In August 2016, I received an invitation to go to the “Topping Out” event at the Museum of the Bible (MOTB) in Washington, D.C. I have known about the MOTB for a long time—even before D.C. was the place finally chosen for its location. But I had no idea what a ‘topping out’ event was.
The MOTB will be the world’s largest privately-owned Bible museum. Sponsored primarily by the Green family of Hobby Lobby fame, it is intended to be a place where people of all faiths—and those of no faith at all—can engage with the Bible. The goal is to be non-sectarian but intentionally educational. The Bible has had far greater impact on human history than any other book ever written. Yet Biblical illiteracy is escalating at an astonishing pace and is even approaching the illiteracy levels before the King James Bible was published four hundred years ago. This museum in this location is strategic for the nations of the world.
I was of course very pleased to receive the invitation to this event; and because it was an all-expense-paid trip (thank you, Steve Green!) I was able to accept.
Three sites were originally considered for the museum: New York, Dallas, and Washington. As much as I would have loved to see it in Dallas, I knew that D.C. was a far more strategic location—even more strategic than NYC. The MOTB is just a few blocks from the US Capitol, and from its top floor one can see the Capitol dome as well as the Washington Monument.
The Greens have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on ancient and medieval treasures. The collection now boasts more than 40,000 artifacts that are relevant to the biblical world.
On September 13, 2016 (the 14th anniversary of the founding of CSNTM [www.csntm.org], by the way), over one hundred guests were bussed to the MOTB from the Washington Hilton (the same hotel where President Reagan was shot by John Hinckley 35 years ago). Along with the 500 construction workers at the site, we ate lunch on the top floor and listened to presentations by several notables, including former mayor of Washington, Tony Williams. And I learned that ‘topping out’ meant the installation of the last steel beam in a building. That beam arrived from Germany and was installed just hours before our lunch.
The structure is in place; now to finish the task. The MOTB is scheduled to open in late November, 2017. In our tour of the building we learned that it weighs in at 430,000 square feet, is eight stories tall (two below ground), and is oozing with technological wizardry. Carey Summers, president of the MOTB, announced at lunch that it will be the most technologically-advanced museum in the world. This is not your father’s museum. Stodgy is definitely not an adjective to describe it!
I must admit, however, that I was a little concerned that the museum might have a cheesy feel to it, kind of like a Christian Disneyland. I’ve seen too many Christian museums that are of this sort. But the impression I got from the speakers, the tour, and the videos on each floor showing how the museum will finish out obliterated that concern. Yes, this museum will be technologically advanced, and yes, it will be accessible and interesting to people of all ages. But it will not be boring or cheesy. It’s a fine balance to achieve; the MOTB is on track to do it.
As you enter the museum, you will be greeted by two massive brass (?) doors—one weighing 8 tons, the other, 12 tons—both with biblical text on them. Inside, the vaulted ceiling will light up by replicating the Sistine Chapel ceiling, as well as a number of other famous paintings, murals, and scenes. The ceiling will morph through these displays of art via tens of thousands of LED lights.
As you ascend the stairs (or take the lift), you will see large exhibits from other museums—including the Vatican and the Israel Antiquity Authority (the latter has never had an exhibit of their artifacts outside of Israel). One floor will show the history of translation, with an impressive wall that lists all the regions/languages of the world that have the full Bible, parts of the Bible, or none of the Bible in their own language. It will be an instant visual display of the past accomplishments and remaining tasks of Bible translators. Another will be a library for studying ancient documents. A stunning, 400-seat theater will be used for a variety of events. Another floor will be a display room, showing visitors how manuscripts are photographed, and how artifacts are preserved. There will even be sections addressing the Bible’s impact on justice, on world history, and on the founding principles of the United States.
The cost of the museum (including various projects related to it throughout the world), will be an astounding one billion dollars! The Green family has put in half of this money; the rest is coming from other donors. Most of those who came to the topping out event were potential major donors. But those of us who are not in that league can still make a contribution: a ‘million name’ wall will list all donors who contribute any amount. It will be a powerful visual reminder that the Bible is a book of great import. Here’s the link: https://www.museumofthebible.org/onemillionnames. I plan on making a donation for each member of my family—including grandchildren. (Please don’t tell them; it’s a Christmas present!). There’s plenty of room for you to join and display to the world that you, too, honor the Bible and recognize its role in world history.
Here’s the link to the MOTB website: https://www.museumofthebible.org. Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1pE-GIV0Fo to see a “360º” look at the MOTB (film produced by CV Global). And here’s the “Extended Fly-Through” video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yu-c6RJW9E.
18 thoughts on “Washington, D.C.: ‘Topping Out’ the Museum of the Bible”
Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.
Have you read this article from The Atlantic about the MOTB and the provenance of the artifacts? It unsettled me, and I’m very eager to know if anything said during your time there could shed light on those concerns.
I not only read it, but was interviewed for it (though not quoted in the article). I thought it was a bit of a hatchet job.
Thanks. I want to be careful about what I support. As someone who is not educated in the subject, I assume that there will always be some uncertainty with antiquities, but I also assume that MOTB would need to demonstrate that they’ve done their best to ensure everything was acquired in the right way. From your perspective, are there legitimate questions that MOTB needs to address at this point regarding the provenance of the artifacts?
Not as bad of a hatchet job as Newsweek’s: http://www.newsweek.com/2016/04/15/hobby-lobby-steve-green-bible-museum-washington-dc-444752.html
Among other falsehoods, the author claims that the James Ossuary has been thoroughly debunked. As far as I’m aware, it’s still a matter of debate.
MOTB are extremely careful in their research of provenance and authentication. I know several of those on the inside; they are people of high integrity.
That’s reassuring to hear. Thank you. 🙂
Do you think the James Ossuary is authentic?
Thanks for your visit and impressions – I can’t wait to see it! Thanks for all of the work that you’ve done in the Greek NT and Scriptures – I’ve enjoyed using your Grammar.
Hello Mr Wallace, do you translate your books in French ?
My grammar has been translated into French, but not other books yet.
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Would be nice to see it!
Off topic but, Dr. Wallace, do you know of good books or documentaries on the history of the English Bible?
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