Church's Geneva Bible has famous buyer

December 15, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - A wealthy Cincinnati businessman who once was part-owner of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team is buying a 421-year-old Geneva Bible that was donated to a Waynesboro church last year.

Carl H. Lindner was born in Ohio in 1920. According to his company's Web site, he parlayed his small interest in a family-owned dairy business into American Financial Group, one of the most successful financial conglomerates in the country.

From virtually nothing, Lindner built a $17 billion company.

His connection with the Trinity United Church of Christ at 30 W. North St. came through Ritchard E. Lyon, 88, a retired Baptist minister, who lives with his wife, Mollie, in Quincy Village.


The Lyons are members of Trinity United Church of Christ. For 14 years, until he retired in 1982, Lyon was pastor of the Kenwood Baptist Church in Cincinnati.

Lindner was an active member of that church and served on the search committee that recruited Lyon as its minister in 1968.

"We became good friends over the years we were in Cincinnati," Lyon said of Carl and his wife, Edyth.

"Carl was the nicest fellow you'd ever want to meet and a fine Christian. He was very clever at making money and he and Edyth were very generous to the church there and to organizations.

"To show the breadth of his generosity, Carl was recognized once as the man of the year by a Jewish group. If there was a need somewhere, he was there," Lyon said.

The story of the Waynesboro church's Geneva Bible began in November 2004 when it was given to the congregation by an anonymous donor. There were two stipulations - it had to be sold by the end of this year and for no less than $3,000, said church member Michael Day.

Lyon, a member of the church's governing body, said he didn't think of Lindner as a possible buyer of the Bible at first.

"I haven't seen him since we left Ohio," he said. "It came to me out of the blue on a Sunday afternoon that he might be interested."

Lyon called Lindner.

"He said to send him some information on the Bible," Lyon said.

Lindner called Lyon later and asked him if he thought $20,000 would be a fair price for the Bible.

"When the check came, it was for $25,000," Lyon said.

"He realized that the church needed the money," Mollie Lyon said.

The donation will go into the church's general fund, Day said.

Lindner plans to put the Bible on permanent display in a Christian school founded by one of his sons in Cincinnati, Day said.

The first Geneva Bible was printed in 1560 in Geneva, Switzerland. More than 140 editions were printed in the next 84 years, a spokesman at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., said in September.

Geneva Bibles came into being during the five-year reign of Mary Tudor, England's queen from 1553 to 1558.

A Catholic known as "Bloody Mary" for her persecution of Protestants, she tried to roll back the Reformation and bring Roman Catholicism back to England.

A number of Protestant scholars fled to Geneva during her reign and began to translate the Bible from Latin to English.

Scholars who tried to do that in England often were burned at the stake as heretics.

Mary was succeeded by Elizabeth I, who restored Protestantism to England.

Geneva Bibles stayed popular with English people long after the King James version was introduced.

Pilgrims brought Geneva Bibles with them to America.

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