More than 10 years ago three men met to dream about a museum of the Bible. Coming from different walks of life, they all held a fascination for what is arguably the most influential book ever written. “Steve and David Green, of the Hobby Lobby family, and I share a passion for the Word of God. Steve began to collect some artifacts. As he shared them with me, I said this should be shared with the world,” explained Bob Hoskins, founder of OneHope, a global ministry with a mission to introduce God’s Word to every child. In November 2010, “Steve and I sat down in Charlotte, N.C., with Dr. Robert Cooley, one of the world’s renowned archaeologists, and began to lay out the plans for what is now the Museum of the Bible.”
The project grew from a desire to put the Bible back into culture, and what better way to do that than to place it in the center stage of the world in Washington, D.C. “When we envisioned this, it was not a museum of Christianity, but a museum of the Bible, that [is nonsectarian] and includes Judaism as well. We wanted to present the Bible to the world and let people decided for themselves,” Hoskins added.
Today the Museum of the Bible stands just two blocks from the National Mall. Housed in a historic warehouse, it is the fourth largest museum in the city, spanning 430,000 square feet on eight floors with a biblical garden on the rooftop. It features three central exhibit floors focusing on the history, the narrative and the impact of the Bible. More than 500 biblical texts and artifacts are on display in the history floor alone; there is a “Treasures from the Vatican Museum” exhibit; the 5th floor features “The People of the Land of Israel,” a long-term exhibit from the Israel Antiquities Authority; and exhibits on loan have included memorabilia from the life of Evangelist Billy Graham and the biblical art collection of Willy Wiedmann.
A grand ballroom hosts parties of up to 630 people, and a beautiful state-of-the-art World Stage Theater currently shows the acclaimed Broadway Musical “Amazing Grace.” Guests can munch on Middle Eastern and Mediterranean fare at the aptly named Manna Restaurant or Milk and Honey Café. And in contrast to the ancient text, representatives tout the museum as among the most technically advanced in the world. A breathtaking 140-foot long Grand Hall Ceiling lights up with images from illuminated manuscripts, nature, art and spectacular architecture such as the Sistine Chapel. Digital Guides, in the form of small computer tablets, lead guests through the museum on wireless access points, customizing the experience based on their age and interests, and interactive attractions take visitors on a virtual realty tour of Israel or soaring through the sky in “Washington Revelations,” which creates the sensation of being whisked through the city to view the Bible’s influence on historical buildings and monuments. Additionally, an area designed for the youngest guests, “Courageous Pages” engages children in fun interactive games and activities while teaching them biblical stories of people who dug deep and did what they believed was right in the face of fear, making small courageous choices that resulted in big victories.
Opened in November 2017, it took no small feat to turn this dream into reality. The founders garnered the support of experts like Bobby Gruenwald, founder of YouVersion the Bible App; Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life and pastor of Saddleback Church; Anne Beiler, founder of Auntie Anne’s; and Harry Lee Crisp III, director and owner of Pepsi MidAmerica, among others.
They’ve developed partners all over the world and many hail from here in South Florida. In fact, the museum’s current chief executive officer, Ken McKenzie, is a board member at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale and maintains a residence in Wilton Manors. A former Airbus executive who began his 37-year aerospace career in the Royal Canadian Air Force, McKenzie said, “When I understood the mission of the Museum of the Bible as a global organization with aspirations to reach the entire world to engage with the Bible, we were thrilled when they called and asked if I’d be willing to take the helm. It really is an honor to be part of this team.”
Following the move In November 2018, McKenzie said he has received encouragement from Pastor Doug Sauder, of Calvary Chapel, and National Christian Foundation President Stephan Tchividjian to continue his role at the church, saying, “You need to have a relationship with a local church and the local church needs to have a relationship with the Museum of the Bible.” Several National Christian Foundation South Florida team members also travelled to Washington for the museum’s grand opening and one year anniversary celebrations.
Inviting individuals and communities to partner with the museum has been the pattern since its inception. During its development, the Greens made a presentation to the Festus and Helen Stacy Foundation, who are among the first donors. Doug Stepelton, a trustee, said he hopes people will visit the museum to see how much God’s Word is engrained in our global history. “We hope the factual knowledge learned in the museum will move from the visitors’ heads to their hearts,” he said.
A community of women in Palm Beach, who meet frequently for Bible Study, have taken on the Museum of the Bible as one of their personal projects. Linda Koldenhoven, of Palm Beach, chairs the museum’s Women’s Advisory Board, a collection of powerful women from across the country, including notables such as author and businesswoman Candy Carson, wife of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, and author Margaret Maxwell, wife of leadership expert John Maxwell, who hope to heighten awareness of the Museum, garnering ongoing support for its continuation.
“Women are the heartbeat of the family, and we really need to keep the Bible in our homes,” said Koldenhoven, so she initiated the project to bring in the perspectives and passions of a diverse group of women. They are currently working on a “One Thousand Women, One Thousand Blessings” campaign in which women can contribute a 250-word account of how the Bible has impacted their life along with a photo to be included in a beautiful keepsake coffee table book with 1,000 stories from each state for a contribution of $1,000. “The thought was that if 1,000 women give $1,000 that’s a million dollars in support of the museum,” said Koldenhoven, who hopes they will be able to duplicate this in each state.
They are also hosting a Women of Legacy Summit and Reunion event in Washington, D.C., September 16-18, at the Trump International Hotel with guest speakers, music, break out sessions and a whole day at the museum. A runway show in the museum ballroom will feature biblically-inspired couture fashions from designers such as Versace and Dolce & Gabbana, and guests will dine on gourmet Mediterranean specialties from Chef Todd Gray of Manna Restaurant.
Everyone who visits the Museum of the Bible has their favorite must-see. Ken McKenzie said their number one visited experience, awarded Best New Exhibit of 2018, is a 30-minute interactive “Hebrew Bible Walkthrough” that takes guests through the Bible story from Genesis to the end of the Old Testament. “Nazareth in the World of Jesus” is a recreation of the village 2,000 years ago with living history interpreters in costume, followed by a 12-minute animated video narrated by John that starts in John 1 and ends with him on the Island of Patmos writing Revelation. “One of the pieces I enjoy most is a huge map of the world, and every lit dot on that map is somebody who has the YouVersion Bible App open in real time,” said McKenzie. “That’s really impressive and thought-provoking.”
Bob Hoskins mentioned all of the artifacts presented from archaeological digs that authenticate the Bible, seeing the impact the Bible has had in the beginnings of hospitals, medicine, education and the printing press, and an experience at the museum where you walk through the Red Sea.
There is a something at the Museum of the Bible for everyone. If you go, there are several airlines with affordable non-stop flights from Fort Lauderdale or Palm Beach to Washington, D.C. and a number of hotels easily in walking distance of the Museum. Just looking out his office window, McKenzie sited a Marriott, a Holiday Inn Express and a Crown Plaza Hotel nearby. The Museum is also within steps of the Federal Center SW Metro Station. Tickets are $19.99 for adults and $9.99 for children ages 7-17 if purchased online or $24.99 and $14.99 at the door. For information on docent-guided tours or group reservations, visit museumofthebible.org.