The Torah-Hebrew for "teaching" or "instruction"-makes up the first five books of the Bible. It provides the foundation for Jewish life and worship and introduces the Bible's redemptive message of God's covenant love. The Larson-Bethel Baghdad Torah, dating predominantly to the early 17th century, was donated to Bethel Seminary for the community to enjoy and study.
Visit the Torah
The Larson-Bethel Baghdad Torah is on permanent display under a protective case at Bethel Seminary St. Paul. Visit anytime between 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday. Viewing is free and open to the public.
Want to study this rare, important piece up close? Bethel students from any school, under the guidance of faculty members, can schedule a visit to study the Torah up close. Other requests will be considered.
About the Torah
For just a moment, leave the world of cell phones, Google docs, tweets, and texts. Enter a still space and consider what it took to preserve an ancient Torah…
Nearly 400 years ago, Diaspora Jews living in Baghdad carefully stitched together nearly 89 feet of animal skins on which to transcribe the holy words of their sacred texts. Faithful scribes ("soferim") meticulously copied each word of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
Its hundreds of erasures, corrections, and patches tell the story of the way God's Word has been upheld over time. It may be hard to imagine today, but the early copyists worked by flickering candlelight in less than ideal conditions. Each marginal notation throughout this non-kosher scroll reflects an ongoing scholarly dedication across hundreds of years to compare and align it with earlier texts. This part of the Torah's story illustrates the inspiring commitment of an impoverished Jewish community to preserve with painstaking accuracy their ancestral teachings.
Across centuries and continents, for both Jewish and Christian communities, the Hebrew inscription on the Larson-Bethel Baghdad Torah display points to the significance of this cherished document, echoed in I Peter 4:11: These are the very Words of God.
The Larson-Bethel Baghdad Torah is a generous gift from the Larson family, friends of Bethel Seminary.
"A well-preserved scroll like the Larson-Bethel Baghdad Torah is a hugely important tool in teaching students about how the text of the Hebrew Bible was preserved and passed down, Hebrew writing and textual criticism, and, most importantly, how one community sought to preserve what they-and we-understand to be the word of God."
-Peter T. Vogt, Ph.D
Professor of Old Testament