I had mixed emotions as we were making the trip to Washington DC recently to see the newly opened Museum of the Bible. I was excited because we were headed to my nation’s capital to see a new high tech museum entirely dedicated to the Word of God. As a history lover whose life was changed by God’s Word, a whole building dedicated to the history of the Bible is like Candyland to me. I was apprehensive, though, because of the sheer scope of what the Museum of the Bible was attempting to accomplish. Laying out for the general public a view of the history and impact of the Bible on the world is a huge undertaking. Doing so in a way that is engaging, not cheesy and still stays true to the Word is an even more difficult task. Even if they were successful, in such an environment and as a museum, would they lose sight of the actual point of the Bible and neglect to point to the One who the entirety of the Word points to – Jesus?
I am happy to report that my apprehension was unnecessary. The Museum is wonderful. It presents the enormous historical impact of the Word on the world in great detail while also offering Jesus to everyone who comes through the Gutenberg plate flanked doors My family spent a good portion of a day touring the Museum and enjoyed every minute of it.
The Museum is easy to get to on a relative Washington DC scale. It is not easy to get anywhere in DC, but this was one of the easier more accessible locations. We hopped off a major highway and a couple of turns and we were at the doors. Parking was also convenient as there are a number garages in close vicinity. I am told the Metro was also easy and nearby. We did go during the week so this may vary. Tickets were free but were required to be reserved ahead of time. I believe that you can arrive later in the day and walk up without a ticket depending upon capacity but double check with the Museum. We had a short wait in line before going through security which was also a quick process.
Once in the building, it was initially a bit overwhelming attempting to determine where to go first but we had not investigated ahead of time. A little better planning on our part could have avoided this issue but the directions and map they provide quickly oriented us.
Once we began the actual tour, the fun began in earnest. Two of my favorite areas were hit right at the start. A smaller theater on one of the floors showed a 12-minute film on the New Testament that is one of the best films I have seen. It is animated, but beginning with the Apostle John in a cave on Patmos it tells a short summary of the New Testament with such power that I was moved to tears. The production value, technology, and incorporation of theater effects were just cool to experience. I don’t want to give it away, but at one point the whole theater gasped, in a good way. I could sit and watch those 12 minutes 100 times and enjoy it. Great love for the Lord and His Word is revealed through this wonderful short film. There was a second short film covering the Old Testament that we meant to come back to and watch but forgot to as the day went on. I was told it was just as good.
Right next to the theater was a walk through Nazareth. This section was designed to look like the ancient city would have in the time of Jesus. It had a synagogue, a typical home, olive trees, and wine presses. This would have been interesting in itself. What really made it special was the people in period dress doing living history type presentations. I learned things about everyday life from the young lady acting as a typical Jewish wife of the time that I had never considered. A second presenter laid out beautifully a portion of the message of the life of Jesus and an appeal not to miss Jesus while there. It was a respectfully done and powerfully presented statement of the Gospel.
I could have gone home at this point and been happy but there were still more floors to go through. We toured through the section dealing with the Bible’s impact on culture. From Martin Luther King Jr to Gandhi to an exhibit on jailhouse ministries, the exhibit displayed just how much the Word had influenced the world around us. Another area dealt with the History of the Bible with manuscripts and ancient Biblical artifacts. The copy of the copper scroll found with the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Scroll containing the Book Isaiah was a highlight here. The immersion into the ancient world of Israel and the surrounding cultures was fun for the whole family. As we examined ancient cuneiform tablets and pieces of pottery with Hebrew text, I was struck by the Hebrew music they were playing softly in the background. A family who was interspersed with ours must have been Jewish and recognized the song playing and began singing quietly along with it. It was fascinating and wonderful. The atmosphere both respectful and welcoming.
We took a break and went to the Manna Cafe for lunch. I was pleasantly surprised by the type and quality of food served as well as the atmosphere. Though it was certainly busy and the food was served quickly, the Mediterranean food was very good and added to the Bible experience. They also handled a large volume people well and provided a pleasant lunchtime.
A children’s experience section of the Museum was fun for everyone and allowed our littlest one to stretch her legs a bit while we there.
In looking up the floor plan to write this, it appears that despite being at the Museum for a good portion of the day we missed two whole floors with more exhibits. We also did not watch a show in the large theater that they have on the premises. They also have a tablet guided tour that is avaiable that appeared to be a good resource for those who have to time to linger on each exhibit (and who are not juggling a 3 yrd old). I would have liked to spend more time in each of the areas as well but this was based upon our schedule alone. There was no one pushing us through. I look forward to going back again in the future and studying the exhibits in greater depth.
In short, the whole family loved the Museum of the Bible from beginning to end despite only seeing a portion of it. It uses so many different mediums, from high tech to ancient shards, to tell the story of the most amazing book in all of history. It does so while not neglecting to point to the reason for the book itself, Jesus, the most amazing man in all of history. It is a must see.