In his blog, Paul Barford has recently called attention to the “dedication events” listed in the Ancient Asset Investment webpage on “Gifting”. I report here what I have found so far through the web on the basis of that list, some of Barford’s notes, and new evidence. All the donations linked with Ancient Asset Investment and Scott Carroll I have been able to track down have the sponsors in common: Ken and Barbara Larson.
1) 31 March 2014, Bethel University, St Paul Minnesota. Dedication of a Torah donated by Ken and Barbara Larson. The Torah, about 89 feet long, is said to come from Baghdad and dates predominantly to the early 17th century, with later insertions. A lecture entitled “From Baghdad to Bethel: A Holy Legacy” was given by Scott Carroll, Ph.D., Director, Sr. Research Scholar, Manuscript Research Group. See among others: https://www.bethel.edu/events/torah-dedication and https://www.bethel.edu/news/clarion/articles/2014/April/bethel-torah
2) 4 September 2014, Multnomah University, Portland Oregon. According to the University blog, “Ken and Barbara Larson, from Bonita Springs, Fla., are giving a rare and valuable Torah to Multnomah University.” They are said to be assisted by Ancient Asset Investment. A dedication ceremony has taken place at the beginning of this month:
According to the report, Scott Carroll gave a speech in this occasion: “The 89-foot scroll,” Carroll said, “was composed somewhere in Eastern Europe during the Reformation…If this Torah could talk to us, imagine what it could say and what it’s seen,” said Carroll. “It was preserved through the Enlightenment and the Holocaust. Through a wonderful turn of Providence, it’s in your community now.”
3) 18 September 2014: Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL. A Torah scroll originally from Germany and dating to the late 1400s or early 1500s is donated by Ken and Barbara Larson: http://news.tiu.edu/2014/09/19/torah-scroll/
An interesting online article (Donald Libenson, in Capital Gazette, 21 October 2014) is shedding some light on the motivations behind Mr Larson’s donation. It explains that Mr Larson “credited a friend who’s an author and speaker with inspiring the gift. Larson described him as ‘an apologist,’ a defender of Christianity based on historical evidence and other philosophical arguments. ‘He told me he had purchased an ancient Torah and he found it to be helpful in his speaking and teaching. Most people have never seen a Torah. (For each Torah we’ve donated) I have asked the faculty if they’ve ever read from one or touched one, and the answer was no.’ ” Later in the story we have also a report on the evaluation of the scroll: “it has been valued at more than $400,000”.
4) 30 September 2014: The Master’s Seminary, Sun Valley CA. The Facebook page of the Seminary reports on October 1: “Yesterday The Master’s Seminary was given a Torah Scroll by Ken and Barbara Larson of Minneapolis. The scroll, originally crafted in the 18th century in Yemen is a unified work (not a combination of various scrolls merged into one).” A picture with Scott Carroll and the Larson is posted too. A recent donation of a 17th century Torah Scroll is recalled also on the Seminary’s Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Master’s_Seminary
5) 8 November 2014: Veritas Evangelical Seminar, Santa Ana CA. “In the presence of 1500 attendees at its annual National Apologetics Conference, Veritas Evangelical Seminary received and dedicated a rare Hebrew Torah scroll. The donors, Ken and Barbara Larson, are passionate about Israel and the Bible, visiting the archaeologically rich nation four times.”The source is an article on Christian News Wire (1 December 2014). The donation is also announced on Twitter.
6) 5 December 2014: Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas TX. The Facebook page of the Seminary reports on this date: “This morning Dr. Scott Carroll, Director and Senior Research Scholar for the Manuscript Research Group, donated a beautiful Torah scroll to DTS”.
The scroll is paid for by Barbara and Ken Larson, as we learn from the presentation ceremony posted online:
Here Carroll explains that the scroll most ancient portions date to the “late 1600 early 1700”. A section comes from Spain, but the scroll in the current shape seems to be from Morocco. Although the details remain vague – as always with our Indiana Scott – Carroll says that the Torah was brought to Israel by people constraint to leave their countries and once there it passed to local collectors with whom “they” – I guess he and Hillard – collaborate. In this way the manuscript went to the Larson, who are then introduced.
7) February 2015: Trinity Western University, Langley Canada. As reported in a local newspaper online: “A 450-year-old Torah scroll recently gifted to Trinity Western University (TWU) by donors Kenneth and Barbara Larson will give students access to an original Hebrew manuscript originating from Morocco. The 16th century scroll was presented by the Larson to mark their 50th wedding anniversary. The donation of the Torah was paired with funds for a Torah room in TWU’s Alloway Library.” The donation is also reported in the University webpage.
In conclusion, so far I have been able to count 7 Torah scrolls donated by Ken and Barbara Larson through the agency of Scott Carroll and Ancient Asset Investment to Christian education institutions in a short turn of time. Some of the stories attached to the scrolls look terribly similar, but it is impossible to verify details unless the institutions that have received these gifts will decide to check and enquire further. If I may, I warmly recommend them to do these checks because if Scott Carroll’s knowledge of Torah scrolls pairs his knowledge of papyri, I see problems coming.
It would be interesting, among other things, to know how much the Larson have paid for the scrolls, and how much they have declared their value for in tax returns.
There are of course all the other issues related to collection and acquisition history of these scrolls, export licenses, and so forth so on besides ethical questions regarding the Jewish history of these objects, in some cases even their connection to the Holocaust. It may be all perfectly legal. But I leave the reader to think about this story and to decide if all this sounds ethical.
I personally do not need the law or academic associations policies in order to decide for myself.