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The new Museum of the Bible entertains in order to engage all kinds


Courtesy Museum of the Bible

Zelda Caldwell - published on 11/20/17

Through innovative and immersive exhibits, this museum is designed to attract more than just believers.

At its opening last Friday in Washington, DC, the new Museum of the Bible delivered on its promise to create a museum that would present the Bible in an engaging way to all kinds of people.

Conveniently located two blocks from the National Mall, the new $500 million museum is poised to attract visitors to the city, no matter their denomination or whether they are believers or not.

For one thing, the overall impression one receives from the museum’s exhibits is non-sectarian. Drawing on the expertise of scholars from more than 60 universities and seminaries and an advisory board that includes archaeologists, pastors, priests and rabbis, the museum tells the story of the Bible in a way that a Jew, a Catholic, a Protestant or even a non-believer would find respectful and enlightening.

“Our intent is to engage people with the Bible; we don’t have a Plan B,” said Cary Summers, president of the museum.

“We want to be a comfortable place for people with faith or without faith,” he added.

The real draw, however, might be in the museum’s sheer entertainment value.

“If I put a Bible under glass in a language I don’t understand, it’s only going to engage my attention for so long, said the museum’s chairman and founder of Hobby Lobby craft stores, Steve Green.

“We have to tell this story well,” he added.

Using innovative technology and multi-media exhibits that would be at home at the latest Disney theme park, the museum immerses the visitor in the story of the Bible, engaging the senses and the intellect.

Spanning six floors of the stunningly renovated Washington Design Center warehouse in the southwestern quadrant of the capital, the exhibits are primed to appeal to visitors at different stages of the faith journey.

One can imagine someone with little to no familiarity with the stories of the Bible being struck, on a visceral emotional level, by the dramatic power of the “Stories of the Bible” exhibit.

Visitors stroll through a special effects-enhanced narration of the Old Testament, which tells the story from Creation on. Using high-definition video and sometimes startling sound and light effects, the exhibit brings home the drama of the stories of the Flood, Passover, Exodus, and the Kingdom of Israel.

Courtesy of Museum of the Bible

In the New Testament exhibit, the story of Christianity is told in a compelling, animated feature shown a 210-degree panoramic screen, with some surprising special effects.

Spoiler alert and warning: When Paul is struck by lightning on the road to Damascus, you too may feel temporarily blinded.

Visitors can wander around a recreation of a 1st-century village, complete with olive trees and stone houses and streets. Quotations from Jesus’ parables are presented alongside the physical manifestation of the symbols he used to instruct his disciples — sheep, wine, bread, silver coins, and cornerstones.

Courtesy of Museum of the Bible

A highlight of the museum likely to appeal to scholars, believers, and inquirers alike is the “History of the Bible” exhibit. Among the 600 artifacts presented in the collection is the Codex Climaci Rescriptus, which includes a 6th-century Aramaic translation of the Gospel; a Samaritan Torah scroll dating from the 12th century, and several rare illuminated Bibles.

HOTB_November 3_2015 presentation_revised.key
Courtesy of Museum of the Bible

The exhibit on the “Impact of the Bible on America” would complement a trip to the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History, as it the story of the American founding from a religious perspective. Beginning with pilgrims’ arrival in the New World, visitors are taken on a tour that covers all things biblical, from the Bible’s influence on the Founding Fathers to debates over equality and religious freedom.

Alan Karchmer / Museum of The Bible
Courtesy of Museum of the Bible

It would take 72 hours to see every exhibit in the museum, according to the museum’s founders.

“It’s not a one and done museum, this is a museum people come back to and back to,” says Executive Director Tony Zeist.

Other highlights include an exhibit of more than 1,500 artifacts from the Israel Antiquities Authority, rare manuscripts from the Vatican Museum and Library, a Christmas-themed exhibit from the Bavaria State Library, and “Amsterdam: A City of Books” from the Jewish Historical Museum.

While the museum is free of charge, suggested donations ($15 for adults, and $10 for children) are welcome, and reservations can be made on the website.

For an additional fee, guests can climb aboard a Flyboard Flying Theatre to experience a simulated flight above Washington that reveals how the Bible influenced the architecture of the city. Another exhibit takes guest through an archaeological tour of the land of David and Goliath.

The museum’s restaurant, Manna, is reason enough to plan a visit. Washington chef and owner of the award-winning Equinox restaurant Todd Gray and his wife Ellen created this casual eatery, inspired by Israeli cuisine.

Any visit to the museum should include a stop to 6th-floor atrium. The view is unparalleled in Washington, as it overlooks the Capitol dome to the east, the Washington Monument to the west, and everything in between.

Alan Karchmer / Museum of The Bible
Courtesy of Museum of the Bible

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