By now you have likely heard or read about the fake Dead Sea Scrolls or forgeries inside the recently opened Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. The museum was built and stocked by retail chain Hobby Lobby owner and multi-billionaire, evangelical Steve Green. What many might not know or have forgotten is that this foolery is not the first time Steve Green has knowingly bought and promoted fake, fraudulent artifacts from the Classical and Antiquity Eras in the Near East. Similar to the 19th-century Old West medicine and “miracle elixirs” touring-shows of magical tricks, musical acts, jokes, and fantastical storytelling, smarter discerning people today can certainly argue that Mr. Green has an addictive sweet-tooth for fantasy and hoaxes.
In 2011 a FedEx package from an Israeli antiquities dealer labelled “hand-crafted clay tiles” with a stated worth of less than $300 drew the suspicious attention of U.S. Customs officials. They opened it and instead of home or bathroom decor it was 300 cuneiform clay tablets in Assyrian and Babylonian languages stolen in great numbers during the U.S.-Iraqi War and its aftermath over the last few decades then sold on the black market.
In 2014 while visiting the Vatican’s Verbum Domini II exhibit of antique Bibles and Bible-related artifacts, an Italian papyrus expert immediately noticed a tattered fragment containing verses from Galatians 2 written in Coptic. It was being sold on eBay many months earlier by a Turkish dealer known to be unreliable and dishonest. Several of his colleagues believed he was a smuggler of anything that would sell to evangelical buyers, fake or otherwise.
Both the clay tablets and the papyrus were dubiously purchased and owned by Steve Green.
This month Steve Green’s Museum of the Bible was forced to publicly acknowledge that five (and probably seven) of their “Dead Sea Scrolls” are forgeries. Continued scientific examinations on the museum’s remaining scrolls, perhaps other artifacts if the Greens allow, will probably reveal more similar results. Why? Because from 2009 to 2014 word spread rapidly throughout Antiquities dealers (of any sort) in the Near East that authorized dealers of the multi-billionaire Green family were purchasing around 40,000 ancient biblical-religious artifacts for their future museum in Washington D.C. This whirlwind of money and hyper fast-track purchases ignited a buzz in the market never before seen. The New York Times in 2010 reported “[t]he buying [had] also spawned some skepticism about the overall quality of purchases made in such rapid-fire style.”
Joel S. Baden of the Yale University School of Divinity described Green’s incompetent acquisitions this way:
Every antiquities seller knew the Greens were buying everything and not asking questions about anything.
Aside from the hap-hazard amateur acquisition methods the Greens employed, there is another serious problem: the unprincipled, unethical intent to show in their museum fraudulent items as factual originals rather than labeling them modern replicas.
These practices by the Greens soon put them in the cross-hairs of the U.S. Justice Department. Hobby Lobby had to pay a $3-million fine as well as surrender and return the thousands of illegally acquired ancient artifacts from Iraq that were knowingly smuggled into the U.S. by Mr. Green. The Hobby Lobby tycoon, however, has his evangelical agenda working in several other areas of public life.
The Greens have spent massive amounts of money to confuse, redefine, and rewrite our clear Constitutional lines between church and state and their separation. In the 2014 Supreme Court decision of Burwell vs Hobby Lobby, “closely held for-profit” corporations like Hobby Lobby can refuse their employed women contraceptive medicines and/or care which was once mandated by the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The Greens have also funded a controversial nation-wide Biblical curriculum for American public schools as well as dumped millions into private Fundamentalist Christian institutions and colleges domestically and abroad. But this is not all.
The executive director of the Society for Biblical Literature, John Kutsko, speaks to this evangelical corporate movement with heightened concern:
There is no such thing as ‘the’ Bible… We [Americans] are a melting pot, and there are many religions here […] The [Green’s] museum could be a showcase for how we and our texts are different and can coexist peacefully. That would be a wonderful message to bring to bear, particularly in the environment we live in, an environment of absolutists and polarization.
But that is not Green’s intentions as evidenced by his artifact purchases and practices.
There is another disturbing concern: the simple truth. There are a large number of historical, biblical, archaeological, paleographical, and other scholars and experts, all of which have many decades of study and acclaimed lifetime careers that know too well how “pseudo-biblical archaeology” is replete with amateur scams, frauds, and wild claims meant to prove to buyers and audiences, at least through misleading visuals, that stories in the Bible are historically accurate when in fact they are not. These same scholars and academics are just as bothered by the man hired as the Bible museum’s director who was former director of the outlandish Creation Museum in Kentucky. This further undermines the museum’s credibility. And still there is more disturbing news.
The museum blatantly misleads, even lies about recent American history. In a dramatic promotional video for the museum it alleges that the Founding Fathers designed our government and civil culture to be Bible-centered; that is Christian-centered. The video states that George Washington himself said:
It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.
The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington in Mount Vernon, VA (click here) is a resource for “scholarly research about George Washington and the Founding Era, while collecting original Washington books and manuscripts.“ The library has already determined beyond doubt that this is a misquote or complete fabrication. When Mr. Green and his leadership team were presented with this correction, he was unphased, indifferent and insisted that our U.S. government was purposefully created as Bible-centered; that is Christian-centered. In my May 2015 blog-post The Mistaken Identity of the U.S. I go into great detail — from months and years of research utilizing resources like the Smith National Library – George Washington — about how this belief or fable Mr. Green persists in propagandizing is unfounded and simply not true.
At a 2014 interview at the Vatican, Steve Green imparted a rallying call to Christians, especially evangelicals that “The fact of the matter is, the [Bible] is under assault today.” It seems to Mr. Green and many Fundy-Evangelical Christians that there are other ways of starting and fighting a Holy War, or Jihad as the militant Islamists would call it, and it is covertly changing this democracy into a theocracy by whatever means necessary, similar again to Islamic nations of today. Based on Steve Green’s practices and museum, theocracizing includes smuggling, deception, diversion, well-funded propaganda that rivals even Joseph Goebbels’ tactics, and most of all the M.O. that the end always justifies the means. Principles of accuracy, due process, fact-verifying, truth or pro-truthiness, doesn’t matter. Force the “right end” to happen whatever the cost, literally.
Mr. Green seems ignorant of his unethical track-record. Being forthright from the very beginning will always be more valuable, more historic to the greater good and demonstrate higher levels of dignity and honor. So I say to all concerned, be astute and warned when you happen upon any involvement with Hobby Lobby or the Museum of the Bible: their owner, Steve Green, continuously exhibits that he possesses none of the great noble virtues.
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Now, if you are one for euphoric feel-good truths, fly-by-night veracity, and fantastical stories hyping life-changing memories in this life and the next, this is for you: 😎
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always
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