On March 22, Covenant Theological Seminary dedicated an 87-foot-long Torah scroll gifted to the seminary. It will be on permanent display in Covenant’s Buswell Library.
The scroll is a gift from Ken and Barb Larson and their family. The Larsons are the founders of Slumberland Furniture, a Midwest furniture chain with 128 stores in 12 states. In addition to being avid collectors of ancient manuscripts, the Larsons are passionate about international ministry. Ken Larson was on hand for the dedication ceremony March 22 to officially present the scroll to the seminary.
Also at the ceremony was Scott Carroll, a manuscript expert who helped build the world’s two largest privately held collections of Bibles and biblically related manuscripts — The Van Kampen Collection and The Green Collection. Carroll specializes in the study of ancient manuscripts and directs a program at University of Jos, Nigeria, which provides West African scholars and Ph.D. candidates access to ancient manuscripts.
At the dedication ceremony, Larson said that several years ago he and his wife worked with Carroll to donate a scroll to Bethel University, and in the process they realized that very few, if any, American seminaries possessed an authentic Torah scroll. With this realization, Larson said he and his wife felt called to make these scrolls available to seminaries for study.
They purchased a collection of scrolls and began identifying institutions that would be appropriate recipients. The scroll presented to Covenant is the 21st that the Larsons have dedicated to an American seminary. Larson said he hopes the scroll will be an exciting part of studying God’s Word and will open new opportunities for learning at the seminary.
At the ceremony Carroll highlighted some of the unique characteristics of the calfskin scroll, which has been radiocarbon dated to around 1750. Carroll said the scroll resembled the “Yemenite tradition” and was probably taken out of Yemen when Jews were evacuated to Israel in an endeavor known as “Operation Magic Carpet” in 1949-50. During the evacuation Jews often brought their Torah scrolls with them.
The scroll was labeled as “pasul,” or no longer used for liturgical purposes. Once a scroll became pasul, Carroll said, it was decommissioned from liturgical purposes and often sold to synagogues, libraries, or collectors. The Covenant Seminary scroll ended up in a private collection. The text also matches the Masoretic text 100 percent of the time.
As Carroll unwound the scroll, he invited the audience to hold and touch it. The unfurled scroll wrapped around large portions of the seminary chapel.
Jay Sklar, Covenant Seminary professor of Old Testament, said the scroll would have been a scribe’s consuming work for more than one year, and it is a reminder for today’s scholars that God’s Word is worth one’s best effort “because it is what our souls need most — and it is what the next generation and the generation after that need most.”