Oakland Temple Visitors’ Center Featured Exhibit of Rare Bibles

  • 17 May 2017

Visitors to the Oakland Temple Visitors’ Center enjoy a rare exhibit named “800 Years of God’s Word: The English Bible 1249–2017 AD” featuring early Bibles on display.  Photo by Kenneth R. Mays.

An exhibit of rare, early Bibles was on display for more than two weeks at the Church’s Oakland Temple Visitors’ Center. The exhibit, titled 800 Years of God’s Word: The English Bible 1249–2017 AD, brought Church and community members to the temple grounds.

“This exhibit offers a rare glimpse into the history of the English Bible from medieval times to the present,” said Elder Ward, director of the visitors’ center.

The exhibit featured 33 items from the art of two private collectors.

“There were three display tables with Bibles and parts of Bibles,” Elder Ward said. “You probably couldn’t assemble this exhibit any other place around the world.”

The exhibit represented eight centuries of Bible translations leading up to present-day versions of the English Bible.

It included illuminated pages from medieval manuscript Bibles handwritten by scribes who spent three years making a single copy, as well as a 1549 Bible containing William Tyndale’s original 1526 English translation of the New Testament. Tyndale is known as the “Father of the English Bible.”

A rare exhibit named 800 Years of God’s Word: The English Bible 1249–2017 AD, featuring early Bibles, was on display in the Oakland Temple Visitors’ Center from April 8 through April 23. Photo by Kenneth R. Mays.

“Tyndale’s 1526 English translation was the first printed English Bible,” Elder Ward said. “In 1994, when the British Library acquired one of only three surviving copies, it called the volume ‘the most important printed book in the English language.’”

Also included in the exhibit was an original, first edition King James Bible from 1611, the bestselling book of all time, and a 1560 Geneva Bible, nicknamed the “Breeches Bible” because its version of Genesis states that Adam and Eve made themselves “breeches” rather than aprons to cover their nakedness. The Pilgrims brought the Geneva Bible with them to the New World on the Mayflower in 1620. It was the Bible of the Protestant Reformation and the first English Bible divided into numbered verses.

Among other interesting Bibles in the exhibit were five miniature “thumb” Bibles about one inch tall dated 1774–1899 (originally sold with a magnifying glass) and J.R.R. Tolkien’s personal Bible from 1947, used by the classical fantasy writer during the time he wrote The Lord of the Rings.

A replica of the first edition 1611 King James Bible was available for visitors to peruse. Also on display was a stunning replica of the Latin Vulgate Bible. Printed by Johannes Gutenberg in 1455, the Vulgate Bible was the first book printed in Western Europe with movable, metal type. The exhibit also contained an original, first edition Book of Mormon from 1830.

“We have a beautiful place to learn and feel the Spirit,” said Elder Ward. “We welcome any opportunity to have more people come into the visitors’ center and feel the Spirit.”

A rare Bible on display for the 800 Years of God’s Word: The English Bible 1249–2017 AD exhibit in the Oakland Temple Visitors’ Center. Photo by Kenneth R. Mays.

Located in a diverse community, the visitors’ center is one physical representation of the Church’s presence in the Bay Area. The exhibit was a way to reach out to community members and fellow Christians in the area.

“People in the surrounding neighborhood have lived their whole lives and never been into the visitors' center,” Elder Ward said. “They saw a flier or an announcement online and decided to come. When they come they really have an experience that changes their thinking, and although they may not request the missionaries, they change their perception of the Church.”

On some days, the exhibit brought close to 1,000 visitors to the temple grounds.

“The Oakland Temple is a beacon to people throughout the Bay Area, a light in the hills above Oakland guiding seafarers and airplane pilots to safety,” said Elder Ward. “Metaphorically, it is also a beacon to those who have lost their way in life, a place where they may find answers to life’s most perplexing questions. By highlighting the Holy Bible, our exhibit witnesses that Jesus Christ is ‘the true light that shineth,’ whose life, teachings, and example point the way to inner peace and happiness.”

In conjunction with the exhibit, five lectures were given for people in the community.

The topics included “From Reformation to Restoration” by Reid Moon, antiquarian and expert on the English Bible; “William Tyndale and the Ploughboy Bible” by Elder Brent Ward, visitors’ center director; “Origin and Translation of the King James Bible” by Richard Lambert and Kenneth Mays; and “On the Trail of the King James Translators” by Richard Lambert and Kenneth Mays; the closing lecture was by Reid Moon and David Christensen, who are collectors and Bible experts.

Outside view of the Oakland Temple Visitors’ Center. Photo by Kenneth R. Mays.

A rare exhibit named 800 Years of God’s Word: The English Bible 1249–2017 AD, featuring early Bibles, was on display in the Oakland Temple Visitors’ Center from April 8 through April 23. Photo by Kenneth R. Mays.

A rare Bible on display for the 800 Years of God’s Word: The English Bible 1249–2017 AD exhibit in the Oakland Temple Visitors’ Center. Photo by Kenneth R. Mays.