Review of the Museum of the Bible
by Aaron Bauer
In the beginning—The Bible
Where can you find a 430,000-square-foot museum dedicated to the “history, narrative, and impact of the Bible”? At the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., that’s where! The impressive treasury is stuffed with historical artifacts, enhanced by professional multimedia presentations and superbly designed. A co-worker (Brad Miedema) and I visited the Museum of the Bible and left grateful for our time there. We did this review of the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC shortly after its grand opening. I want to share just a few of the many things we experienced that I strongly recommend to you.
The First Things You See
Located close to the nation’s capital, the museum offers a front entrance that might make your jaw drop. On each side of the large entryway stand giant replicas of Gutenberg Printing Press plates. The Gutenberg Press is a key feature within the museum. Johannes Gutenberg did not create the first printing press. However, his innovation (c. 1400) allowed the operator to move, add, and remove individual letters, numbers, and spaces. This created an endless number of printing plates rather than just a fixed printing plate. It allowed the production of books (and thus Bibles) to expand rapidly, putting the Bible into the hands of more people. This key factor in the spread of the Bible to the world is a fitting way to begin your Museum of the Bible experience.
When you enter the first-floor grand hall, you will take in a 40-foot-high ceiling, which includes a 140-foot-long LED display. The sprawling screen presents artwork, nature scenes, and more. Also located on the first floor (besides the ticket counter) is the Museum Gift Shop, a fun and interactive room for kids called “Courageous Pages,” and a table where you can borrow a touch-screen device for a self-guided tour of artifacts in the museum.
Docent-led Tours & More
Speaking of tours, one of the highlights of my review of the Museum of the Bible was the docent-led tours (a docent is a guide). One particularly helpful tour we took was the “Overview of the Museum.” This enabled us to see the highlights of the entire museum within about an hour’s time. We could then note the areas that we wanted to come back to later (shout-out to Docent Bill, our guide for several tours).
I enjoyed “The World of Jesus of Nazareth” tour, where we viewed a wonderfully designed village filled with murals, stone walls, and olive trees. Three actors depicted life in Nazareth during Jesus’ days on earth. First, we visited Naomi, a widow who worked hard to make ends meet. Next, we met a master builder who impressed us with his ability to answer questions about tools, masonry, and more. Last, we heard from Jeremiah, the elder of the town. He talked about the religious life of the people and of a carpenter named Jesus who grew up in their town.
This demonstration on the third floor of the museum occurs between two multi-media presentations, one on the Old Testament, and the other on the New. Each of these productions continuously run throughout the day, making it easy to catch any time during your visit.
Important Bible Artifacts
On Floor 4 of our review of the Museum of the Bible, we found many fascinating Bible artifacts, as well as realistic facsimiles of artifacts found in museums all over the world. The Museum of the Bible website describes their History of the Bible Artifacts this way:
Encounter hundreds of artifacts like P39, one of the oldest papyrus fragments of the Gospel of John, The Bohun Book of Hours and Psalter, a beautifully illuminated medieval manuscript, or pages from the Gutenberg Bible, the first ever printed Bible!
I enjoyed this floor the most. Here we found the story of how we got our modern translations of the Bible. Starting with ancient artifacts like the Dead Sea Scrolls, we walked through biblical translations into Latin, German, English, and then countless other translations. We learned about men like John Wycliffe, who inspired a complete English translation of the Bible, as well as William Tyndale, who desired an English Bible taken directly from the Hebrew and Greek texts. Other integral artifacts include the Coverdale Bible and the Bishops’ Bible.
The aged, first edition of the King James Bible New Testament caught my attention. The copy displayed at the Museum of the Bible is one of just two first editions known to survive. The Bible is bound together with the Book of Common Prayer. The other surviving copy is owned by The British Library.
Two More Highlights
Enjoy a Drive Thru History of the Bible Theater with Dave Stotts. This little theater provides a well-produced, action-packed look at ancient ruins that give us insight into the Bible.
The fourth floor ends with a magnificent room called illumiNations, which looks like a library. Bibles or reproductions representing Bibles fill the shelves. Each book fits into a specific category. One section contains Bibles that have been fully translated into a language. Other sections represent partially translated Bibles, translations still in process, or where (sadly) no translation exists.
As you review the Museum of the Bible, I recommend that you leave plenty of time for this extraordinary floor.
So Much to See
You will find many other things to drink in around the museum, as well. Floor 2 presents the impact of the Bible in America (such as the Great Awakening and its influence on the civil rights movement), as well as its impact in the world (such as science, music, the way we work, and even its influence on how people dine together).
The third floor features The Stories of the Bible. We also enjoyed many archaeological discoveries and art exhibits.
We spent the better part of two days at the museum and saw a lot. But, we just couldn’t fit in everything. We met four older women from Arkansas in the elevator. It was their fourth day in their review of the Museum of the Bible. Everything they saw just thrilled them.
We missed the World Stage Theater, a large theater that hosts biblical narratives and other performances; Washington Revelations, a “flying” tour around Washington, D.C. to see the monuments and memorials around the capital that reference the Bible; and Bible Now, a highly visual multimedia room with live data about what’s happening with the Bible right now.
A Few Bonuses
The Museum of the Bible offers so much! It is close to many other monuments and memorials that you can squeeze in before or after your visit. The museum also features a café for snacks and coffee, as well as a full-service restaurant. It is conveniently located near at least two hotels. We also found a long row of outstanding food trucks nearby, as well.
We will remember our review of the Museum of the Bible. It encouraged us. It is a blessing to see how the Lord has preserved His Word through the ages, and how it continues to impact the world today. In conclusion to my review of the Museum of the Bible, I highly recommend you put it on your bucket list of things to do while visiting Washington D.C.