Written By: Jonathan Clayton
During the 2019 Josh McDowell Institute Conference, students got the chance to look at and feel a work which scholars created three centuries ago. The Torah Scroll is written in ancient Hebrew on preserved animal hide. The text itself, containing the first five books of the Old Testament, is beautiful and serves as a reminder of just how precious God’s Word is. There is a story developing about this incredible piece of writing, and on March 12, I sat down with Dr. Mark Weeter, OKWU Provost, to learn how Oklahoma Wesleyan acquired the manuscript and how it affects campus culture.
Dr. Weeter told me about a group founded by Ken Larson in Florida called God’s Ancient Library, which has been buying and researching Torah scrolls and donating them to seminaries and universities that honor the inerrancy of Scripture. Last spring, Dr. Weeter accompanied Dr. Piper to receive this scroll along with three other colleges who received theirs. The scroll OKWU received was chosen by God’s Ancient Library, and the University was also given instructions for the care and display of the scroll. Dr. Piper initially was told about the desire of God’s Ancient Library to donate the scroll to our school at the Josh McDowell event at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Weeter told me that “the scroll is from northern Africa, so it would have been part of a Jewish synagogue. It dates to the early 1700s, so it is about 300 years old.” He also said that the synagogue it was in would have been destroyed during the Muslim conquest of North Africa. The scroll was found in Israel, so it is presumed that someone migrated to Israel from North Africa and too
k the scroll with them. A Jewish family in Jerusalem has been purchasing Torah scrolls, and the scrolls are stored in a large area and must be authenticated by the Jewish Department of Antiquities to affirm that it was not stolen. God’s Ancient Library bought the scrolls from the family and brought them to America. This scroll is also considered non-kosher, so it could not be used in worship.
Dr. Weeter searched for a company to build a display case for the scroll, and OKWU’s Business Affairs office contacted a cabinetry company in Massachusetts to see if they could send the University a catalog. The company responded by saying they refused to do business with the school due to the University’s views on biblical sexuality. After Dr. Piper’s weekly appearance on the Pat Campbell radio show discussing this company’s refusal to sell the school the case, he received a message from the pastor at Matoaka Baptist Church near Bartlesville, saying they would love to build us a display case. The man who built it builds museum-quality display cases professionally and chose to donate this case to the University. Dr. Weeter considers the refusal of business from the company in Massachusetts a blessing, as it allowed the church to bless OKWU and allowed OKWU to take another stand for its values.
Dr. Weeter said that the plan is to have a day to honor it, along with using it to honor Old Testament feast days. It will also be used as a teaching tool to help students understand the inerrancy of God’s Word.
Dr. Weeter thinks the scroll will impact campus culture and how we view the authority of Scripture. He mentioned Dr. Rod Macllvaine’s talk at the JMI conference on the evidence for Scriptural authority and said that he hopes that the scroll will reinforce this knowledge. There is potential to have a chapel service on the process of how it was copied, in which the scroll will be displayed. Dr. Weeter also said, “We trust that by seeing the meticulous nature in which Scripture was passed down, it will help to answer questions concerning the accuracy of the Bible.”
On Monday, April 1, the display case was delivered to the library and patrons can now view the scroll in its case. The case is beautiful and makes the case look like a part of the library that has been there all along. Dr. Weeter said that he hopes people will take time to look at the scroll once it is displayed and take the time to recognize the incredible work done to copy it for the preservation of God’s Word.