Heard on the Hill

What to See in the New Museum of the Bible

A short walk from the Capitol, the museum opens Saturday

Cary Summers, president of the Museum of the Bible, poses inside the museum in Washington on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Washington’s newest museum, a 15-minute walk from the Capitol, debuts this weekend with a little help from Congress’ chaplains.

The Museum of the Bible opens to the public Saturday, following a black-tie dedication gala Thursday night at the Trump hotel.

Funded by prominent evangelical and Hobby Lobby CEO Steve Green, the museum offers interactive exhibits for visitors of all religions.

“The Bible is usually interpreted by millions of people differently. I don’t know if there is any such thing as a correct Bible Museum, there’s just a Bible Museum,” House Chaplain Patrick Conroy said. “A person who’s a fundamentalist would go looking for something, [and] a Roman Catholic theologian would go looking for something and interpret it quite differently.”

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 15: Visitors walk through the Journey Through The Hebrew Bible area of the Museum of the Bible on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Visitors walk through the Journey Through the Hebrew Bible area of the Museum of the Bible. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Conroy hasn’t seen the museum yet, but Senate Chaplain Barry Black has been inside. The two will participate in a ribbon-cutting Friday.

“I like the various Bible translations. I like seeing the Bible’s certain heroes of the faith and the actual Bible that these people once used to strengthen their faiths,” Black said. “That’s just a wonderful thing to see, to see the various languages and to get an understanding of how the Bible became.”

The museum is free, but the directors suggest visitors get a timed ticket online. An average person would need nine eight-hour days to take it all in, they said.

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 15: A visitor looks at a display of bibles at the Museum of the Bible on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
A visitor looks at a display of bibles at the Museum of the Bible. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

If you don’t have that kind of time, here are three things to see once you’re inside:

Torah in progress: You won’t see him on the Sabbath, but otherwise Rabbi Eliezer Adam is a constant presence in the museum. Sitting at a desk on the fourth floor, the rabbi writes a Torah scroll, as live video of his handiwork is projected on a screen. A clock counts down the seconds until the rabbi’s next break, when visitors can ask questions. 

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 15: Visitors walk through the third floor exhibits in the Museum of the Bible on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Visitors enter into the “World of Jesus of Nazareth” exhibit at the Museum of the Bible. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Recreation of Nazareth: “The World of Jesus of Nazareth,” a self-guided tour on the third floor, helps visitors imagine life in biblical times. The exhibit features domestic interiors, information about wine-making and an expansive mural of the Sea of Galilee. 

Virtual dinner: “The Impact of the Bible” catalogs the Bible’s influence in modern times — from music and movies to fashion and art. Gather around a virtual dinner table that takes you around the world, playing snatches of prayer from a Catholic family in Ireland, a Coptic Orthodox family in Egypt and a Baptist family in the United States.

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