$500m ‘Museum of the Bible’ opens in Washington DC

Critics question its huge cost amid questions over artefact authenticity

Museum of the Bible, Washington DC
(Image credit: Saul Loeb/Getty Images)

This week, an opulent new tourist attraction, the “Museum of the Bible”, will open its doors to the public in Washington DC. It has been built at an eye watering cost of $500 million (£378 million).

The museum, which celebrates its grand opening today, is privately funded by Steve Green, an evangelical Christian and owner of the arts and crafts retail chain Hobby Lobby. The museum will feature a “huge array of artefacts both from Green’s private collection and from traveling exhibits from around the world”, writes Travel and Leisure.

The opening of the museum’s Book of Genesis-inscribed doors has prompted a vast range of responses.

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Some have expressed their approval:

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Others have questioned the museum’s cost of construction.

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The museum has been the subject of several other controversies in recent months.

Experts on biblical artefacts have stepped forward to question the authenticity of some of the museum’s exhibits. The Chronicle of Higher Education writes that “on the fourth floor of the museum, there is an impressively grand section dedicated to the Dead Sea Scrolls, including from books of the Hebrew Bible that were hidden in caves for centuries until they were stumbled on in 1947 by a Bedouin boy.

“But a number of biblical scholars believe that most if not all of the Dead Sea fragments sold since 2001 — which would include those purchased by Green — are modern forgeries.

“In a recent article published in the journal Dead Sea Discoveries, Kipp Davis, a research fellow in Hebrew Bible at Trinity Western University, concluded that at least six of the 13 fragments owned by Green are almost certainly fake.”

Furthermore, accusations of artefact smuggling have hung over Green dating back to 2011. In July this year, Green’s Hobby Lobby chain agreed to return more than 5,000 items and pay a $3m settlement after the Department of Justice accused the firm of smuggling antiquities taken from Iraq, reports the Washington Post.

“The US Justice Department investigated Hobby Lobby for importing ancient Mesopotamian cuneiform fragments and bullae of Iraqi origin that were falsely labelled as Turkish tile samples and valued at $300”, the Art Newspaper adds. “Green’s lawyers said that he was a new collector and unschooled in US import rules.”

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