Museum of the Bible Opens: Biased Reporters Find Fault
A major new museum in Washington DC showcases the Bible as never before, but some secular reporters can only nitpick.
On Friday, the end of the 76th annual National Bible Week, a privately-funded, $500 million museum opened just 3 blocks from the national mall in Washington DC: the Museum of the Bible. With 8 floors of exhibits, it is the most technologically advanced private museum in the city.
We have been blessed to live in a nation that has been built on concepts that our Founders found in the Bible –Steve Green
The event culminates years of effort by Steve Green, co-founder of Hobby Lobby (which won a major Supreme Court case in 2014 regarding religious liberty; see FRC analysis). Green has been collecting artifacts and rare Bibles from all periods of recorded history. Since 2016, the Greens had opened temporary displays of some of these artifacts in several cities across the US.
Your CEH Editor David Coppedge lived near one of these displays, called Passages. I visited it several times in early 2016 (see photos I took). I can testify it was extremely well done, first class with technological finesse. Visitors could spend many hours in this preliminary display (which later became a large Hobby Lobby store), even though it housed only about one percent of the artifacts slated for the Washington DC museum.
Green told Family Research Council president Tony Perkins on the Washington Watch radio program on the eve of the grand opening how the Bible had a major influence on his life since childhood. Asked what his motivation was for spending years and millions of dollars collecting artifacts and building this new museum, he said,
The idea that all men are created equal— that came from the Bible…. We have been blessed as a family by the Bible in multiple ways, and are excited about inviting all people to consider what it has to say and hopefully they would embrace the concepts it teaches for them as well.
Inviting people to “consider” what the Bible says is not the same as pushing religion on them, since people can freely choose to visit the museum or not. But the fact that the Green family is Christian and wished to have people “consider” the Bible was enough to send secular reporters into attack mode. They accuse the Green family of having an agenda, even though the museum is a non-profit with its own director and staff, and is open to all faiths.
Consequently, certain reporters, rather than having anything nice to say about the museum, are looking for ways to find fault. For instance, Michael Greshko at National Geographic arouses a hint of dishonest dealings with his bold headline, “Forgeries May Hide in Museum of the Bible’s Dead Sea Scrolls.” Greshko knows, as all antiquities dealers know, that it is difficult sometimes to establish the provenance of certain artifacts. “At the time of these purchases,” his article admits, “…the post-2002 fragments were largely considered authentic,” indicating that the the Green family’s purchasers acted in good faith. Suspicions came only later for a couple of scroll fragments. The reader only learns this below the fold, seeing that the museum staff have performed (and continue to perform) due diligence to certify each element in the displays. Most of the scrolls are unquestioned; those that are facsimiles, like the priceless Isaiah scroll displayed in Israel, are clearly indicated. It should be noted that the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit occupies just one small portion of a huge museum occupying eight floors. Could Greshko not comment on any of the other sections, and the excellence of the exhibits? His article seems like a deliberate exercise in nitpicking.
The idea that all men are created equal— that came from the Bible. –Steve Green
Another line of attack is to suggest that the Greens, as Christians, cannot be objective in their choice of curators and scholars. This implies that the only objective scholars must be non-Christians or unbelievers. What about their biases? We saw Lizzie Wade in Science Magazine play these bias games in the 10/22/17 entry, using the power of suggestion and loaded words to cast doubt on the scholarship of the museum. She quoted one authority as saying, “[If] archaeology is being used as a means of proving the historicity and accuracy of the biblical text, that is extremely problematic.” But why? Would it not be equally problematic to use archaeology to disprove it? Bias can cut both ways. Good scholarship should focus on finding the truth. The secular reporters seem to think that the only good Bible museum is one that undermines it.
The facade of the new museum is sure to arouse the ire of secular scientists. Huge bronze doors are inscribed with the opening pages of Genesis.
I can say from my visits to the Passages temporary museum that the displays were tasteful, non-sectarian, and balanced, with good material of interest to Jews, Catholics and Protestants. Some exhibits even showed how the Bible was twisted in support of evil regimes, like some Nazi propaganda, although it also showed the Reich’s campaign to burn all the Torah scrolls they could find. (For a scholarly look at Hitler’s views on the Bible, read Richard Weikart’s latest book, Hitler’s Religion: The Twisted Beliefs that Drove the Third Reich. Weikart discusses the complexities of Hitler’s beliefs in 3 recent podcasts on ID the Future, showing that the Fuhrer was in fact a staunch Darwinian, using religious language only insofar as it garnered the support of religious groups.)
The museum is not a proselytizing center. It shares information and facts in a beautiful setting. Visitors are free to learn and come to their own conclusions about the importance of the Bible in history and (possibly) for their own life. Frighten a secularist: next time you are in Washington DC, devote a whole day to visit the Museum of the Bible.