About the Bible Museum

Carolyn’s Rant, August 2018

There are at least seventy-five active museums in Washington DC. Some are more well-known than others, like the Smithsonian.  We have visited several of them in the past, and this year we toured the newest one.

Lining up until the doors open at the Museum of the Bible.

A member of the Green family, Danielle Smith, recently led our group on a tour of the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC.  If you go, don’t miss the “fly over DC” virtual reality ride. That is, jump in for the six-minute virtual reality experience if you are NOT susceptible to motion sickness. The point of this dazzling, multi-sensory tour, “flying” from the Lincoln Memorial to the Library of Congress, is to point out many biblical references in and around the capital city. Visitors stand on a moving ride that simulates flying over the city to see biblical quotes on monuments and other government buildings. In just five minutes, travelers visit twelve landmarks, highlighting fifteen biblical texts. 

Surprisingly, some of the most important monuments, buildings, and landmarks do include religious words, symbols, and imagery. In the United States Capitol the declaration “In God We Trust” is prominently displayed in both the United States House and Senate Chambers. In the Washington Monument not only are numerous Bible verses and religious acknowledgments carved on memorial blocks in the walls, and the Latin inscription Laus Deo – “Praise be to God” – is engraved on the capstone. The Lincoln Memorial contains numerous acknowledgments of God and citations of Bible verses, including the declarations that “we here highly resolve that . . . this nation under God . . . shall not perish from the earth.” In the Library of Congress, The Giant Bible of Mainz and The Gutenberg Bible are on prominent permanent display and etched on the walls are Bible verses, so the spiritual heritage of the United States of America is obvious.

The psalter of Elizabeth deBohun, great grandmother of King Henry V of England. Dated ca AD 1330-1340.

Located just a short walk from the Capitol and the National Mall, visitors enter the museum on the first floor through stunning  40-feet high Gutenberg Gates. According to the Museum brochure, the gates are comprised of 118 brass panels inscribed in Latin with the first 80 lines of Genesis. The $500 million, 430,000-square-foot museum focuses on the history and cultural significance of the Bible.

Most of the many museums in Washington are funded and controlled by the government, but this museum is privately funded by Hobby Lobby President Steve Green, who comes from a deeply religious family. The purpose of the museum, Green said, is to educate, not evangelize. Displays include pieces from the family’s private collection.

The Greens are best-known for their craft store chain, Hobby Lobby, which sued the Obama administration successfully in the Supreme Court, saying the Affordable Care Act violated their religious freedom rights because it required providing employees with types of birth control that they see as murder. The Greens are heroes to many religious conservatives; however, this museum appeals both to people of great faith and to those with no faith.

The lighted stained glass ceiling in the long entrance hall.

We spent two full days seeing the exhibits, from the opening doors in the morning to the closing bell at night.  The exhibits are so extensive, I believe it would take many days to see everything.

The building opened just last year. The Greens added two new floors on top of the historical red brick building which was built in 1923. The sixth floor features stunning rooftop views of the capitol and a unique eatery, Manna, which serves kosher food connecting visitors to history through traditional dishes. Drawing upon the complex flavors and vibrant spices of the Mediterranean, flatbreads with fig and walnut toppings; as well as grain bowls and stews. I chose a Mediterranean crab bisque that was delicious and nutritious. 

The glass-enclosed promenade gives you some of the most stunning views of D.C., from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument.

End of rant.