'Must-see' Bible museum opens to public

by Diana Chandler, posted Friday, November 17, 2017 (26 days ago)

WASHINGTON (BP) -- Protestant, Catholic and Jewish leaders from the U.S. and Israel joined Museum of the Bible board chairman Steve Green to dedicate the eight-story attraction in Washington today (Nov. 17) in advance of this weekend's public opening.

The Gutenberg Gates exhibit at the main entrance of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, opening to the public Nov. 18, features the first 80 lines of the Book of Genesis in Latin.
Photo by Alan Karchmer
The more-than-$500-million structure, located blocks from Capitol Hill at 400 4th St. S.W., opened exclusively to the media Nov. 14 and 15, and held a special dedication and ribbon cutting from 8 a.m.–noon today. The museum doors open to the general public 9 a.m. on Saturday. While admission is free, timed tickets are required and entry is restricted to 15-minute intervals.

"We only have one mission: that's to invite all people to engage in the history, narrative and impact of the Bible," Museum of the Bible President Cary Summers said during an October panel discussion the museum hosted. "It's a nonsectarian approach, and you draw your own conclusions after visiting here."

On average, visitors would have to spend nine eight-hour days in the museum to read every placard, see every artifact and experience every activity offered, according to an official museum fact sheet.

Guests enter the museum on the first floor through the nearly 40-feet high Gutenberg Gates, comprised of 118 brass panels inscribed in Latin with the first 80 lines of Genesis. The script is written in reverse to encourage guests to create souvenir rubbings, according to the museum's website. Also on the first floor, children can "walk on water" in the nearly 2,200-square-foot Courageous Pages children's exhibit. Walking on Water, one of 13 Courageous Pages areas of interest, technologically creates the illusion of a watery surface where children may stand and inspect animated marine life below, according to museum publicity.

The second floor's 27,000 square feet of exhibit space demonstrates the Bible's influence "on nearly every aspect of life," according to museum promotions. A 254-foot-long tapestry telling the Bible's place throughout American history is a focus of the second floor, which also showcases the Bible in worldwide culture, government and contemporary news.

"The Bible is the best-selling, most-translated book of all time and is arguably history's most significant piece of literature," Green has said of the Bible. "It has had an unquestionable influence on science, education, democracy, arts and society. This book has profoundly impacted lives across the ages, including my own."

Successive museum floors include a wide array of attractions, including walkthrough theatrical exhibits immersing visitors in Bible stories, Bible history displays comprising 600 artifacts and 50 media programs, a 472-seat World Stage Theater, a 3,000-square-foot biblical garden, and a café offering Bible-inspired fare.

Smithsonian.com has described the venue as one of nine "must-see" museums opening in 2017.

Among those who gathered today alongside Green, a Southern Baptist, are Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington; Rear Admiral Margaret Kibben, a Presbyterian and chief of chaplains of the U.S. Navy; Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, president of the Rabbinic Cabinet of the Jewish Federations of North America; U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black, a Seventh Day Adventist; U.S. House of Representatives Chaplain Pat Conroy, a Jesuit priest; Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Israel's Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin and others, according to a museum press release.

More information and tickets are available at museumofthebible.org.

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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