Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Scriptorium

I spent last week vacationing in Florida with my wife, our daughter Nellie, her husband John, and our grand daughter Jonelle. It was cooler than we had hoped, but it was still a lot better than Michigan. After the obligatory visit to Disney World (Animal Kingdom was great) my wife and I went to the Holy Land experience. We knew it was going to be presented on a far smaller scale than Disney, but we hoped it would still offer an educational and worshipful experience. We attended a worship service, saw a model of Jerusalem, visited the Scriptorium, and saw a presentation of the tabernacle. The event that impressed us the most was the Scriptorium. All in all, we enjoyed our time.

Modeled on a Byzantine basilica, the Scriptorium is the most impressive building on the property, easily surpassing the nearby half-scale facade of Herod’s temple. Inside the Scriptorium, 13 rooms trace the evolution of sacred writings from divine inspiration to mass production. Our group of 12 people spent approximately 3-4 minutes in each room as we followed the cues of the programmed lights, recorded commentary, and some animatronics of the automated tour that traced the intrigue that accompanied the transmission of the Bible. As I viewed Martin Luther’s German Bible and imagined the persecution that was depicted of the translators who followed him, I envisioned Heinrich encountering these people as they were all caught up in the intrigue. I thought that perhaps I should continue my novel approach and give renewed life to the characters who began this blog. We’ll see what happens.
There is a side note to the Scriptorium that comes from the town I live in: Grand Haven. 
From the New York Times: November 4, 1999:
“Robert D. Van Kampen, a millionaire investor who built one of the world's largest private collections of biblical manuscripts and early printed Bibles, died on Friday at Loyola University Medical Center outside of Chicago while awaiting a heart transplant. He was 60. Mr. Van Kampen, who lived in Grand Haven, Mich., suffered from a viral condition that resulted in the deterioration of his heart, said David Allen, a longtime friend and business associate.
After 1984, when he could count his fortune in the tens if not hundreds of millions, Mr. Van Kampen devoted himself to writing books about Christian eschatology, a branch of theology dealing with the study of the end of the world, and to his collection of biblical materials. His first book was ''The Sign'' (1992).
The Scriptorium was founded by Mr. Van Kampen in 1994. ''It's the country's outstanding collection of manuscript and early printed Bibles,'' said Paul Saenger, the curator of rare books at the Newberry Library in Chicago who has worked at the Scriptorium.”
Bastiaan Van Elderen, executive director of the Scriptorium, said the collection had many unique pieces, among them a 16th-century Hebrew Bible that he believed was the only one in the United States. Mr. Van Kampen began collecting rare biblical and ancient manuscripts 17 years ago when he purchased a 1537 English-language Bible said to be stained by the blood of its martyred owner.
Mr. Van Kampen later acquired papyrus and clay tablets, some of which date from 2,000 B.C.; a Coptic translation from the fourth century A.D. of a portion of the Old Testament from Egypt, the Book of Daniel from the Gutenberg Bible of 1455, Hebrew Torah scrolls and translations by the 14th-century reformer John Wycliffe.
As a businessman Mr. Van Kampen made his reputation as a young bond salesman. In 1975 he founded an investment banking firm later called Van Kampen Merritt (now Van Kampen Funds).
He moved to southwest Michigan in 1993, building a $3.3 million mansion there, and founded two churches in the area.”
Rita and I attended one of those churches just south of Grand Haven for 2 years and were acquainted with Kristen Wisen, one of Mr. Van Kampen’s daughters, and her husband David. Rita even attended a dinner that was held at their mansion overlooking Lake Michigan. We are now attending another church in the area, but our brief exposure to this family lent an interesting twist to our time at the Scriptorium. It’s a small world after all - and I’m not talking about the Magic Kingdom - but God’s Kingdom.
This weekend is Purim and I’ll post a commentary on that tomorrow.

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