NICK CARLSON / The Forum
Pastor Jewell Smith displays his many Bibles including a King James version from 1611 at the Fargo Baptist Church.
Security on alert to guard rare collection of Bibles
By Deneen Gilmour
Since when are Fargo police asked to run
extra patrols past a church to safeguard Bibles
in the deep hours of the night?
And since when do guards - maybe armed,
maybe not (they won't say) - sleep in a sanctu-
ary to protect Bibles?
Since the Rev. Jewell Smith brought his rare
and expensive collection of Bibles and reli-
gious manuscripts to Fargo Baptist Church on
Thursday. Some of the relics are more than
4,000 years old.
Smith won't talk about the collection's
worth because he prefers to value its religious
and historical significance. But T.C. Scheving,
pastor of Fargo Baptist Church, says it's fairly
well known the collection is "worth millions."
In fact, thieves have twice attempted to steal
the 67-year-old semi-retired pastor's assem-
blage as he hauled it around the globe to
share it with others the past 12 years.
Where to see collection
More than the curator of a traveling museum,
the Rev. Jewell Smith is also a scholar who's
delivering five talks on "Our Biblical Heritage"
at Fargo Baptist Church through the weekend.
The first talk was Thursday night. The others
are today at 7 p.m., Saturday at 7 p.m., and
Sunday at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. The church is at
2500 18th St. S. in Fargo.
The Bibles may be viewed during Smith's
presentations, or people who can't make it to
the presentations may call the church to
arrange another time to see the Bibles.
Before agreeing to display it at a church
Smith asks the pastor to post guards.
Here, Scheving enlisted the help of two
parishioners he describes as "big bruisers"
trained in the military.
Although concerned about the irreplaceable
documents, Smith refuses to lock them up.
"What good would that do anybody? This is
our biblical heritage. It gives us the assurance
God has preserved [H]is word."
Smith says he transports the Bibles "would
you believe, in Samsonite suitcases" - swad-
dled in plenty of bubble wrap, of course. On
his way to Fargo he winced as airline luggage
handlers tossed one suitcase like a sack of
dirty laundry. He later discovered the trauma
cracked a wooden cover on one Bible.
Smith recently dropped his insurance with
Lloyd's of London, opting instead to "hope the
Lord protects them."
The highlights of Smith's treasury include:
!>Stone tablets, known as cuneiform, 4,021
years old. Engraved with hieroglyphic-like
writing, the tablets chronologically relate to
Abraham's time - Genesis 11:27-32.
!>A 1539 Bible equipped with a metal chain
which anchored it to a pulpit. England's King
 See BIBLES, Back page
Continued from Page A1
Henry VIII ordered Bibles chained
to pulpits because they were so
scarce and expensive.
!>A King James Bible, translated
in 1611. Smith says it's been the
world's most popular Bible for
400 years. He calls it "the Bible
that made America a great
nation...built our churches and
Bible colleges and universities
like Harvard and Yale that started
out as Bible Colleges."
!>A replica of the first Bible to roll
off Johann Gutenberg's newly
invented printing press in the
1400s. "You're looking at something
that changed the world," Smith
says. "The greatest pinnacle of his-
tory was the crucifixion and resur-
rection of Jesus Christ and the sec-
ond was the invention of the print-
ing press because it unleashed the
word of God, and all words for all
people, starting the Renaissance."
!>He has also acquired several
hand-lettered Bibles and a Torah,
all printed on animal skins. The
400-year-old Torah was shepherded
out of the crumbling Soviet Union
several years ago by Russian Jews
who had preserved it.
Smith believes he and his family
have assembled the world's largest
private collection of ancient Bibles
and manuscripts. The family oper-
ates two Bible museums in Orlando.