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A Museum Dedicated to The World's Bestselling Book
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2017-11-23 11:10:22
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A new museum opened its door in Washington, DC, after three years of construction. It is a state-of-the-art institution dedicated not to art or artifacts but to a book, namely the Bible, or the world’s bestselling book.

According to its director Steve Green, a billionaire evangelical Christian, owner of Hobby Lobby which recently illegaly smuggled ancient artifacts out of Iraq and was sued for it. He heads the Museum’s Board and manages the half a billion dollar venture. The board is largely composed of evangelicals who claim that the message of the museum is not primarily confessional and that in fact, its mission statement proclaims that its message is neutral and purely educational; namely “to inspire confidence in the absolute authority and reliability of the Bible.”

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In the 430,000-square-foot Museum of the Bible, the visitor, who is admitted free of charge (a donation is solicited but not required), can stroll through a recreation of first-century Nazareth, take a break in the biblical garden plotted with sage and hyssop, have a falafel at Manna restaurant, or grab a quick snack in the Milk and Honey café. It seems all appropriate. After all, the Levant is where the Holy Book originated.

Green maintains that the museum is non-sectarian and inclusive of all faiths. As he puts it: “We’re not looking at any particular faith tradition, but we embrace any of them that have a love for this book, it’s simply educating on this book.”

But does the museum really adhere to this claim? Let’s see. For one thing, Arabic script is rarely seen in the museum outside the temporary exhibits on loan from Jerusalem. In effect that means that Islam for one has been effectively excluded despite the museum’s claim of inclusivity and non-denominationalism.


Entrance to the museum of the Bible with 40-foot bronze doors inscribed in Latin

If the museum claims that it centers on the Bible’s influence and not its confessional doctrine, then the absence of the dominant language of the region from which it emanated seems contradictory, to say the least. Language is vital for any valid interpretation of any book, sacred or profane, as modern hermeneutics has well taught us, not to speak of the fact that Arabic is also the language shared by millions of Arab Christians.


The Bible or Holy Book for Jews and Christians

Enter Joel Baden, a professor of Hebrew Bible at Yale Divinity School and co-author of Bible Nation, a book on Hobby Lobby that explores Green’s efforts to advocate its religious views. He said recently that “I think it speaks so clearly to the way that they are defining the Bible. For them, the Bible is American Protestantism and the story they are telling is the story of ‘the Bible goes West.’”

In other words what professor Baden is saying is that the Bible, born in the Middle East has become a Western theme. But to distort the very origins of the book is to misunderstand it.

A tour through the museum tells a different story. There is little recognition of the Bible’s influence on other religions, like Islam (or Mormonism, or Eastern Orthodoxy, for that matter).


Inside the museum of the Bible

In as much as the Bible is the best articulated expression of Middle-Eastern-style monotheism, it undoubtedly helped shape the Koran’s vocabulary. The two sacred books do in fact share several common themes aside from the oneness of God: the idea that God sent messengers and prophets to inform and instruct human beings, not to speak of the recognition of Jesus as one such; someone who relayed God’s message and good news to people.

Yet,  even in the sections of the museum dedicated to the Bible’s global impact, there is no mention of the Holy Book’s influence on the Koran. This shared history, traditions, and shared texts, even if with distinct messages, testifying to a shared regional culture is only vaguely alluded to.

It appears that Evangelicals in general do not consider Muslims part of the happy alliance presently existing among conservative Jews, Catholics and Protestants who work quite well together when it comes to social goals, has declared Candida Moss, the other co-author of Bible Nation and a professor of theology at the University of Birmingham.

There are precious few references to Islam in the museum, the most prominent one being the mention of Islam as part of the three Abrahamic religions and that Abraham and Jesus are common characters in the Koran and the Bible.

But professor Baden, the Yale Divinity School professor, insists that the story Green and his fellow evangelicals wish to tell remains unchanged and it definitely does not include Islam, or Mormonism or Eastern Orthodoxy, for that matter. Even Catholicism is not considered central to the essential grasping of the character of the Bible. When confronted with those deficiencies, Green retorts that to do so is to risk appearing confessional. What is lost sight of is that to be truly objective, neutral and universal, nothing should be excluded a priori.


Check Dr Emanuel Paparella's NEW BOOK
"The Caligula Presidency: A Satirical Debunking Critique"
is online now and you can download it for FREE HERE!



Check also Dr Emanuel Paparella's other EBOOKS
Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers
& Europe Beyond the Euro
You can download them all for FREE HERE!

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