As many of you may know, I have had the privilege of visiting the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C., not one, but TWO times. My first visit was in the summer of 2018 when I went with my mom, and the second was with Alysha from the blog For The Love of Christian Fiction during our trip to CFRR (Christian Fiction Readers Retreat) this past April of 2019. Both times have been amazing, powerful, and truly life-changing experiences, both for myself as a Christian, and as a Biblical fiction reader and writer.
So for today’s blog post (since I’m constantly talking about this wonderful museum anyways) I thought I would take you guys “inside” the museum and show you some of my favorite aspects of it. You’ll see pictures from both of my trips (the red dress/denim jacket combo is from 2018, and the OTHER red dress is from 2019 – and no, I didn’t do that on purpose. Total coincidence!).
I never did manage to get a good picture of the OUTSIDE of the museum, mostly because if I backed up any further I would have fallen into the street, but I have to admit, even from the small bit of the entryway you can see, it’s a striking building. The golden “pages” on either side of the door are stunning if you catch them in the right lighting.
The museum itself is SIX floors, plus a basement which houses their temporary/traveling exhibit. Before I go into further detail about each of the floors I would like to point out that this museum is non-denominational, and strictly a museum on the history of the Bible (how/when/why/for what reason it was written, how it was translated, and how it came to be in our hands today). It is not a museum on Christianity itself, the spread of Christianity, or even about the ancient Israelites. This is something the employees will tell you and explain very nicely when you visit. One of the biggest criticisms that I’ve heard about the museum is that people were “waiting for the moment when they would show exhibits on how the Bible saves lives, has impacted Christianity, etc.” It’s not that the people behind the museum aren’t Christians or don’t support Christianity, it’s that their desire is to draw people in to learn about the history of the Bible itself without turning people off or away based off of denominational beliefs. They may even hope to reach people who aren’t Christians or who don’t know the Bible, merely by inviting them in to study the history of the Bible itself, and allowing God to speak through the history.
And trust me you guys, the history alone is enough to make you shed a tear or two and turn your eyes heavenward to say to God, “Wow. All of this – for Your glory.” Honestly, it’s nearly impossible to walk away from the exhibits without thinking anything else, and without praising Him for all He has done and for the miracle that the Bible is so widely accessible today, even when historically people tried to destroy it, hide it, or keep it from those who needed it most. Every time I visit I feel so blessed afterwards to live in a country where I can read the Bible, purchase one in a bookstore, download one on my phone, and worship God in church freely. It’s an incredible blessing and one I don’t think we should ever take for granted.
Now, onto those six floors I was telling you about:
The Grand Hall – this is where you purchase tickets, see a traveling exhibit or two, and pick up a souvenir shirt or theology book from the gift shop (Yep. You can bet I’ve spent LOTS of time in the gift shop).
The Impact of the Bible – This floor’s exhibits focus exactly on that, how the Bible has impacted nations, cultures, countries, and people of all different backgrounds.
The Stories of the Bible – Here we are! Getting to my favorite floor! More on this one later, since I have LOADS of pictures.
The History of the Bible – Pretty self explanatory, but as you can probably guess, this floor’s exhibits show the history of the Bible; how it was written, how it was shared, how it was translated, and how it became the Bible we know today.
Special Exhibits + The World Stage Theatre
Manna Restaurant + Views of D.C. – The top floor of the museum is pretty much a full side of windows which gives you an INCREDIBLE view of the Capitol mall, which is great if you just want to see it all and aren’t super into walking (more like hiking) to each monument, plus a restaurant where you can grab a meal or two. This museum is huge so you may need a snack break at one point – LOL!
All that, plus the basement, and you can see why it would be fairly easy to spend an entire day just at this one museum! Even though I’ve been TWICE, I feel like I’ve still only scratched the surface of what the museum has to offer.
I’ve spent the most time on floors 3 and 4, because that’s just what I’m typically the most interested in. Because of that, that’s where all my pictures are from, and what I’ll be talking about in this post.
Beginning with floor 4, the history of the Bible, this exhibit is so interesting because of all the artifacts, replicas, and informational videos that it has to offer. It’s expansive, honestly, and as many of my friends and family have said, it’s the kind of place that I could move into and be perfectly happy living in for the rest of my life.
And you want to know what my favorite part of this floor is?
OK, I’ll tell you. 🙂
Have any of you guys ever heard of the Drive Thru History documentaries? Well, if you haven’t, you should click that link and look them up because they’re pretty incredible. They’re hosted by Dave Stotts, and he discusses all kinds of Biblical history as he literally drives around places like Rome, The Holy Land, the Middle East, stopping at historical sites to explain the significance of them. They’re full of humor, nuggets of information, and are super easy to understand – pretty much designed to give you a basic summary and tour of all the sites mentioned in the Bible (He also has a series on the East Coast of America documenting Revolutionary American history if that’s something else you’re interested in).
Well anyways, my grandma used to show me his documentaries *ALL THE TIME* growing up. They’re perfect for middle school and high school students because they’re so engaging, entertaining, and don’t get too bogged down with details, dates, and the other typical history-book stuff that might make a kid fall asleep in class. I was low-key David Stotts’ biggest eleven-year-old fan.
Not. Even. Kidding.
SO – when I found out about the Drive Thru History theatre at the Museum of the Bible I screamed. Literally. I think I scared the person giving us a tour.
Because I have to, here’s some pictures of me trying not to uncontrollably squeal in front of the giant poster of Dave Stotts, my unofficial middle school history teacher, and THE FAMOUS Drive Thru History jeep. Because. Reasons.
Basically, Dave Stotts did a, what I believe to be an exclusive for the museum, mini-documentary guiding you through all the significant locations to the history of the Bible. If you go to the museum and are on the fourth floor, I highly suggest you start your tour of this floor with this experience, because it really is an intro to what the rest of the floor is all about.
Ok… *CUE THE DRAMATIC MUSIC*
Here’s where the REAL fangirl in me comes out.
The Stories of the Bible.
So, here’s the thing, as a huge fan of the Bible (I mean, obviously) and of Biblical fiction, my biggest dream has always been to visit the Holy Land and other significant Biblical locations (that’s probably why I liked the Drive Thru History documentaries so much, now that I think about it). I loved The Prince of Egypt movie as a kid, and longed to go to Egypt to see the pyramids. I adored listening to the character “Mr. Whitaker” from Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey series tell the Bible stories about Jesus’ life, crucifixion, and resurrection, and always wanted to visit Israel and see those places for myself. I would read my children’s Bible version of Paul’s life and ached to see the Roman cities where he preached the gospel. While I plan to visit there someday, it’s just not the most accessible place to get to. Air fare, travel costs, planning an overseas trip like that, isn’t realistic for me right now, nor was it when I was eight-years-old.
If the Museum of the Bible had existed then, I would have been the happiest kid on the planet.
The person who gave us a tour called the “World of Jesus of Nazareth” experience a “Christian Disneyland” if you will, and that’s exactly what it is. They took the third floor of the museum and built a replica of what Nazareth might have been like in Jesus’ day.
You walk in and you are instantly transported to another time, and another place.
Lights, ambient sounds, and actors dressed in Biblical garb really sell the experience that you actually are walking around in what could have been a first-century Palestinian village.
You can enter a house and see what a typical kitchen looked like, learn how food was prepared, and see what kinds of foods would have been served at a meal or feast.
You can visit the sheep in the “fields” or pose for a photo-op doing hard manual labor.
And what may be my favorite part of all – you can visit a synagogue and see how the Torah might have been read at assemblies, and pose in front of a scroll yourself (although historically, I probably wouldn’t have been the one reading from the scroll!).
As you can see, the reason I love this experience so much is because it makes the Holy land “accessible” if you will, to those who might not have the means to travel overseas, but are in the area of Washington D.C. or can afford to make a trip a few states away. I am still looking forward to the day I get to visit the Holy Land, but for now, this experience will satisfy me.
And for real, you guys, it’s basically my version of Disneyland!!!
Finally, my last favorite experience that I want to share with you guys is called “The Hebrew Bible Experience” – but I can’t share any pictures because they are prohibited in this exhibit. This is a walk-through attraction which uses video, audio, fog, special effects, music, lighting, displays, and more to quite literally walk you through the Old Testament. You begin in the garden where you learn about Adam and Eve and the Fall of mankind, you are taken to Egypt to experience the pain of slavery, you walk in between the waters of the Red Sea as Moses leads the people to freedom, and so much more.
You guys, I can’t even begin to describe this experience. To prove it, I even texted Alysha seeking help:
She’s telling the truth. The entire walk-through experience had me whispering ALL ABOUT my emotions. I had chills up and down my spine. Several times I was moved to tears. AND I’VE SEEN IT TWICE!!!
It doesn’t get old… I’m quite literally speechless. The only thing I can say is…
It truly is powerful.
The entire museum really is powerful.
So that sums up my Museum of the Bible experience! If you ever get the chance to visit this museum, are ever in the D.C. area, I highly recommend that you do. Even if you’re not a fan of Biblical fiction, it’s still a wonderful experience that truly brings the Bible to life.
Until next time,