The Bible is not just a book, but a library of books in different genres — poetry, narrative, law, etc., that convey God’s salvation history within the world. While the events take place during a specific time and place, the meaning and direction it provides transcends all times and seasons, including our modern era. The impact of the Bible is seen and celebrated at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.
Recently I took a day trip on the train specifically to visit the museum. There is one thing this museum does not skimp on is the number of Bibles from all different languages and times. The museum definitely lives up to its name! It’s almost hard to comprehend the sheer magnitude of the Bible with all the examples they have on display. Some display items are copies, especially of the ancient timeframe, but others are originals. Scrolls, hand-written books, and printed versions are available for all to see. I did expect scrolls to be written in Hebrew/Aramaic, but somehow seeing printed versions surprised me. I don’t know why it would seem such an odd concept, since those languages are amongst the very first used to document the Bible. From ancient written languages, and through the evolution of languages and ways to express the written word, there seems to be a Bible exemplifying each variation.
Just like the Bible is made up of a collection of books, so too is the Museum of the Bible made up of various exhibits telling the story of the Bible. I believe the museum does an excellent job refraining from supporting any one particular denomination, however, I realized that much of the history I have of ancient times comes from the Hebrew version of the events. A special exhibit about the Samaritans and who they are illustrated that history can have many perspectives. It was interesting to learn that while many of the Samaritan practices are the same as the Jews, they are a separate and unique people that still exist today! The museum aims to make learning about the Bible, its history, and the people involved within that history as engaging as possible. Some areas have mini movies while others allow for hands-on interaction, allowing visitors to learn in the method they most can understand.
The museum displays not only Bibles from different time periods, but artifacts native to the area where most of the Old Testament was written. In one exhibit, there are mock examples of the various buildings in a village in ancient times. As I walked into the one room, I noticed the small, “oil lamps” placed all around the room on small protrusions of the wall. At once the passage from Matthew’s Gospel rang into my head, “Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand where it gives light to all in the house.” (Matt 5:15) Showing how those oil lamps (even if these were battery operated) really gave a sense of the light shining throughout the room. Those lamps are what the Bible does for us: make us shine. By our baptism we are called to be light to the world, to speak God’s Word by our actions.
The Museum of the Bible celebrates the Word of God. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit, and while I did spend the majority of my day there, I think I only saw about 2/3rds of the total amount of content available. There are many good museums in the D.C. area and this gem is worth seeing multiple times in order to fully comprehend the material presented. The Word of God does speak through the different exhibits, do you hear it calling out to you?