AUSTIN, Texas (RNS) Evangelical businessman Steve Green on Thursday (Sept. 26) unveiled what he called “the oldest Jewish prayer book ever found” and will add it to the collection of religious artifacts that will form the core of the Bible museum he is building in Washington, D.C.

Likely the oldest Jewish prayer book ever found, dated by both scholars and Carbon-14 tests to circa 840 C.E. Photo courtesy Green Scholars Initiative

Likely the oldest Jewish prayer book ever found, dated by both scholars and Carbon-14 tests to circa 840 C.E. Photo courtesy Green Scholars Initiative


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

The artifact, dating from 840 A.D., is written in Hebrew on parchment and shows Babylonian vowel marks. Green said it was purchased less than a year ago from a private collection and is of Middle Eastern origin. But he declined to name the seller or how much he paid for it.

About the size of a large smartphone, and 50 pages long, the seller likely knew the book was special but did not realize its significance, said Jerry Pattengale, executive director of the Green Scholars Initiative, the research arm of The Green Collection.

The prayerbook — a rare complete codex in its original tan-colored binding — includes a listing of the 100 Benedictions, or blessings that some observant Jews say daily.

It may well be the “earliest connection today’s practicing Jews have to the roots of their modern-day rabbinic liturgy,” Green said.

Green, whose billionaire family owns the Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby chain of more then 550 craft stores — made the announcement at the annual meeting of the Religion Newswriters Association.

Steve Green, President of Hobby Lobby, speaks at the Religion News Writers Association Conference in Austin, Texas on Thursday (Sept. 26). RNS photo by Sally Morrow

Steve Green, President of Hobby Lobby, speaks at the Religion News Writers Association Conference in Austin, Texas on Thursday (Sept. 26). RNS photo by Sally Morrow


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Green has made headlines recently for his lawsuit against a federal mandate that would require most employers to provide free birth control and the so-called morning-after pill in their health insurance plans. The case appears headed to the Supreme Court.

In 2009, he founded The Green Collection, which now includes more than 40,000 ancient artifacts. They will be housed in a Bible museum planned for a site just south of the U.S. Capitol, slated to open in 2017.

Green reiterated his belief that the Bible is a foundation of the nation’s success — 94 percent of U.S. households have at least one Bible, he said, despite a tremendous “brain drain” of biblical knowledge.

“Our desire is to have a nonsectarian museum that tells this book’s story and let you decide what you do with it,” he said of his yet-to-be-named museum.

20 Comments

  1. Lauren: Is there a link to a scholarly article on this? Perhaps something that outlines it’s contents (or even translates them)? Depending on what Biblical texts are referenced in this prayer book, it seems like it would be a major discovery to cross reference with extant copies of the Hebrew Bible.

    • Lauren Markoe

      Lauren Markoe

      Article author

      I believe research on the book will be released in the next year or so, but not much on its contents was released to the press yesterday, though many of us at the announcement asked.

  2. Yeah, that should be CE, not BC. For reals…

    And, really, you can’t let organizations like this have the final word on the authenticity of artefacts like this–you should get input from scholars.

  3. As a very fortunate billionaire, you obviously can spend your money on whatever you want. However, using your money for charity, (especially feeding, clothing and housing the poor,) would be more in line with Jesus’ teaching than buying rare Jewish artifacts for a Bible museum. Do you remember what he said about rich men?

  4. It is highly doubtful that someone as Anti-Semitic as David Green cares to preserve the history of the Jewish history. He has made that clear my forbidding any of his stores from carrying Hanukkah merchandise.

  5. I HAVE INVESTIGATED THE SITUATION AND BELIEVE THE COMMENTS ON THE BLOG TO BE HERESAY. THE COMPANY TOLD ME THEY ARE CONSIDERING BRINGING IN JEWISH ITEMS. RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG

    The Hobby Lobby craft store chain, which has a borough location, has responded to accusations of anti-Semitism in the face of policy not to sell Hanukkah and other Jewish holiday items because of owner Peter Green’s “Christian values.”

    The situation drew national attention when a Jewish shopper from Monmouth County blogged about his experience after his wife was told by an employee in the Marlboro location, “We don’t cater to you people.” Blogger Ken Berwitz then was told that the items aren’t stocked “Because Mr. Green is the owner of the company, he’s a Christian, and those are his values.”

    The blog was published on Sunday, and the next day Hobby Lobby issued the following statement, “Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. is currently working with our buyers over our merchandise selection. Due to multiple customer requests, we are currently evaluating our Holiday items and what we will carry in the future. Alleged comments made by employees are currently being investigated and will be addressed accordingly. These comments are in no way indicative of Hobby Lobby culture, the owners and the operators. Marlboro is a great city and has wonderful people and we are blessed to be apart the community.”

  1. […] Liberty University in 2004, and $70 million to bail out Oral Roberts University in 2007.   Recently Steve Green unveiled what he called “the oldest Jewish prayer book ever found”  that he will add it to the collection of religious artifacts that will form the core of the Bible […]

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