TWU receives late 16th century Torah scroll

Trinity Western University has received a 450-year-old Torah scroll. The ancient Hebrew manuscript was presented to the University courtesy of donors Kenneth and Barbara Larson.

“For TWU’s Religious Studies department, receiving this gift is the same as the science department receiving an expensive scientific instrument,” said Religious Studies Chair Kent Clarke, Ph.D. “It gives our students access to the real thing, rather than exposure to images alone.”

That’s precisely why the Larsons gifted the artifact to the University. “When people study Hebrew in an academic environment, there is a much deeper appreciation and excitement,” Kenneth said. “The ancient scribes copied the Torah with such care to maintain its accuracy—and to make sure that God’s word was not only honoured and preserved, but used.”

A trip to the Holy Land with their family was the impetus that inspired the Larsons to consider how they might mark their 50th wedding anniversary in a significant, meaningful way. “We were looking for something unique to gift in honour of that milestone,” Barbara said. “We thought this would be a wonderful way to do that.”

Added Kenneth, “Instead of giving something to ourselves, we decided to give something to our Lord.”

Originating from 16th century Morocco, the Sephardi scroll contains the complete Torah—the first five books of the Bible—and consists of 65 panels of carefully prepared and refined calfskin.

“Our vision or dream is that the Torahs will be used, not just sit on a shelf,” Barbara said. “When people, whether scholars or not, see a Torah, there is an awe there, a love of God's word.” Part of the Larsons’ donation includes the installment of a special Torah Room, designed by their son Christopher, which will allow for the Torah to be on display in TWU’s Alloway Library. The room is slated for completion this spring.

The generous donation isn’t the Larsons’ first; they also gifted scrolls to Trinity International University and four other institutions in North America in 2014, and plan to donate several more in 2015. “The scrolls are significant in that they give us a glimpse of the Jewish people,” said Kenneth. “As Christians, we’re grafted in. So preserving these ancient manuscripts ensures we protect and honour God’s word.”

Clarke agrees. “We’re people of the Book,” he said, “just as the Jews were, and are.”

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