Very strange thing going on right now in New York and Europe about a "National Bible Museum" to be created in Dallas -- strange in that there has been no mention here in the city's only daily newspaper. But people elsewhere seem to know all about it.
The National Bible Museum, as it has been described to me, would be the size of 10 football fields and is supposed to be built somewhere near downtown Dallas.
Things like this get talked about all the time, and most of them are trial balloons, scams or urban rumors. But here is the intriguing part about this deal: I have it on very good authority that the agents for this museum -- a Biblical scholar from Western Michigan and a Dallas man -- have been making very major purchases of serious books and manuscripts in New York and Europe for which they have been paying millions of dollars.
In real money.
"Every bill that has been presented to them, they have paid," my source told me.
I corresponded by e-mail last week with Scott Carroll, the Biblical scholar who tells me he is the executive director of the museum. (In fact, two years ago, he told the newspaper for Cornerstone University, where he's a professor of history, all about the project.) I told him I had heard that he and Don Shipman of Dallas had spent upwards of 10 million dollars in Europe in recent weeks on rare Bibles. Carroll e-mailed me back within hours and said: "I can assure you that the estimate about our recent acquisitions would be a gross understatement!"
Since then I have been told by sources here that the amount of money Carroll and Shipman are spending for this collection is more in the neighborhood of $300 million.
They are buying things like the Codex Climaci Rescriptus, an Old and New Testament translation probably produced in Jerusalem in the early 6th Century, written in Palestinian Aramaic, Greek and Syriak. I was told it is "a very serious book."
Carroll is the one vetting the acquisitions. Shipman, son of a Cleburne pastor, is accompanying Carroll on this international buying spree as some sort of agent.
Carroll has credible credentials. In the past he has been a curator of the Van Kampen collection in Michigan, a renowned archive of early Jewish and Christian manuscripts. He's not a nobody or a fly-by-night.
The people I'm talking to (none of whom would agree to be named because they don't want to offend the principals in this deal) tell me that the National Bible Museum is being funded pretty much out of the fortune of a single Oklahoma City family. I am trying to reach that family now.
It just seems odd to me that this project could be creating this much stir elsewhere -- and that Carroll is so open about it -- and yet I can't find a single public word of it locally.
But there you have it. Yours truly, Jim Schutze, Bible Boy.