Bible History Exhibition, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Your introduction to a new museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma is walking into the catacombs of first century Rome to begin to get a feel for the period when persecution of Christians began in a systematic and widespread way. The purpose of the museum is to honor the price that has been paid for the Gospel to go into all the world. While nearing the end of the catacombs you see an exhibit case in the wall with a thirteenth century scroll of Genesis, pottery pieces a thousand years older than Abraham, and papyrus pieces belonging to the first few centuries of the Christian era. Directly from the catacombs you enter the Bible exhibit. On a wall to your right is a small acrylic case that contains an inkpot and a quill pen. A graphic states: ‘For 1500 years the Word of God was preserved by using this simple instrument.’ You are in the manuscript room of the exhibit. You are surrounded by such artifacts as another 13th century complete Torah approximately 105 feet in length, a beautifully illuminated scroll of Esther in a case 13 feet in length, two manuscript Bibles of the 12th and 13th centuries, full size facsimiles on parchment of three of the first seven scrolls discovered of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and many other pieces of this period of Bible history, when God’s Word was preserved by the scribe. Media pieces help the visitor learn about the phenomenal find of the Dead Sea scrolls. They view as well on a TV monitor ten of the illuminations in a little Book of Hours, with the 1460 French Book of Hours on a stand opened to King David in his early morning-time of prayer and praise. Another short media piece on a large TV above the cases tells something of the importance of the scribe as well as that Oxford scholar of the fourteenth century, John Wycliffe, who we know as the ‘Morning Star of the Reformation’. Pages of Wycliffite Bibles, Wycliffe facsimiles, and other 14th century religious artifacts are seen in the case below. The beginning of a thirty-foot Bible and history timeline stretches over the manuscript cases and carries you on into the 15th century where you are immediately confronted with the huge, wood press of Gutenberg. Judged a few years ago by the Gutenberg museum as closely resembling the one Gutenberg used, groups that make reservations will be given a demonstration by Gutenberg himself of this working-press and an insight into how the printing of books changed the world forever. The full-color Cooper Square Gutenberg facsimile is in a case to the left of the press, opened to the same page that is printed on the press. This demonstrates how beautifully many of the originals were illuminated after the black text was printed. An authentic Gutenberg page is in the case as well. On the opposite wall is another six-foot case with several more huge 15th century Bibles. The sombre sight of a stone jail or dungeon leads you into the Early English Room. In the recesses is the lone figure of William Tyndale, barely visible, working by the light of a single candle in the castle dungeon at Vilvorde where he spent sixteen months. The first of four, five foot lighted cases in this period of our early English Bible shows all of the significant editions of the Greek text from Erasmus’ first, to his second edition used by Luther, the third used by Tyndale, to those Greek texts used in the translating of the King James Bible. A 1536 Blankstone edition of Tyndale’s New Testament, Coverdale’s and Matthew’s 1537s in the second case take visitors back to times contemporary with William Tyndale, the Father of the English Bible. The third and fourth cases show the first editions of the Bible from the 1539 Great Bible to the Roman Catholic Rheims and Douai versions. Through graphics visitors can learn more of the English Bible story after Tyndale. The time line continues above all of the cases with both significant events of history and the great events of Bible history to the year 2000 to help visitors learn more of the dramatic story of our Bible down through the centuries. One case in the center of the English room spotlights two first edition King James Bibles, both the He edition of 1611 and the She edition of 1617 which is opened to the near-perfect two- page map of the Holy Land and Jerusalem. Another short six minute movie on the life of William Tyndale entitled The Fire of Devotion, gives the visitors a gripping record of his early life, his martyrdom, and his continuing legacy in our English Bible. Leading out of the English room is a small, hand-copied Chinese Bible of about the 1980s which reminds visitors that a great price is still being paid by Christians around the world in the cause of Christ. The remainder of the journey through the rest of the museum continues this same theme, all the while emphasizing to the visitor that it is out of love that thousands of Christians have persevered through the centuries since the time of Christ to spread the Word of God and the Gospel to throughout the entire world. The museum is at 8863 E. 91st Street, Tulsa, Oklahoma. There is no admission charge. It is open Tues 10–6, Thurs 10–8, Sat 10–6 and Sun 1–6. For groups, it would be best to make reservations by calling 918-459-0431.

Dr John Hellstern, November 2000

Valid XHTML 1.0!