A Museum for the Bible in a Religiously Diverse Land

There is no neutral or “universal” way to read—or exhibit—the Bible. What, then, can an American museum of the Bible strive to accomplish?

Biblically themed toys at the gift shop for the Museum of the Bible. Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

Biblically themed toys at the gift shop for the Museum of the Bible. Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

Response
Jan. 22 2018
About the author

Jon D. Levenson is the Albert A. List Professor of Jewish Studies at Harvard University and the author, most recently, of The Love of God: Divine Gift, Human Gratitude, and Mutual Faithfulness in Judaism (Library of Jewish Ideas; Princeton University Press), which has recently been reissued in paperback.


It was inevitable that a Museum of the Bible (MOTB) located only steps away from the Capitol would come under intense attack, much of it even while its building was still under construction. For the presence of such an institution in our capital city draws attention to the delicate and never quite settled interplay between, on the one hand, the constitutional order and, on the other hand, religious institutions in the country that the British Roman Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton defined as “a nation with the soul of a church.”

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More about: Arts & Culture, Bible, History & Ideas, Museum of the Bible