Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Museum of the Bible

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I first wrote about the Museum of the Bible in April of 2015. At that time it was "in the offing" with a prime location purchased and an impressive collection of biblical artifacts as the foundation for the exhibits. Two and a half years and 500 million dollars later the museum is open with some spectacular exhibits to welcome people in.

There has been a ton of articles about the opening and a lot written about the controversy around the enterprise. The museum is the brainchild of the wealthy Green family, known for a conservative Christian stance, challenging in court the provision of contraception in their employee health plans along with an anti-LGBTQ stance. The Greens insist that the museum will be non-sectarian and without any agenda to proselytize. The tax form for nonprofit status states: “We exist to invite people to engage with the Bible through our four primary activities: traveling exhibits, scholarship, building of a permanent museum in DC, and developing elective high school curriculum.”

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Along with these concerns are the accusations, some already substantiated, that articles in the collection were acquired illegally or questionably. There is a shadowy market for biblical artifacts and the Greens have admitted that they made mistakes when they began collecting. Some artifacts have been returned to Iraq, where they were pilfered, and a three million dollar fine was paid to the US government for illegal importation.

Despite these clouds of controversy the exhibits do look fascinating and extensive. It would take more than a week of full days to tour through them all. Here are some examples:

Christmas Illuminated: Prestigious Manuscripts from around the Fifteenth Century in the Bavarian State Library Collection Explore the Christmas story as presented in rare and precious illuminated manuscripts.

The Living Dead: Ecclesiastes Through Art: Explore themes from the book of Ecclesiastes through early modern art.

The Art of the Gospels by Makoto Fujimura A contemporary art exhibition highlighting the work of Makoto Fujimura, as he revisits the legacy of illumination and explores the Bible as a source of creative inspiration.
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If I'm in Washington, will I go to the museum? I'm not sure, but I wanna! When I wrote about MOTB in 2015 I made this observation:
Of course this museum will be about history rather than interpretation. For all the bible has been misused, it can speak to us so powerfully in this moment. It is up to us to humbly, receptively listen for God's voice in scripture, appreciating that it is a lamp showing our path rather than a club to threaten and control. We need to understand the history of scripture, and of its interpretation. And we can pray that Christ will be opened to us in fresh ways as we read and study and hear the Word proclaimed.

Are you intrigued? Will you visit if you are in the vicinity?

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