There is no book in history that has been more vilified and, at the same time, has been more influential than the Bible.
This fall, a museum devoted to it will open in Washington, D.C.
The Museum of the Bible will be the largest of its kind dedicated solely to the Judeo Christian Holy Book.
Cary Summers, a successful retail businessman, is shepherding the construction project. He gave me a hard hat tour of the 430,000-square-foot, billion-dollar venture. The first thing visitors will see is huge bronze doors at the entrance. During the tour, there was only a shell of what is to come.
"These hold bronze doors that are 40-foot tall, that are combined weight 16 tons. And they are the first edition Gutenberg Bible, I know Genesis chapter one," Summers said.
The historic Gutenberg Bible is the first of the printing press era. The doors will be a replica of the printing plates reading the Bible's iconic words: "In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth."
Also inside, visitor will notice vines etched throughout the glass railings, symbolizing the Bible's ubiquitous imagery of vineyards and the garden.
Summers explained why, in an age of religious strife and fewer people holding to faith doctrines, a museum for the Bible is even necessary. He said even though there's more Bibles in circulation today than at any time in history, the understanding of the Bible is at an all-time low.
The Bible Museum, he said, focuses on three things: The stories of the Bible, the history of the Bible and, more importantly, the impact of the Bible.
"This is the most read book in the world. It's the most impactful book in the world, no matter what views you have of the Bible,” Summers said. “It's the most banned book in the world. Most debated book in the world. It's the most burnt book in the world. And today it's the best-selling book in the world."
In fact, the Bible is the bestselling book of all time.
One section of the museum is devoted to the Bible in America, its influence on presidents and the Founding Fathers, like Benjamin Franklin, who quoted the Bible's book to explain the importance of the country's founders to abide by the book's wisdom.
"We have been assured…in the sacred writings that 'except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that built it.'” Franklin wrote. "I firmly believe... without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel," a reference to the Old Testament biblical story that didn't end well for the builders.
The museum also showcases the Bible’s influence on world history, culture, science, art and literature.
Summers said it's important people have information about a book that has had such tremendous impact on the Western world. And it will be presented, warts and all, of how people used – and abused – its precepts.
"One of the goals of the museum is to put the Bible back in the center of conversation,” Summers said. “And then leave it up to you to give it its attributes."
The museum will contain one of, if not the, largest collections of Bibles and biblical artifacts from all over the world. It will open its doors to the public November 17th.