March 1 in the Braccio di Carlo Magno museum next to St. Peter’s Basilica in St. Peter’s Square. Free and open to the public through April 15, Verbum Domini is a 5,000-square-foot journey into biblical history that brings together for the first time under one roof more than 150 of the world's rarest biblical texts and artifacts from The Green Collection and other private collections worldwide. The Green Collection is the world’s largest private collection of rare biblical texts and artifacts and is owned by the Green Family, the American Protestant family behind Hobby Lobby and the family awarded the 2012 CCCU Philanthropy Award in February.
Verbum Domini pairs Pope Benedict XVI's vision of a renewed passion for reading and meditating on God's Word with the Green family's desire to make the history, scholarship and impact of the Bible more accessible to the world. The interfaith exhibit of rare biblical antiquities brings together Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and Orthodox Christians during the Lenten season to celebrate their common biblical history. Under the patronage of the Pontifical Council for Culture, representatives of the Vatican, The Green Collection, and others gathered on February 29 to inaugurate Verbum Domini.
“The event and exhibit together demonstrated the striking vision of The Green Collection and the Green Scholars Initiative in gathering together this grand heritage in a winsome spirit that excites and engages rather than isolates and alienates,” said Rosenberg, who also serves on the advisory board and as a scholar-mentor for the Green Scholars Initiative, The Green Collection’s research arm and an international project that will give undergraduate students and their professors access for research purposes to The Green Collection.
The vision of the collection to represent the significant and long history of the Bible and related texts was obvious from the first room of the exhibit, said Rosenberg. Displayed within a re-creation of Syria’s ancient painted synagogue, Dura Europos, were majestic medieval Torah scrolls, biblical commentaries, and more ordinary simple texts. Torahs that escaped the Holocaust sat beside priceless early medieval copies of the Torah. From there, viewers moved into rooms holding papyri dating from the earliest centuries of Christianity.
“It was inspiring to look at these, knowing they are not merely an exhibit behind glass,” said Rosenberg. “Such works like these are made available by the Green family, with the work of Green Scholars Initiative Director Jerry Pattengale, for shaping an academic program focused on diffusing them widely and as far down the educational chain as possible, rather than maintaining them for private enjoyment or access limited to a tiny, self-protective, scholarly enclave as happened with the Dead Sea Scrolls publications.” Rosenberg said it is a privilege to be part of a project that seeks to bring these texts to the wider public and use them to inspire and train new generations of students and scholars rather than hide them away as a private preserve either of a wealthy collector or a scholarly elite, which is the typical fate of such artifacts.
“As a scholar of Late Antiquity and early Christianity, it was wonderful to be close to texts that originate in the era I study and teach, rather than, as I usually do, focus my studies on modern editions and translations,” enthused Rosenberg, noting “the early fragment of Romans (indications are that it is from the second century), a text putatively by Aristotle, and one of the earliest Bibles, the Codex Climaci Rescriptus.”
Rosenberg said the interfaith aspect of the exhibit and the VIP event is very important. “It is vital that this project brings together not only key elements of the Christian tradition but includes the broader, Judaeo-Christian tradition,” he said. “To their great credit, the Greens have set out to do something which is not sectarian and welcomes many faiths as well as those who have no faith tradition. They have welcomed scholars of differing views including those deeply imbedded in a faith tradition and those who are agnostic, so long as they represent honest and engaged scholarship and enter into this work with a deep commitment to the formation and inspiration of new generations of students and scholars.”
On March 16, Rosenberg will speak on “The Use of the Septuagint among St. Augustine and the Early Church” during the Verbum Domini Lecture Series. The three-part series launched on March 2 and is a project of the Green Scholars Initiative.
The lecture series features world-renowned scholars from the Roman Catholic, Protestant, Christian Orthodox, and Jewish faith traditions. Their presentations reveal new insights on more than 2,000 years of Bible preservation. The series is presented at L’Instituto Patristico Augustinianum to top academics and interfaith representatives. The interfaith symposium will celebrate a shared love for God’s Word through overviews of speakers’ papers to be compiled for a forthcoming book.
About BestSemester: The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities offers 12 off-campus study programs, collectively branded BestSemester®, which expand learning opportunities for students from CCCU campuses and are designated as culture-shaping or culture-crossing programs. Culture-shaping BestSemester programs are: American Studies Program (Washington, D.C.); Contemporary Music Center (Nashville); Los Angeles Film Studies Center (Los Angeles); and Washington Journalism Center (Washington, D.C.). Culture-crossing BestSemester programs are: Australia Studies Centre; China Studies Program; India Studies Program; Latin American Studies Program; Middle East Studies Program; Programmes in Oxford; and Uganda Studies Program. Visit www.bestsemester.com for program details.
About the CCCU: The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities is a higher education association of 185 intentionally Christ-centered institutions around the world. The 116 member campuses in North America are all fully-accredited, comprehensive colleges and universities with curricula rooted in the arts and sciences. In addition, 69 affiliate campuses from 25 countries are part of the CCCU. The Council’s mission is to advance the cause of Christ-centered higher education and to help its institutions transform lives by faithfully relating scholarship and service to biblical truth. Visit www.cccu.org.