The ability to fly changed our lives. Journeys of weeks and months now take hours. No question that we should have a museum of flight. Even more than speedy travel, the newspapers and media have shaped our lives. Not surprising that there is a building housing the “Newseum.” We have inherited the achievements and the mistakes of our forefathers so, of course, there is a Museum of American History. So what of the most printed book in the world? Where do we commemorate the book that has shaped the English language, provided themes for paintings by the great masters, inspired our country’s founding documents, influenced her laws and rescued countless broken lives? Until now – nowhere!
Near the end of next year (2017) The (not for profit) Museum of the Bible will take its place among the ten premier museums in Washington DC. The city is delighted to welcome it, but the media have poured scorn on the idea. The Washington Post: “I don’t expect the Bible Museum to be anything other than a tax-deductible kitsch attempt at spreading Christian fundamentalist propaganda.”
This will be no small undertaking. We are talking about a 430,000-square-foot building, the size of two super-Walmarts. It is situated two blocks from the National Mall and three blocks from the Capitol. There will be 40 000 exhibits on eight floors and even include a cafeteria where authentic Bible-times foods will be served.
I think the three best floors will be the Narrative Floor where you will walk through depictions of the Bible’s great themes; the Impact Floor to see the way the Bible touched our world and the Bible History Floor where there will be more than 500 artifacts.
The Bible started as a collection of 66 written documents. Its roots are in three continents, written over a period of 1500 years in 3 ancient languages (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek), by 40 authors, most of whom never met each other. They were from many walks of life: Shepherds, kings, judges, scholars, fishermen, a general, a cupbearer, and a priest. Even the styles in which they wrote are varied: history, poetry, prophecy, wisdom literature and letters. Yet there is a common theme: A holy and loving God interacting with a sinful, self-preoccupied humanity in order to establish an eternal relationship with each of them.
The Bible is the world’s most translated book. It’s now in 531 languages, and 2,883 languages have at least a part of the Bible. Kings and Presidents have come into office holding it. Shakespeare, 400 years ago, derived moral themes from it. One of the first act of the US congress (September 1777) was funding a bible for use in all American schools. This is why there is to be an honored place for it in our nation’s capital.
I’m not surprised many don’t like the idea. The Bible is also the world’s most attacked volume. It has been banned in over 50 countries. It was chained and locked to keep ordinary people from being exposed to it. Were it not for modern archeology, many of its historical claims would have remained rejected by skeptics. People have been jailed and some executed for spreading copies into hostile areas. Some countries, like China, actively declared a policy of opposition to the Bible. Many attacks were launched. The result: today the world’s largest printing press of the Bible is in China! This book just won’t go away! Go see the museum next year.
Andrew Paton of Clinton Church of the Nazarene, born in Africa, has pastored in Hunterdon County since 1997. Before that he ministered in Durban and Bedfordview, South Africa and prior to that was an officer in The Salvation Army. He has been in full time Christian leadership since 1975. He and his wife Carol have two married sons and five grandchildren.
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