The Museum of the Bible, whose founders are also the owners of Hobby Lobby, has faced controversy in recent years for acquiring thousands of looted artifacts and has paid millions of dollars in settlements. Now, the museum, in Washington, D.C., is returning an ancient Gospel manuscript that was looted from a Greek monastery.
According to The New York Times, the manuscript is one of 400 that was carried off by Bulgarian forces that invaded the monastery in 1917. Now it will be going back to that monastery. The manuscript that has been returned is Eikosiphoinissa Manuscript 220, which contains all four Gospels. It dates to 1000 and is written neatly in Greek minuscule script.
One of the unique features of this manuscript is the stars that are at the beginning of each line of the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 7:53–8:11. This passage is called “pericopae adulterae” and is considered disputed by some scholars. Knust and Wasserman trace the evidence of the authenticity of this biblical passage in their book “To Cast the First Stone.”
The museum’s decision to return the manuscript has been praised by some in the ancient studies community.
In an interview with The New York Times, Tess Davis, executive director of the Antiquities Coalition, said, “I think the Museum of the Bible is a great example of how not to build a collection, but I do wish other American museums would follow its example when dealing with their own existing problematic collections.”
Davis also said that most ancient artifacts were stolen at one point, which makes it difficult for buyers to make their collection. The Museum of the Bible did not publicly display this manuscript and has reportedly been working to return other looted objects.