Museum of the Bible Opens with Mission to Engage Millions with ‘Book of Books’

Visitors go through an exhibit on the Old Testament at Museum of the Bible November 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. The 430,000-square-foot museum, with a purpose to invite people to engage with the Bible, will be opened to the public on November 17, 2017. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The public can now–after years of speculation, sweat, tears, and spiritual guidance–step inside the 430,000 square-foot Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC, where they will find a vast collection of 40,000 biblical antiquities that museum officials hope will connect people to the “Book of Books.”

“We invite all people to engage with the Bible,” Tony Zeiss, the executive director of the museum, told reporters at a preview of the museum last week.

“That includes those who are faithful, those who aren’t,” Zeiss said. “Those who are questioning.”

“We want them to come and look,” Zeiss added. “It’s an amazing book.”

“No other book has had the impact on civilization, particularly Western civilization,” Zeiss said.

“We want this museum to be enriching and engaging to all people,” Cary Summers, president of the museum, said. “To that end, we have tapped many of the world’s leading scholars with expertise across many subjects and faith traditions, including those with Jewish, Protestant and Catholic proficiency and perspectives, to help us craft the storylines and narrative themes of this museum.”

The museum is focused around the Green Collection, the world’s largest private collection of rare biblical texts and artifacts, gathered since 2009 by museum founder Steve Green, who also is president of the Hobby Lobby stores.

Artifacts include the Codex Climaci Rescriptus, first edition Bibles and Torah scrolls, and other objects, which are on loan from the Vatican Library and Museum, as well as the Israel Antiquity Authority. The Bible believed to be one that came to America on the Mayflower is also on display.

At a press briefing for reporters last week, Green said, “The intent had always been to be a nonsectarian museum” — a remark that seemed to address some criticism of the museum being an “evangelical” institution.

So what will visitors see when they visit the museum, located in southwest D.C. in what was once a refrigeration warehouse and cost $500 million to complete, according to museum officials?

Here are some highlights, and–take note–it will take nine eight-hour days to see everything in the museum, officials said. That does not count what greets visitors arriving at the museum–the 16 ton, 37-foot bronze Gutenberg Gates inscribed with Genesis’ first chapter in Latin that serves as the front door.

• Floor B1 — Walk through a reconstruction of an ancient city, excavated on a hilltop over the Valley of Elah, the site of the battle between David and Goliath.

  • Floor 1 —  The ceiling features one of the largest horizontally mounted digital screens and the “Courageous Pages” children’s area.
  • Floor 2 —  Impact of the Bible exhibit, which includes the Bible’s influence on everything from fashion and criminal justice to pop culture. Also on this floor is the Joshua Machine, which allows people to record their testimony on what role the Bible has played in their lives. It also features Washington Revelations, a “ride” that lets people fly over the nation’s capital to discover scriptural references around the city.
  • Floor 3 — Features the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the World of Jesus of Nazareth, the latter being a full-scale replica that allows visitors to wander through the town where Jesus Christ lived.
  • Floor 4 — History of the Bible exhibit “immersing guests in the Bible’s journey through time, technology, and culture.”
  • Floor 5 — The World Stage Theater features a 472-seat venue with a floor-to-ceiling 3-D-mapped projection system.
  • Floor 6 — Manna cafe featuring a biblically inspired menu by executive chef Todd Gray.

Special exhibits include “Amsterdam: A City of Books, Jewish Historical Museum”; “Stages of the Cross”; and the Broadway musical Amazing Grace, on stage at the museum through January 7.

Although admission is free, with a suggested donation, visitors need to go to the museum’s website to get a ticket that allows them to enter on a specific day and at a specific time.

Some of the attractions do have a cost, including Washington Revelations and the musical.

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