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Psalm 78
. . . we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. .
so the next generation would know them . . . and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Scripture through the Ages: Our Visit to the Passages Exhibit

Hobby Lobby’s president took up a new hobby two years ago when he purchased his first biblical artifact. Although best associated with craft supplies and seasonal d├ęcor, the retail chain’s president and son of the company’s founder, Steve Green, has now amassed thousands of rare biblical texts and artifacts. The Green Collection can be seen in Passages through October 16 at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.

We recently visited the museum and spent three hours in the Passages exhibit. As we moved from room to room, we travelled through 2000 years with the Scriptures, witnessing the careful and reverent stewardship of God’s Word by His people.

When we arrived, we were each given an iPod touch and headset so we could listen to audio tracks that accompanied each case. Our kids, five Edwards Academy kids and two homeschooling cousins, eagerly took the iPods as well as the scavenger hunt activity that is provided just for school-age kids, and we headed into the first room, which evokes a Jewish synagogue.

Here we viewed several Torah scrolls and elaborate Torah cases from various places around the world, including the Middle East, India, and Europe. Several exquisite Torah cases from Europe survived the 20th century Holocaust. We saw scrolls displaying I Samuel, with God’s Word written in Hebrew on deerskin and calfskin. Also in this room was a precious Dead Sea Scroll fragment of Genesis.

The audio tour provided listening tracks for each case and we could type a four-digit number, and sometimes a number for a specific artifact, and listen to an explanation that ran from five to ten minutes. These audio recordings had a very conversational feel and the narrator’s excitement about the scroll, text, Bible, manuscript, or artifact was catching.

Much of the exhibit brought to life things we read and studied in our Edwards Academy just last year. We read about scribes copying pages and pages of text for years of their lives, and in Passages we beheld with our own eyes their meticulous work. We read about Jerome and the Vulgate in school, and in Passages we looked at pages from the Vulgate and watched an animatronic St. Jerome speak to us about his life’s devotion to translating the Scriptures into Latin in a cave in Bethlehem.

Passages had a nice blend of rare manuscripts and books on static display in cases along with video re-enactments, animatronics, and set pieces that brought to life the time periods. I was very pleased to see our kids listening and looking intently at static displays as well as eagerly enjoying the interactive elements. After seeing so many handwritten manuscripts of Scripture, kids happily scooted up to a table and tried their hand at copying text with quill pens and ink. In the Gutenberg Print Shop room, each of our kids was allowed to work the replica Gutenberg press and print a page of I Samuel. Nearby the press stood a case holding an actual Gutenberg book of Romans. In another room, they used giant (rubber) stamps of early Biblical art and created their own woodcut-style prints.

We sat in the Reformation theater and watched character actors (on video) of Martin Luther, Erasmus, and Johann Eck debate the issues of salvation by faith alone and the authority of the Scriptures. This interchange was particularly well done, as the large HD screens were positioned behind “windows” creating the effect of each man speaking from his study, gazing out the window, and interacting with letters from the other men.

Passages not only displayed early manuscripts in Biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek, as well as early translations into Latin, but the exhibit also highlighted many early vernacular translations and finally showcased the grand vernacular accomplishment, the King James translation into English. The exhibit’s King James Bible room, which recreated the setting of the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey, was particularly interesting in this 400th anniversary year. Here we surveyed several first editions of the King James Bible, including the 1611 debut "HE" Bible as well as a 1613 “SHE” Bible, whose name comes from the rendering of "she went into the city," in Ruth 3:15, rather than "he went into the city."

Beyond the careful stewardship of God’s Word, we were fascinated by the adornment of the Scriptures over the ages. We’ve read about early illuminated manuscripts in our school studies, but actually seeing the gold and lapis paint glistening on the page in shining illumination was nothing short of incredible.

In fact, the magnificent artwork inspired by Scripture was given its own room in Passages. From medieval illustrations and illuminated devotionals such as the Book of Hours to 19th century illustrations painted onto the edge of a Bible’s pages (it seemed oddly incongruent to see a Mississippi paddle boat painted onto the edge of a Bible), this room contained a wide-variety of artwork, including some skeptical Salvador Dali works.

In an age of secularism that seeks to ignore the powerful influence of the Bible over Western Civilization’s history, Passages is a welcome antidote. Thankfully the Green Collection unabashedly reminds us that God’s Word, the Bible, has always provoked intense reaction, but in God’s sovereignty it endures for all time.

I’m sorry that we didn’t hear about this exhibit sooner, as it will run in the OKC Museum of Art for only a few more weeks before it travels to Vatican City. I’m hopeful, however, for future opportunities to see the Green Collection. The Passages website promises that the collection “will eventually become the core of an international, non-sectarian museum of the Bible and will be the subject of ongoing scholarly research through the Green Scholars Initiative.”

In the meantime, clear your schedule and hustle over to Oklahoma City and take your kids to experience Passages.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Isn't it Romantic?

"Thomas Traherne, the seventeenth century Christian writer, declared that the children of the King can never enjoy the world aright till every morning they wake up in heaven, see themselves in the Father's palace, and look upon the skies, the earth and the air as celestial joys, having such a reverent esteem for all as if they were among the angels."

More from A. W. Tozer's Man: The Dwelling Place of God, this time from the chapter "The Sanctification of the Secular," something I read in my devotional time this morning.

 Although Tozer was writing in the 20th century, citing the words of a 17th century writer, Traherne's declaration reminded me of the Romantics of the early 19th century. In our Edwards Academy study of the Romantic period, it is easy to notice the danger of seeking salvation in a back-to-the-earth love of (worship of) Nature. Nevertheless, the Romantics were on to something when they realized that Nature should startle us into worship. They just (often) got the object of worship wrong.

Image from Allposters.com, "The Cornfield" by John Constable, 1826.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Implications

Edwards Academy students are beginning to study the life of William Wilberforce (1759-1833), the man who is credited with ending the slave trade in the British empire. His life helps us contemplate what it means to be a Christian.
"...in October 1785, [William] Wilberforce began to wrestle with the implications of embracing Christianity. On October 25 he wrote, '[I] began three or four days ago to get up very early. In the solitude and self-conversation of the morning had thoughts, which I trust will come to something. . . The deep guilt and black in gratitude of my past life forced itself upon me in the strongest colours, and I condemned myself for having wasted my precious time, and opportunities, and talents.'" (William Wilberforce by Kevin Belmonte)
I wonder how I am at understanding the full implications of my convictions, and then putting them into practice. Little in our culture pushes me to apply what I believe to all corners of my life. In fact, the loudest voices of our society insist that the opposite be true, that my convictions should remain separate from my actions, especially in the public sphere.

But how can we really live when our core beliefs are shunted aside? When the world is too much with us?

Just as Wordsworth's poem was ringing in my ears, I read this in Tozer:
"[Christians] read the lives of the great saints whose fervent desire after God carried them far up the mountain toward spiritual perfection; and for a brief moment they may yearn to be like these fiery souls whose light and fragrance still linger in the world where they once lived and labored. But the longing soon passes. The world is too much with them and the claims of their earthly lives are too insistent; so they settle back to live their ordinary lives, and accept the customary as normal."
Wilberforce was a fiery soul who desired after God and this desire directed the course of his life. May I long to be like that and may that longing not pass, but inspire me to never accept the customary as normal, but to always be pushing forward, pursuing holiness and the glory of God.

**

Incidentally, Tapestry of Grace does a marvelous job providing for a deep and meaningful discussion about Wilberforce. The Teacher's Notes give discussion questions and answers to help dialectic-age kids (roughly middle school age) fully engage with their studies, getting beyond facts and delving into the implications.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Snapping to Circuits


A great bonus to homeschooling is the flexibility that it allows. I had no idea that we would turn our attention to electricity this week, but mid-week Toby rediscovered a Christmas gift, Snap Circuits, from his closet shelf. I tried in vain several times this summer to spark in the boys an interest in building circuits, but suddenly Toby is taken with the idea, building circuits in every spare moment. It is a good thing that there 300 projects to build!

He is identifying his letters and numbers as he carefully duplicates the circuit patterns in the book, not to mention that he must sequence the parts together in the correct order. It is a great exercise, even if it isn't one of the kindergarten activities I planned for him this week.

Image and science toy from Elenco.com.

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