The INSPIRED experience allowed visitors, under carefully controlled conditions, to have personal, hands-on experience with the artifacts.
They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. – Nehemiah 8:8 (ESV)
This spring, a powerful event took place in the glittering city of Hong Kong: The INSPIRED exhibit. The first of its kind in this region of China, this stunning experience showcased 75 world-class biblical artifacts of tremendous historical value.
The event was spearheaded by Scott Carroll, PhD, a leading scholar and expert in biblical artifacts. The event was facilitated by David Addington, Denise Carroll and countless others from local Hong Kong churches and Bible societies.
The doors opened at St. Andrew’s Church in the heart of Hong Kong on March 23rd. Those who entered the beautiful landmark building were immediately immersed in the finest collection of biblical artifacts that had ever been in the city: Papyrus fragments, cuneiform tablets, medieval manuscripts, stunning Hebrew scrolls, and some of the most important early translations of the Bible in the world.
The exhibit showcased over 70 rare items, including representations of the very earliest texts of the Bible, such as the Ketef Hinnom Silver Amulets, the oldest text of the Hebrew Bible dating to 600-500 BC.
The exhibit was geared for “thinkers,” those who wanted to engage with raw evidence and make their own conclusions. For example, the collection included a beautiful reproduction of the Ketef Hinnom Silver Amulets, the oldest known texts of Scripture. They were found in a burial chamber inscribed onto thin pieces of silver foil. Dating between 600 and 500 BC, the two amulets contain the Aaronic Priestly Blessing from Numbers 6:24-26.
The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.
Amazingly, the text in the amulets is virtually identical to the text in the modern Hebrew Bible, underscoring the continuity of the biblical text over time.
The exhibit included a beautiful collection of Hebrew scrolls of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, written by Moses. Fully rolled out, each scroll reaches an impressive 100 feet in length. Written by hand on animal skins (a process that took a full year of writing by highly skilled scribes), they represent the tremendous accuracy and passion with which the Hebrew Bible was passed on to us. Several scrolls originated from locations along the Silk Road, showing how the Scriptures moved from Israel and Europe into Asia over the centuries.
The exhibit also contained original manuscripts and scrolls from the medieval period – beautiful examples of the tens of thousands of manuscripts which were hand copied during this period. By carefully following the rules laid down by centuries of traditions, the Jewish scribes of the eighth and 10th centuries compiled rules to standardize the pronunciation and paragraph divisions of the Hebrew Bible. The results were literally unrolled for everyone to see – stunningly beautiful and accurate scrolls of Scripture that match, nearly perfectly, other scrolls from broad geographical regions and different centuries. The exhibit also communicated that the earliest fragments of the New Testament date within decades of their authorship. Complete Gospels and epistles survive from as early as the 200s AD.
A working replica of the Gutenberg press. Time magazine named Gutenberg one ten most important men of the past millennium.
One of the central highlights in the exhibit was a stunning working replica of the Gutenberg press – the invention that historians agree ushered in the modern age through mass printing. Students were able to print their own pages from the Bible, just as the very first Bibles were printed by Gutenberg around 1455.
The Qumran Caves near the Dead Sea have yielded many of the very earliest portions of the Torah, as well as a nearly complete scroll of the book of Isaiah.
The final two artifacts in the exhibit were a scroll containing the story of Esther and a complete Torah scroll. Fully rolled out, the large-format German Torah was written on the carefully prepared skins of over 40 different kosher calves with incredible precision. Impressive, yet it was the story behind the scroll that caused people to think the most. The scroll had recently been discovered. I had been buried near a synagogue in Furth, Germany by a Rabbi and his congregation to protect it during the Nazi uprising. The scroll survived. The Rabbi and his entire congregation did not. Likewise, the Esther scroll (containing the story of how God preserved his people and his word from evil destruction) had lived a similar story. Found in Vilna Lithuania after World War II, in a city where 97% of the Jews died, the scroll somehow lived to tell its story.
Tens of thousands came from all over Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland. Many traveled thousands of miles.
The response by the community was immediate. Hundreds of people came through INSPIRED the first day. That number quickly grew to 1000, then 2000 per day. Many waited 2 to 4 hours in the hot sun. One group of Chinese traveled 12 hours by train in order to spend an hour in the exhibit, then turned around and went home. Thousands more came to hear lectures by the Israeli Consul General Sagi Karni, Josh McDowell, international experts and local ministry leaders. By the time the doors closed on April 12, nearly 37,000 people had come to INSPIRED. They left with a new perspective on the Bible, the patterns of evidence that show its accuracy, and a new appreciation for those who lived and died for the Bible.
Most heard about the exhibit as news traveled by word of mouth.
At Patterns of Evidence, we believe in the power of media. We know that we can present compelling evidence for the veracity of the Bible on screen. Yet, in this highly visual audio and digital world, there’s something unusually personal and powerful about encountering the real, three-dimensional, physical objects that tell the stunning story of the history of the Bible – not just the history in the Bible, but the history of those physical vessels of leather, ink, papyri and foil.
What if thinkers around the globe were able to have this kind of personal interaction with these powerful objects? What if the presentation was mixed with world-class cinematography, live symphonies, and packaged in a traveling roadshow that takes the experience to the masses? This new vision, as impossible as it would have seemed just a year ago, looks like it might become a reality sometime in the future. Patterns of Evidence is establishing new partnerships, including one with INSPIRED Exhibits, so that the experience people had in Hong Kong might become available for people in the United States and in other areas around the world.
Perhaps we will see you on the road sometime soon. In the meantime, keep thinking!