Visitors take in a permanent sunset in the old Jerusalem exhibit at the Museum of the Bible which opens to the public today on November, 18, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images
  • University of Oxford professor Dirk Obbink is accused of stealing ancient Bible fragments and selling them to the Green Family, who own the craft company Hobby Lobby and the Museum of the Bible, a charitable organisation and museum based in Washington, D.C., which they founded.
  • The Egypt Exploration Society, a nonprofit that manages the collection where the fragments went missing, said Obbink sold 11 fragments to the family. In total, they've identified at least 13 missing Bible fragments.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

A celebrated University of Oxford professor, and recipient of the MacArthur "genius grant" award, allegedly stole ancient Bible fragments and sold them to the craft company Hobby Lobby.

On Monday, officials from Oxford's Oxyrhynchus Papyri Project, which is housed in the university's Sackler Library and is a collection comprised of thousands of ancient papyrus texts, released the results of a three-month inquiry into professor Dirk Obbink, who is still employed by the university. They allege that Obbink sold at least 11 fragments to the Green Family, the owners of Hobby Lobby, to donate to the Museum of the Bible, a charitable organisation and museum based in Washington, D.C., which they founded.

The Egypt Exploration Society, which manages the Papyri Project, said in a statement that they were working with the Museum of the Bible to identify texts from its collection that are currently being held by the museum. They said they had identified at least 13 missing Bible fragments.

"The Board of Trustees of the MOTB has accepted the EES claim to ownership of the thirteen pieces identified to date, and is arranging to return them to the EES," the Egypt Exploration Society said in the statement. "The MOTB has informed the EES that 11 of these pieces came into its care after being sold to Hobby Lobby Stores by Professor Obbink, most of them in two batches in 2010."

In a previous statement to the Daily Beast, Obbink denied selling the fragments.

A puzzling theft

The Egypt Exploration Society began investigating the missing fragments in June, which included papyrus passages from Genesis, Exodus, and Psalms, among other ancient texts. Obbink allegedly sold the fragments to Hobby Lobby in two batches in 2010.

A spokesperson for the Museum of the Bible told Insider that former employees, who have not been with the museum since 2012, were the ones to acquire the fragments.

"The items referenced were acquired by Hobby Lobby Stores in good faith between 2010 and 2013, but sold by a known expert from Oxford University, which is currently investigating 'the removal from University premises and alleged sale of EES texts,'" the museum said in a statement.

The University of Oxford confirmed that they are engaging with the Egypt Exploration Society with regard to the allegations, in addition to conducting its own internal investigation into the matter.

Insider has reached out to Obbink for comment in response to the allegations.

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