Hobby shop magnate Steve Green's own favorite pastime doesn't involve model airplanes or remote controlled cars, it's all about building and displaying the biggest collection of Biblical artifacts this side of the Vatican.
The owner of the 502-store, Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby chain, Green has a collection of nearly 50,000 Items, ranging from 1,500-year-old parchment fragments to a 150-pound sandstone tablet discovered near the Dead Sea. Green, who collects the artifacts with the help of archaeologist and religious scholar Scott Carroll, said the holy book has long fascinated him.
“It’s been banned; it’s been burned," Green told FoxNews.com. "It’s been loved and hated. It’s the best-selling book of all time, the most-translated book of all time, and, I think, the most important book of all time.”
“It’s been banned; it’s been burned. It's been loved and hated. It’s ... the most important book of all time."
- Steve Green
Some of the collection's best pieces are currently on display in Vatican City. Called the Verbum Domini exhibit, it includes the Codex Climaci Rescriptus, one of the earliest-surviving, near-complete Bibles.
Green’s favorite piece is the Great Isaiah Scroll Facsimile.
“[It’s] an exact facsimile of the most celebrated of all the Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls and one of the original seven Dead Sea Scrolls discovered at Qumran in 1947,” he told FoxNews.com. “Dating to ca. 125 BCE, it is the largest and best-preserved of all the biblical scrolls. The 54 columns contain all 66 chapters of Isaiah.”
Green and Carroll purchased their first manuscript in November 2009, and never envisioned their collection growing as it has.
“We are inspired because of our personal faith and because the Bible is arguably the world’s most significant piece of literature, with tens of thousands of people having died to access and translate it and we think that story is worth telling in a meaningful way,” Green said.
Carroll, who acquires new items for the collection with input from Green, said the smaller collection put together for the Holy City Is aimed at showing the ties that bind all denominations of Christianity.
“Verbum Domini gives us an overwhelming sense of the eternal significance of Scripture and shows us that people of the Book, although differing in theology, actually have more common ground than is often recognized," Carroll said. "This exhibit illustrates the surprising unity that we, the faithful, all share.”
Green considers his collection priceless, and hopes it inspires viewers to consider the effort that has gone into preserving, translating and spreading the word.
“I think most would agree that it’s impossible to put a value on something that countless people have struggled, persevered, been imprisoned and even put to death to preserve,” Green said.
He'll get no argument from Geof Morin, of New York, who visited the Verbum Domini exhibit in Italy on April 1.
“What an incredible gift to walk just a few steps to see so beautifully, the wide reach of the Bible in this exhibition-- seeing on stone and skins and paper sheets the power of a message that has touched millions of lives over thousands of years,” Morin said.
“Ultimately, we hope to establish a national Bible museum that, in addition to showing how the Bible, as we know it today, came together, illustrates the impact the book has had on the world and share it’s amazing story,” he said.