WASHINGTON – The world’s first, brand-new Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., won’t be around very long if the birth, life, resurrection and teachings of Jesus aren’t more thoroughly displayed at the 430,000-square-foot museum, a renowned pastor warns.
The creators of the $500 million museum missed the mark when it comes to accurately portraying the Scripture in their apparent attempt to make the Bible appeal to secularists, pastor Marshall Foster told WND.
“They are trying to appeal to people with the idea that the Bible is for all people, and ‘take a look at it.’ It has advantages in Washington, D.C., which is very anti-fundamentalist and very secularized, so I can see what they’re doing,” he said. “I don’t want to offend them by just saying that they’re being politically correct out of compromise – they are doing it for good motives because they want to reach people and they think this is reaching people with a subtler approach.
“But when the historical facts are there, they need to be dealt with in a very real way. The great story of the Bible is the Messiah coming, is his death, his resurrection and his ascension in heaven. It led to the building of civilization and freedom and liberty – everything that is good in the world has come because people of turned to God and the Bible.
Foster has been in ministry for 50 years, founded the World History Institute to teach the Christian history of the world, co-produced actor Kirk Cameron’s 2012 film “Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure and is currently writing the script for “Monumental 2,” bringing a major motion picture into theaters that tell the story of the Gospel of liberty.
If the Museum of the Bible doesn’t revamp to accurately teach Jesus’ life and message, it will lose the Christian base that its success relies on, Foster warned.
“My tour company is slated to bring 15,000 students a year to this museum,” he said. “If they want our students to come they better have a good representation of the Scripture. Otherwise they are going to lose the Christian community. The Christian community is their base, if they lose the Christian community you’re not going to have a base for coming into this museum. Their message of the Scripture needs to be strengthened.”
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WND attended the opening of the museum to verify the widely reported “lack of Jesus” claims.
We found Jesus.
But, admittedly, it wasn’t easy.
The story of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension is featured a 12-minute animation which airs in a theater on the “New Testament” exhibit on the third floor of the museum.
Many in the theater wiped tears from their eyes as John the Apostle, the youngest of Jesus’ 12 apostles, tells the story of Jesus’ life, the miracles He performed, His death on the cross and His ascension to Heaven. But the face of Jesus is never shown in the film.
Stories about Christ’s earthly life are told in detail by elders in in “The World of Jesus of Nazareth,” a self-guided tour on the third floor, which helps visitors imagine life in biblical times.
Jesus also stands in a stained-glass wall in the hallway of the second floor of the museum.
Other than that, the Son of God and the story of His birth, death and resurrection were nowhere to be found throughout the five exhibit floors.
But one Christian attendee told WND, “If you know the Scripture, you will find Jesus in this museum. I am very satisfied and inspired with this museum so far. It’s beautiful – I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.”
Nevertheless, Foster suggested the enormous museum, which designed vivid walk-through recreations of the ancient world and a gathered a vast collection of the world’s largest private collections of Torah scrolls isn’t adequately portraying the “suffering, blood, and pain that Jesus – a real man – endured.”
“The story and the life of Jesus is in that one movie theater – that’s it,” he said. “That was nice, but it certainly doesn’t give the whole story. It certainly doesn’t give the depth of what He taught and what he said and how to be saved. There needs to be some development there. The story of the Bible centers on this – the Bible’s purpose is fulfilled in Christ.
“A lot of the exhibits that have motion pictures use cartoons,” he pointed out. “If use too much animation, to the average person, especially the young person who has watched Disney all of their life – it’s kind of like the story of Jesus is not real. But this is something that’s happened in history. It’s less offensive, perhaps, to watch a cartoon than it is to watch real life. But when Jesus died on the cross, there’s real blood, there’s real suffering, there’s real pain, this was a real man – real drama would help.”
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Steven Bickley, the museum’s vice-president of marketing, says the museum directors strategized to widen the appeal of the Bible by educating people about the Bible’s influence and history rather than the teachings of Jesus.
“We hope that people are so interested in the narrative of the Bible that they pick up and start reading whether it’s the gospels, the epistles or anything in the Hebrew Bible,” he said. “That’s our hope.”
Images of Jesus are intentionally not displayed in the museum, Bickley said.
“We decided that it’s best not to because there is no actual photographic or actual image of him to not venture and bring our opinions here and so that’s why you won’t see a picture of Jesus in the museum,” he said.
Foster, however, believes the museum is operating out of good motives, but missed the mark.
“They are trying to appeal to people with the idea that the Bible is for all people, and ‘take a look at it,” he said. “It has advantages in Washington, D.C., which is very anti-fundamentalist and very secularized, so I can see what they’re doing. I don’t want to offend them by just saying that they’re being politically correct out of compromise – they are doing it for good motives because they want to reach people and they think this is reaching people with a subtler approach.”
He also thinks the museum may be shortchanging the Bible’s impact on civilization.
“When the historical facts are there, they need to be dealt with in a very real way,” he offered. “The great story of the Bible is the Messiah coming, His death, His resurrection and His ascension into heaven. It led to the building of civilization and freedom and liberty – everything that is good in the world has come because people turned to God and the Bible.”
Museum Executive Director Tony Zeiss told the New York Times more than 100 biblical scholars helped steer the museum away from being religiously divisive.
“Things are divisive, but we will not get into any of the cultural or social debates if possible,” he said. “We just want to present the Bible as it is, and let people make up their own minds.”
The museum’s president, Cary Summers, pledged at a news conference last month that the museum would welcome “cultural and ecclesiastical diversity.”
“The museum will embrace many faith traditions that embrace the Bible as their own,” he said.
“Our purpose is to trick people into reading the Bible for the same reasons that they read Shakespeare – that it will be good for them,” says Gordon Campbell, a Renaissance-studies scholar on the museum’s international advisory council.
Rabbi Eliezer Adam, an Israeli scribe who drafts Torah scrolls in real time with ink and plume from scratch, says the museum’s representation of the Old Testament is one of the most inspiring experiences of his life.
“I’m inspired when I walk through the Old Testament,” he said. “I couldn’t stand for almost an hour after being through that. I don’t think I could take going through it more than twice a year. I have been inspired by those 40 minutes as much as anything else in my life until now.”
The rabbi says the museum creators found a good balance in appealing to people of all religions and creeds.
“In life, people notice what’s relevant to them,” he added. “As a scribe I notice Torah scrolls more than I would if I were a Christian. If a person is interested in Jesus, then he will see the connection in most things here. If a person is interested in history, then they’ll notice all the historical references and see things in a historical context. The museum has done a very good job in finding a reasonable balance in such a way that almost everybody can notice what’s relevant to them and won’t feel pushed in a particular direction.”
Despite its shortcomings, Foster said the museum is part of the America’s “awakening.”
“The people’s hearts are being broken, their families are broken, their countries are broken, they’re beginning to realize that we the Christians let go of the country we once had it,” he said. “As a result, everybody is suffering. This museum is part of an awakening because it’s sitting so close to power and it’s saying that the Bible and its impact – that the sovereign God – is more powerful than the gods of government. That’s one thing that is depicted. The first thing you see in the story of the New Testament is that the God of heaven and earth is stronger than the gods of Babel. How does Christ’s victory on the cross give us freedom today from the government? That is partially conveyed. I think it will be more fully conveyed in the coming months as it develops.”