It’s the most-banned, most-debated, best-selling book of all time, and it’s about to have its own $1 billion museum in the most powerful and influential city in the world.

It’s inescapable.

It’s a force in everyone’s story.

It is a book, the poet says.

“It is ink on pages,” he continued. “It is tangible. It is physical. Hold it. Read it. Taste it. See it. It is flesh. It is human. It is otherworldly. It is strange. It is mystic. It is mysteriously powerful. It is inside-outing. It is upside-downing. It has turned the Earth on its head. It has shaped our world and yet it is a world often left unexplored. It is a world worth exploring. It is worth your time. What you discover just might be divine.”

The poet’s reading, as heard by thousands at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California last week, came as Pastor Rick Warren and others unveiled a “sneak preview” of the Museum of the Bible scheduled to open in Washington, D.C. in late 2017.

Designed to present the impact, history and narrative of Scripture, the 430,000-square-foot, high-tech Museum of the Bible is a non-sectarian, scholarly-focused, international museum that will illustrate how the Bible came to be, its impact on the world throughout the ages, and the story that is told in what is arguably history’s most significant piece of literature.

“The Bible has changed more lives than every other book put together,” Warren told the packed auditorium at his church. “It’s shaped our culture. We speak the language we speak right now — English — because of the King James Version of the Bible. It formed the English language. It transformed English from just being a dialect to a major language.”

Warren, a member of the museum’s board of directors, said the project’s funders, the owners of Hobby Lobby, have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the project so far and when completed it ultimately be a “billion-dollar project.”

“It’s going to be the best museum, I believe, in the United States; certainly the most technologically-advanced museum,” Warren said. “It’s going to be nestled among all the Smithsonian’s around the Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C.”

“And you are going to hear about it tonight. We get a sneak preview. You are going to be blown away when you see all the preparation put into this, but the Bible deserves all this preparation. It is the book that has changed cultures and changed history. It is the book of books, and Kay and I are honored and privileged to be a part of the board of the Museum of the Bible. Tonight, we are going to hear from the founders and visionaries behind the museum.”

Gathered over a period of six years, the museum will house the Green Collection consisting of some 40,000 ancient biblical texts and artifacts—including one of the world’s largest private collections of Dead Sea Scrolls, the earliest-surviving New Testament texts in Jesus’ household language, the world’s oldest known Jewish prayer book and other antiquities dating from the first century B.C.

Located in the heart of Washington, D.C., just steps from the National Mall and U.S. Capitol, the museum will share the Bible’s story through a series of high-tech exhibits, immersive settings, and interactive experiences—designed for guests of all ages, walks of life, and faith backgrounds to engage with the Bible.

Once completed, people will enter the museum through 40-foot high, two-and-a-half ton bronze gates inscribed with the first chapter of Genesis as printed in the Gutenberg Bible.

“So when we say you are walking into the Bible, you really are walking into the Bible or through the Bible,” Museum of the Bible President Cary Summers said.

Located at 400 4th St. SW in a historic former refrigeration warehouse, the Museum of the Bible is set to join D.C.’s storied pantheon of cultural and research institutions in and around the National Mall. The museum will invite people to engage with the Bible via a scholarly and engaging presentation of the book that has shaped modern culture like no other.
Museums visitors will:

  • Explore the Bible’s impact on world culture and modern-day civilization.
  • Discover archaeological and historic treasures, like the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient Torah scrolls, early New Testament texts, rare biblical manuscripts and first-edition Bibles.
  • Witness the preservation, translation and transmission of the Bible over time, from clay tablets revealing the earliest writings to today’s digital Bible.
  • ‘Drive Through History’ on a high-definition sensory ride offering dynamic encounters with great people, places and events that changed the world.
  • Enjoy a two-story, window-clad, rooftop gallery providing a 500-seat performing-arts theater, garden, restaurant and 500-seat ballroom overlooking the National Mall and U.S. Capitol.
  • Explore a grand lobby with a wall-to-wall, 200-foot LED ceiling that displays a moving canvas of visual possibilities.
  • Download their memories of the Bible to a real-time social media hub.

Other planned features include a state-of-the-art lecture hall, a lobby with a floor-to-ceiling interactive media wall, a performing arts theater, a children’s area, a restaurant featuring “The Foods of the Bible” and a rooftop biblical garden with panoramic views of Washington, D.C.

The museum will invite people to engage with the Bible through “four pillars — research, traveling exhibits, education and the museum itself.

Through the Museum of the Bible Scholars Initiative, museum officials plan to pioneer groundbreaking research and raise up the next generation of biblical scholars.

“We have engaged leading scholars from around the world to do research because we wanted scholarly credibility in all that we do because it really undergirds all of the other three pillars,” Hobby Lobby President Steve Green said. “We have over the years engaged over 100 professors at over 50 universities around the country and the world to do research on items.”

A one-story rooftop addition to a neighboring office complex will house the museum’s artifact research program, including a 20,000-square-foot reference library, research labs and an academic conference center. The museum has inked an alliance with the Israel Antiquities Authority to display a selection from the two million artifacts in Israel’s National Treasures in a dedicated top-floor gallery. Through this multi-year agreement, archaeological objects from the Israel Antiquities Authority will be exhibited at the museum. The Museum of the Bible is also dedicated to the excavation of archaeological sites in Israel and is currently beginning an archeological dig at Tel-Shimron, one of the largest and most historically significant sites in Israel.

“What gets me excited is to think that the Dead Sea Scrolls were preserved by God until he was ready for them to be discovered,” Green said. “Now, I wonder what he has left for us to discover.”

Reaching more than half a million people to date, the museum’s exhibits have brought the story of the Bible throughout the United States and to The Vatican, Jerusalem, Israel, Havana, Cuba, Buenos Aires and Argentina. The museum’s first traveling exhibit, Passages, featured about 400 top-tier items from the Museum Collection.

“Many will be able to come see this museum in D.C., but there are many that won’t so it’s a way for us to take the story of this book out to them,” Green said.

The museum consists of eight floors, including two basement levels and two new floors being added onto the existing rooftop. The central exhibit floors include the Impact, Narrative of the Bible and History, long-term international libraries; and long-term international museum galleries.

The Impact Floor exhibits will express the depth of the Bible’s immense influence – not only on the world’s cultures and many aspects of civilization, but also on the lives of individuals. The floor will include a special “fly board” theater enabling guests to virtually fly overseas, through paintings, and into key monuments and buildings, such as the U.S. Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial, to learn about the Bible’s presence in Washington, D.C.

Green said many people “walking the streets … know nothing about the Bible.”

“What do you do and where do you start with a person who knows nothing? (The Narrative of the Bible) floor has a goal to say: ‘Here is what the basic story of this book is from Genesis to Revelation.’ I’ll use the example of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (producers of The Bible series). They had 13 hours on the History Channel to tell the Bible’s story. We have a floor of the museum to tell the Bible’s story.”

The Narrative of the Bible floor will encompass 50,000 square feet and be dedicated to telling the stories of the Bible. The floor will include three primary areas, including The Jewish Bible, an immersive walk-through of the narrative of the Hebrew scriptures, tracing themes of family and home; The World of Jesus of Nazareth that will enable guests to visit a first-century village with docents portraying various individuals in that society; and The New Testament Theater that will provide a four-dimensional experience of the New Testament as discovered by Luke.

Finally, The History Floor will feature many of the greatest discoveries associated with the biblical text, including some of the earliest known writings, which date to the time traditionally associated with Abraham, Dead Sea Scroll fragments, some of the earliest known New Testament writings, numerous historical manuscripts, and first-edition Bibles.

“Our goal is when you get in, and are just curious, and when you see all this level of excellence that we’re building into it, then we think the Holy Spirit takes charge, and that person will say, ‘Look, while we’re here, let’s give it a shot. Let’s look.’”

As part of its education component, the museum is developing a high school Bible curriculum for students around the world. This four-year curriculum starts with the ninth grade and approaches the Bible as a text that is central to human civilization. Illuminating the Bible’s impact, narrative and history, the curriculum uses augmented reality (AR) to enable students to experience 3D objects in a much more immersive way.

“So why are we doing this museum? We want people to engage in the Bible. We want the Bible to be the center of conversations throughout the world,” Summers said. “But how do we do that? We want people to touch God’s Word and we want God to touch them. That’s what this project is all about.”