I have to make a couple of disclaimers about this review of my trip to Opening Weekend at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC.
First, I love museums. Curiosity loosed feeds on knowledge. I love the interactive nature of learning that can take place in a good museum.
Second, I’ve also read what the critics have said about the museum–too Protestant, too Jewish, too Amero-centric, forgeries (maybe?), not scholarly, smuggled artifacts (British museum, anybody?). Got it. And honestly, I was a little nervous, especially about the Amero-centric part after having seen the Passages preview in Santa Clarita, CA.
Third, I have a couple of friends who work at the Museum, and I have enjoyed their updates through the building and development process.
But after six hours in the building, my first impression was that the purpose of the museum was to introduce the Scriptures to an unfamiliar public as well as to refresh long-time lovers of the Bible with the beauty and historical transmission of the Word. Even scholars will enjoy seeing texts and facsimiles of texts and (possible) scraps of Dead Sea Scrolls along the way along the way.
Eye-Candy? Yes. Sure! Like I have never seen in a museum. But like I would expect in a brand new one designed in the digital age. Even the elevators had screens with video of some of my favorite places in Israel. And check out the 140 foot long entrance hall screen:
The Story of the Hebrew Bible theatre segments had all of the animation and light features mixed with sculptures of Israelites and piles of stones and awesome moments with the Bush that burned and the Law literally written on visitor’s hearts. Although I would have placed less emphasis on man’s will and more on God’s will, I was struck afresh with the provision of God for the redemption of men and women.
I was thankful there were no awkward animatronic characters in evidence. Instead, the American influence section (please, critics, remember that this is built in the capital of the US of A) was tied together with a fabulous tapestry created in the scratch art style most recognizably found in 1930’s newspaper advertisements. Find a video about its creation here. Here is a segments of one of these tapestries:
As a student of the land of Israel, I appreciated the installation by the Israeli Antiquities Authority. Seeing the ossuaries, the jar handle bullae, and verdant photos of Hatzor and Lachish made me long for the days of pita and hummus.
The village of Jesus included a few still shiny-brand-new actors giving tours through a Nazareth kitchen, carpenter’s shop, and the almost-life size synagogue. The village was winsome.
No surprise, but my favorite room in the place was a room addressing the issue of Bible Poverty, a topic dear to my heart which I addressed recently here. The oval installation included a growing collection of Bible translations completed around the world and representations of Bibles yet to be started. I was sobered again to see the language my friends Dave and Stacey Hare are about to start working on. Shameless plug for their fabulous blog: here.
As I look at the guide after leaving, I realized that we probably didn’t see half of the place, or the Off-Broadway production of Amazing Grace, the story of John Newton, my best Biography-Friend. It would take at least a full day for a hard-core museum appreciator, maybe even two. On a logistical side, you need to order a free (donation suggested) timed ticket for the museum itself and for some of the attractions inside. I was ready to try the restaurant, but it was closed in the evening. There were plenty of places to sit down and rest, and plugs for fading phone batteries beside just about every seat. Get your tickets here: https://www.museumofthebible.org/
Curiosity loosed feeds on knowledge. Both will grow at the Museum of the Bible.