Is the Museum of the Bible Worth Visiting? Yes!

This past Tuesday I took my 13-year old son to visit the newly-opened Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. If I had to pick one word to describe it, the word would be impressive. Sure, I am an apologetics professor at Talbot School of Theology and am naturally interested in the history and cultural impact of the Bible. But I went with high expectations, and the Museum exceeded them.

We reserved our tickets online (which are free to the public) and then spent about 1 hour and 45 minutes walking through the six-story, 400,000 square foot Museum. Since my son is 13, he was ready to go after about an hour and a half. But he rated it as 4 out of 5 stars, and during our visit he was constantly saying, “Dad, check this out!” I could have easily spent 2-3 more hours slowly perusing the 40,000+ ancient artifacts and facsimiles.

Although the Museum has dozens of galleries and displays, three stand out to me. First, there is a gallery on the fifth floor dedicated to artifacts that remain from the ancient Canaanite period to the first century. Since I regularly teach Old Testament history, and have also visited Israel recently, this part was unforgettable. We saw Roman-era weapons, coins from the time of Pontius Pilate, and ancient artifacts (statues, pottery, etc.) from the Canaanites and Philistines.

Second, part of the 4th floor is focused on the transmission of the Bible. Since I have written extensively on the manuscript evidence for the reliability of the New Testament in Evidence that Demands a Verdict, it was amazing to see ancient manuscripts from the first century into the Middle Ages as well as pages from the first KJV Bible printed on the Guttenberg Press. This floor also has a number of facsimiles of ancient archaeological discoveries that confirm the existence of key Bible characters and events, such as the Tel Dan Inscription and the Mesha Stele.

Finally, the 2nd floor is dedicated to the impact of the Bible. This may be the most fun part because the creators of the Museum went to remarkable lengths to show how the Bible has shaped art, clothing, music, education, politics, sports, business, prison reform, and other cultural phenomena. There is an interactive display that shows all the American towns named after biblical cities. I had no idea there are American towns called Jerusalem, Nineveh, Babylon, Sodom, and so on. And there is even a blown-up picture of Stephen Curry’s shoes emblazoned with Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

Much could be said about my experience. But I have two personal takeaways. First, the technology is first-class. The creators of the Museum spared no expense in making the Bible come alive. We even received small tablets, which tracked our location, and offered brief interesting and fun facts (1-2 minutes) we could listen to at our discretion.

Second, the Museum is largely non-sectarian. Although the creators certainly want to bring biblical principles and stories back to mainstream American culture, the Museum is remarkably reserved in how it presents the history, impact, and story of the Bible.

Overall my visit was unforgettable. And I hope to go back soon. Even if you are not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim, and don’t consider the Bible as sacred Scripture, if you come with an open mind to learn about the most influential book of all time, I am confident the experience will be well worth your time.

Sean McDowell is a gifted communicator with a passion for equipping the church, and in particular young people, to make the case for the Christian faith. He connects with audiences in a tangible way through humor and stories while imparting hard evidence and logical support for viewing all areas of life through a biblical worldview. Sean is an associate professor in the Christian Apologetics program at Biola University. He is the Resident Scholar for Summit California. Sean still teaches one high school Bible class, which helps him have exceptional insight into the prevailing culture so he can impart his observations poignantly to fellow educators, pastors and parents alike. In 2008, he received the Educator of the Year award for San Juan Capistrano, Calif. The Association of Christian Schools International awarded Exemplary Status to his apologetics training. Sean is listed among the top 100 apologists. He graduated summa cum laude from Talbot School of Theology with a master’s degree in theology and another in philosophy. He earned a Ph.D. in Apologetics and Worldview Studies in 2014 from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Traveling throughout the U.S. and abroad, Sean speaks at camps, churches, schools, universities and conferences. He has spoken for organizations including Focus on the Family, the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Backyard Skeptics, Cru, Youth Specialties, Hume Lake Christian Camps, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Association of Christian Schools International. Sean has also appeared as a guest on radio shows such as Family Life Today, Point of View, Stand to Reason, Common Sense Atheism and the Hugh Hewitt Show. Sean has been quoted in many publications, including the New York Times. Sean is the author, co-author or editor of over 18 books including The Fate of the Apostles (Routledge, 2015); A New Kind of Apologist (Harvest House, 2016); The Beauty of Intolerance (Barbour, 2016); Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage, with John Stonestreet (Baker, 2014); Is God Just a Human Invention? with Jonathan Morrow; and Understanding Intelligent Design, with William A. Dembski. Sean has also written multiple books with his father, Josh McDowell, including The Unshakable Truth, More Than A Carpenter and an update for Evidence that Demands a Verdict (2017). Sean is the general editor for The Apologetics Study Bible for Students. He has also written for YouthWorker Journal, Decision Magazine and the Christian Research Journal. Follow the dialogue with Sean as he blogs regularly at seanmcdowell.org. In April 2000, Sean married his high school sweetheart, Stephanie. They have three children and live in San Juan Capistrano. Sean played college basketball at Biola and was captain his senior year on a team that went 30-7.

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