Steve Green's spectacularly beautiful eight-story Museum of the Bible opens to the public

Steve Green’s spectacularly beautiful eight-story Museum of the Bible opens to the public

The Faith

Every museum has its controversies, but few topics are more filled with potential pitfalls than the Bible and its history. The Museum of the Bible, which opened to the public Nov. 18, embraces those controversies, creating a multimedia space that explores the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures in all of their many confounding aspects.

Located two blocks behind the popular Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, the Museum of the Bible was driven and largely financed by the Green family, owners of the craft-store chain Hobby Lobby. Not one to shy away from controversy, Hobby Lobby President Steve Green is a devout evangelical Protestant who wrote several books on faith — most recently This Dangerous Book: How the Bible Has Shaped Our World and Why It Still Matters Today, with Jackie Green and Bill High — and challenged the Affordable Care Act’s abortifacient mandate all the way to the Supreme Court.

The effort shows from the moment one enters the 40-foot-tall Gutenberg Gates, comprised of 118-inch-thick brass panels bearing the first 80 lines of Genesis in Latin as printed in the Gutenberg Bible.

The effort shows from the moment one enters the 40-foot-tall Gutenberg Gates, comprised of 118-inch-thick brass panels bearing the first 80 lines of Genesis in Latin as printed in the Gutenberg Bible.

Inside, past elaborate security scanners, a huge arcade video ceiling stretches 140 feet through the center of the building, displaying a constantly shifting series of images, from the clear skies above to masterpieces of art.

In the minds of many, this places Green firmly in the camp of Christian cultural conservatives, creating an air of suspicion about his new museum and its intention. Various controversies dogged the project, and as things took shape, it became obvious that the museum would stand or fall on the approach it took to the material.

That approach is resolutely neutral. As the museum’s Steve Bickley, vice president of marketing, finance and administration, said, “There are many traditions that call the Bible their own. We are respectful and invite them all,” with the museum’s president, Cary Summers, adding: “People of any faith and no faith can come here and engage the Bible.”

Part of making that happen involved hiring some of the leading scholars and groups in the world to check the work at every turn. It had to be crafted so the idea of the museum as an “evangelical Disneyland” or an opportunity for proselytizing was laid to rest. It had to be denominationally neutral, but also more than merely a series of books and manuscripts under glass.

“It was a world-class idea,” said Green, the  acting chairman of the board, “but world-class ideas can still fail in the execution. You have to do it well. If I put a Bible in a glass case in a language I can’t even read, it only holds my attention for so long. This book has an incredible story to tell, and we wanted to tell it in an engaging, creative way. It also needed to be done at a high level of accuracy, which is why we engaged leading scholars.”

One of the authorities involved is professor Lawrence Schiffman, the respected authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls and professor of Hebrew and Jewish studies at New York University.

“The overarching narrative is the impact of the Bible,” said Schiffman, “its own internal history of how it came together, spread and was passed on. It exudes one of the best things about art culture in this country. Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Ethiopic, Orthodox — all of them are here. There’s a message of shared culture and respect that the museum exudes. Everyone who comes here is going to go out with that message.”

This article continues at [NC Register] Museum of the Bible Highlights the Holy Book and Time-Honored Treasures

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