April 9, 2014 | 5:03 p.m.
By Michelle Westlund, Communications Specialist
Ken and Barbara Larson are passionate about the Bible, and about Israel. They have visited Israel four times, most recently in January to celebrate their 50 wedding anniversary. Accompanied on the trip by 34 family members as well as David Clark, vice president and dean of Bethel Seminary, and his wife Sandy, seminary investor relations officer, the Larsons found the perfect anniversary gift: a rare, authentic Torah scroll, which they proceeded to donate to Bethel Seminary. "It is our prayer that this gift will enhance the learning process of all who will see and study this Torah," said Barbara. "It's our delight to present it to Bethel Seminary."
The Larson-Bethel Baghdad Torah was unveiled in a dedication ceremony at Bethel Seminary on March 31. The non-kosher scroll dates to the early 17 century and is suitable for both display and educational purposes. Written on skins of about 89 feet, and carefully preserved by an ancient Jewish community in Baghdad across 400 years, it offers a living testimony to the faithful transmission of God's Word.
The Torah, the first five books of the Bible, provides the foundation for Jewish life and worship, and faithful copyists carefully transmitted it for millennia using scrolls. The Larson-Bethel Baghdad Torah is one of these rare, authentic scrolls, and includes many features that make it an important object of study. The scroll contains hundreds of erasures, corrections, alternative readings, and patches that will give seminary students a firsthand engagement with an artifact that will teach them about the preservation of the Bible across the centuries. In addition, this particular scroll is sturdy enough to actually be used by faculty and students for in-depth analysis. The donors also have arranged for each Bethel Seminary student in St. Paul and San Diego to receive an electronic copy of the scroll so they can work directly with their personal copy. The original scroll will be put on permanent display in the central area of the Bethel Seminary St. Paul complex.
Peter Vogt, professor of Old Testament, expressed the seminary faculty's gratitude for the Torah's classroom value as well as its legacy. "In addition to being a tremendous pedagogical tool for teaching about the text and its preservation," he said, "the Torah's presence in the seminary will serve as a reminder of what it means to be committed to the word of God. Our prayer is that through this generous gift, future leaders of the church will be better equipped to shepherd God's people through challenging times using the solid foundation of His word."