When students arrive for chapel on February 5, they’ll know something different is about to happen. The lights in the Student Center will dim, accentuating a brightly-lit stage dominated by an 89-foot-long scroll. The crowd will be peppered with new faces: members of Portland’s Jewish community, local Hebrew professors, pastors, university presidents, board members and Multnomah alumni. Everyone will be there for one reason: celebrating the official dedication of a rare Torah.
Influencing future scholars
The Torah, a parchment scroll on which the first five books of the Old Testament were written, is more than four centuries old and was likely used in a synagogue in eastern Europe.
Last fall, Ken and Barbara Larson, who collect ancient manuscripts, announced their decision to gift the valuable artifact to Multnomah Biblical Seminary. The Larsons purchased several scrolls, all of which are hundreds of years old, in Israel. Multnomah is one out of 40 seminaries nationwide receiving a Torah from the couple.
Ancient Asset Investments, a brokerage firm dealing in rare biblical artifacts, has been assisting the Larsons with the donation process. Todd Hillard, the firm’s owner, said his clients had a vision for placing the Torahs in leading seminaries. “They have a deep passion for seminary education, and they want history to influence future scholars,” he said.
‘A testament to Multnomah’s commitment to the Scriptures’
Multnomah’s scholars are already bubbling with enthusiasm over the generous gift. “The students are very excited,” said Biblical Languages Chair and Hebrew professor Dr. Karl Kutz. “It feels like we’re participating in a piece of history. When you’re reading from a scroll that someone read from 400 years ago, that’s pretty cool.”
Students will begin reading the scroll at the Torah dedication. After University President Dr. Craig Williford and the Larsons share a few words, Hebrew students Becca McMartin and Daniel Somboonsiri will read from the scroll out loud. Dr. Kutz will close the ceremony by giving a message from Psalm 19, where David wrote about the central importance of God's Word in our lives.
“Receiving this scroll is a testament to Multnomah’s commitment to the Scriptures,” said Kutz. “It’s a pretty significant object.”
And although that object is more than four centuries old, it’s durable enough to be used frequently for decades to come.
“We intend to use the scroll as an object of study in and of itself,” said Kutz. The document has corrections made by scribes, which opens doors to many more unique learning opportunities. “We can learn about scribal work, the transcription process and more,” he said.
Making history tangible
Following the dedication chapel at 10 a.m., an expert in ancient manuscripts will lead a colloquium* at 11 a.m. in B1. Listeners will be treated to the full history of MU’s scroll and even get to handle the document themselves. The session will conclude at noon.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity for our students to interact with another historical manuscript,” said Kutz, who headed two Dead Sea Scrolls projects at MU in 2013 and 2014. While he admits students can feel disconnected when delving into the intricacies of how the Scriptures of yesterday became the Bible of today, he’s confident the scroll will help bridge the gap. “The Torah takes the history of the biblical text from an abstract expression to something tangible,” he said.
Everyone is invited to attend the special chapel at 10 a.m. in the Joseph C. Aldrich Student Center and the colloquium* at 11 a.m. in B1. If you would like to RSVP or ask questions about these events, contact Joy Kruger at 503-251-5361 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
*A conference at which a scholar or expert presents papers on, analyzes and discusses a specific topic.