Hobby Lobby Sues Oxford Professor for $7 Million

Ancient papyri with gospel texts were allegedly stolen.

Hobby Lobby would like its money back, and this time it’s not saying please.

The Oklahoma-based craft store company has filed a federal lawsuit demanding the return of more than $7 million from an Oxford University classics professor who oversaw the world’s largest collection of ancient Egyptian papyri.

Dirk Obbink, an American who was once awarded the MacArthur Fellowship “genius grant” for his skill in rescuing and interpreting papyrus fragments, allegedly stole 120 fragments from the Egyptian Exploration Society’s collection of ancient artifacts held at the Sackler Classics Library at Oxford.

Obbink then allegedly sold 32 of the 120 fragments to Hobby Lobby, as the evangelical, family-owned business attempted to build a world-class collection of biblical artifacts and launch Museum of the Bible.

The professor, now 64, was arrested in Oxford in March 2020. The criminal investigation is ongoing.

Hobby Lobby, in the meantime, would like its $7,095,100 returned, along with lawyer fees and “any further and different relief as the Court deems just and proper,” according to the lawsuit filed June 2.

Obbink frequently worked as a private dealer, in addition to his position at Oxford. He authenticated artifacts for private collectors and occasionally acted as go-between for buyers and sellers.

According to the lawsuit, Obbink first sold papyri to Hobby Lobby in February 2010. The company paid the professor $80,000.

Four months later, Hobby Lobby made a second purchase of fragments and other antiquities, paying Obbink $350,000. In November, it made a third purchase for $2.4 million.

Hobby Lobby bought two more lots of antiquities from the Oxford professor in 2011 for a total of $1.8 million. There …

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