Talk about a classic case of bad timing! This past weekend in Washington D.C. the Museum of the Bible (MOTB) celebrated its one-year anniversary still reeling from a bombshell announcement in an Oct. 22nd press release:
“Today Museum of the Bible announced the results of third-party analysis of five of its 16 Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) fragments. Utilizing leading-edge technology, the German-based Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (BAM) has performed a battery of tests and concluded that the five fragments show characteristics inconsistent with ancient origin and therefore will no longer be displayed at the museum.”
The phrase, “inconsistent with ancient origin” an obvious euphemism for forgery, was an embarrassing admission for what otherwise has been and continues to be a spectacular addition to Washington D.C’s crowded and competitive museum scene.
With the controversy widely reported in the mainstream secular media, the MOTB suffered a severe setback. However, prospective visitors must guard against allowing this unfortunate incident to negatively brand the entire museum and discourage one from attending.
Last November, I toured the MOTB on its opening weekend and was greeted with long lines of people who, like myself, had been eagerly anticipating this enormous 430,000-square-foot, state-of- the-art-museum — the third largest in D.C. — located three blocks from the U.S. Capitol.
A year later, after two more visits and in spite of the Dead Sea Scrolls fragment controversy, I am still a huge fan believing that the MOTB has much to celebrate.
The towering exterior complemented by grand-scale architectural interior design is breathtaking. Aside from the impressive physical plant, more important is the museum’s very existence. An ambitious achievement costing over $500 million, MOTB proudly showcases the influence and impact of the Bible on all aspects of human history as well as the founding of the United States.
Whether or not one is familiar with the Bible, regardless of religious practice or lack thereof — upon entering the MOTB through its majestic 2½ ton, 40-foot tall bronze doors engraved with the first chapter of Genesis – it is impossible not to be impressed. During its first year 970,000 people had that experience.
Given its very name, the MOTB has made every effort to honor and incorporate history, traditions, and sensitivities of both the Jewish and Christian faiths in its extensive permanent exhibits and collections. The fact that in its first year the museum offered priceless art and artifacts on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Vatican Museums speaks volumes about its ecumenical guiding principles.
What most visitors find surprising and highly entertaining are what I consider to be “Disneyland like” experiences and attractions. For example, there is a full immersion multi-media, surround-sound walkthrough called “The Hebrew Bible Experience.” You can visit the “World of Jesus of Nazareth” in an authentic re-creation of a first-century village or enjoy a virtual reality tour soaring through the “Lands of the Bible.”
Strap yourself in for a fly-through showing biblical references on Washington D.C. landmarks and then relax in the 270-degree “New Testament Theater” immersed in the story of Jesus.
Exhibits on how the Bible impacted art, music, Hollywood, and even clothing, incorporate some pop culture into the mix.
And like the Bible itself, the MOTB is alive with a speaker series, research programs, educational offerings and special events. A popular exhibit that opened in August honoring the profound impact and legacy of Rev. Billy Graham is scheduled to close in early 2019.
Undoubtedly, the caliber of the MOTB will overcome the negative press generated by the five forged Dead Sea Scroll fragments in addition to periodic controversies surrounding the conservative evangelical Green family of Hobby Lobby fame — MOTB’s owners — whose faith, vision, persistence, and wealth, birthed the museum.
Back in March 2017, inspired by a construction tour eight months before the November opening, I wrote a piece headlined, “Museum of the Bible: A Ray of Light in a Dark City."
Now, in an attempt to move beyond the forgery and, given the politics of the moment, the sentiment conveyed in my original headline needs a first-anniversary tweak:
“Museum of the Bible: A Ray of Light in an Even Darker Divided City, Calls You to Visit.”
Photo Credit: Museum of the Bible