By Bruce Stambaugh
During October, Holmes County, Ohio area residents have a unique opportunity to view firsthand biblical antiquity items dating back to 2,000 B.C.
The church’s pastor for the past 15 years, the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Walther has arranged for multiple items representative of the first five books of the Bible to be viewed by the public and members of his congregation. All of the items are on loan from Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland.
How was a church of 100 parishioners in Millersburg able to acquire such a collection, even on a loan basis? The answer is easy. In addition to serving as the pastor of the church, Walther is also an adjunct professor at the Ashland Seminary. He had taught Bible courses there for 33 years prior to his retirement in 2009.
“Really, the reason the artifacts are here is in conjunction with The Story Bible study project we are holding in the church through April,” Walther said. “The entire church, youth through adults, is studying the same scriptural passages each week.”
Walther said the antiquity items, which range from samples of parchment writing to clay vessels, are part of a 1,500-item collection at the seminary. He said he gives tours on a regular basis there.
“This was really a spontaneous idea,” he explained, “to give people a firsthand look at what some of the Old Testament Bible characters would have used in their everyday life.”
Items will be on display each Sunday in October at the church from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. On Oct. 28, a special open house will be held where additional artifacts can be viewed between noon and 5 p.m. Walther will be available from 3-5 p.m. that same day to take questions.
Walther said the items span the lives of Abraham, Joshua, David and Solomon. He said the items represent three specific cultural areas, Cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia, pieces from Egypt and artifacts from the land of Canaan.
“Mesopotamia is the land from where Abraham originated,” Walther said. “We have pieces of colored mummy wrapping from Egypt, and various practical items like jugs from Canaan.”
Specifically, Walther said, the display includes clay tablets from Ancient Mesopotamia, scribe boxes, stone inscriptions in hieroglyphics, and fragments of pottery from Egypt. Items from Canaan include water jugs, lamps, bowls, pilgrim flasks and a variety of cosmetic items that were used thousands of years ago.
Walther said the church decided to share both the study and the artifacts with the general public. He said people could participate in The Story, which is an international study, each Sunday.
“We will discuss the lessons including some of the objects during Sunday school, which begins at 9 a.m.,” he said. His sermon will expand on the themes presented each Sunday.
Walther said the seminary purchased all of the items from private collections and antiquities dealers. All items were obtained by those sources prior to the 1967 six-day war in Israel. Since then, he said, such items are prohibited from being taken from the country.
Walther said The Story is an attempt to introduce people to the Bible, history, and background and interpretation of the cultures of biblical times. He said study materials are available for entire families. The Story was written by scholars from various denominations and published by Zondervan Press.
“We even have a special New International Version Bible to accompany The Story materials that focus on particular events of the Bible,” Walther said.
He said the sampling of items on display at St. John’s Church provides a physical handle on the picture of the Bible. The church is located at 8670 state Route 39 west of Millersburg.
The story appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2012
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