Steve Green, President of the U.S. arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby, recently revealed his purchase of what some scholars believe may be the oldest known Jewish prayer book. The 11 x 10 centimeter, 50 page book is a siddur, a Jewish prayer book that contains daily prayers. It dates from 840 and is written in an ancient form of Hebrew that includes Babylonian vowel marks. This indicates that it is likely from the Babylonian region, but the siddur's origin has yet to be determined. The book is complete and appears to still be in its original binding, which of course adds additional value to the volume.
Green acquired the book as an addition to the Green Collection, his family's extensive collection of biblical texts and artifacts. (Containing more than 40,000 items, it is the largest privately owned collection in the world.) The Greens are Evangelicals and they plan to house the collection in a Biblical museum scheduled to open in Washington, DC sometime in 2017. The Green Scholars Initiative is the Collection's research arm and conducted the academic research and carbon dating of the siddur.
Green and his company have recently been featured in the news for unrelated stories. Citing their religious convictions, Hobby Lobby filed a lawsuit in protest of the Affordable Care Act's mandate that private companies must offer employees coverage for birth control. The case is expected to come before the Supreme Court during its upcoming term, which starts today. The Oklahoma based company also made headlines in recent weeks when it was accused of anti-Semitism because its stores do not carry Jewish holiday items. Since the story broke, Green has apologized and announced that some stores will begin to carry the items.
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