SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The Assemblies of God Theological Seminary of Evangel University was recently given an authentic Torah scroll which survived the Holocaust in Eastern Europe. Due to damage and age, the scroll was declared pasul, or no longer kosher, before the donation.
The 138-foot-long scroll came from Ken and Barb Larson, founders of Slumberland Furniture and of God’s Ancient Library, a foundation dedicated to preserving and gifting pasul Torah scrolls to schools that prepare students to teach biblical literacy.
The 19th century scroll is one of more than 80 manuscripts donated to seminaries, museums, and other organizations through the Larsons’ foundation.
“We are beyond grateful for the Larsons’ generosity and vision for the study of original Torahs,” said Dr. Carol A. Taylor, president of Evangel University. “As I touched the edge of a section of the Torah and marveled at the Hebrew calligraphy, I couldn’t help but wonder what stories this sacred text might tell us.”
Dr. Tim Hager, dean of AGTS, added, “I cannot put into words the excitement, joy and awe we have experienced with the gift of the Torah to the national seminary of the Assemblies of God at Evangel University.
“We are thankful to Ken and Barb Larson for this donation,” he continued. “It is a wonderful addition to the academic and spiritual work we do here in developing leaders for the Church.”
University officials are finalizing plans for its permanent display. An official dedication ceremony will be held at Evangel University in the near future. Details will be forthcoming.
The Torah is a Hebrew scroll that includes the first five books of the Old Testament as written by Moses and provides the foundation for Jewish life and worship.
Though its complete history is not known, Dr. Scott Carroll, an ancient/medieval manuscript specialist who consulted with the Larsons, believes the Torah received by AGTS almost certainly originated in Eastern Europe (Germany or Poland) approximately 125-200 years ago.
Following the Holocaust of World War II, Jewish immigrants discovered the scroll and transported it to Israel.
After being declared pasul, it became part of the ben-David family private collection of Torah scrolls, one of the largest collections in the world, before being acquired by the Larsons and gifted to AGTS.
Ken Larson is the founder of Slumberland Furniture, a leading home furnishings retailer based in Minnesota with 130 stores in 12 states. He is passionate about Christian ministry and giving back to the community. His wife, Barb, shares his passion — she has led Bible studies for four decades and has traveled to Haiti seven times with “Healing Haiti.”
A conversation with noted author and teacher Josh McDowell opened the Larsons’ eyes to the fact that very few seminaries possess a Torah, and very few professors who teach Hebrew have ever read from a Torah.
Founded in 2013, the mission of God’s Ancient Library foundation is to help institutions of learning receive the benefits of being able to study ancient Torah scrolls firsthand. The foundation also aims to bridge the gap between Judaism and Christianity by finding common ground in shared history.
All scrolls within the collection have undergone a rigorous, detailed analysis by manuscript specialists to establish provenance, authenticity and unique attributes. Each scroll was hand-written by a scribe or scribes in the original Hebrew.
Digital photos for research
The Larsons’ foundation also provided high-resolution digital photos of the scroll, which has several unique features. These photos will enhance the Torah’s permanent display and serve as additional resource material for students and scholars.
The manuscript will be a significant tool for biblical study at AGTS. It will give students and professors firsthand access to and engagement with an authentic and unique artifact that speaks to the meticulous care and sacrificial commitment with which scribes preserved and transmitted Scripture through the centuries.
“Our goal is that the [donated] Torahs will never be put away,” said Barb Larson. “We want it to be used, studied, loved, cherished and shared with the community.”
About AGTS and Evangel University
Evangel University, which includes AGTS, is a comprehensive Christian university committed to excellence in educating and equipping students to serve the church and society globally. Evangel serves more than 2,100 students from all 50 states and numerous foreign countries, offering 70 undergraduate majors and 19 master’s and doctoral degrees.
For more information about God’s Ancient Library, visit https://www.godsancientlibrary.com/
WRITTEN BY: Erin Hedlun & Paul K. Logsdon
In the News
• KOLR-10 (CBS) NEWS (Sept. 24, 2019) — https://www.ozarksfirst.com/local-news/local-news-local-news/sacred-text-spotlighted-at-evangel-university/
• KY3 (NBC) & KSPR (ABC) NEWS (Sept. 29, 2019) — https://www.ky3.com/content/news/Hebrew-scroll-to-be-on-display-at-Evangel-University-survived-the-Holocaust-561738911.html