Israel’s Antiquities Authority is making some of the holy land’s most precious ancient finds available to a vast evangelical institution set to open next year just off Washington’s National Mall. But whose aims will the exhibit serve?
Since Hobby Lobby president Steve Green moved to open a massive Bible museum near Washington’s National Mall, suspicions have been voiced by a choir of those familiar with the project’s originator.
Green is known for his large donations to evangelical colleges and for launching a public school curriculum in Oklahoma based on a literal teaching of the Bible, making him a controversial figure in the debate over defining the boundaries between church and state.
He is also the son of David Green, Hobby Lobby CEO and founder. Together, they run their privately owned business in accordance with an evangelical Christian ethos, which includes them closing more than 600 of their stores each Sunday.
Perhaps most famously, they successfully challenged US President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare reform package in the Supreme Court — specifically, its provision mandating companies to provide employees insurance plans that include access to emergency contraception. By a 5-4 ruling, the nine-member panel agreed that the mandate impinged on family-owned corporation’s religious freedom, striking down the relevant part of the Affordable Care Act.
With the landmark case in America’s rear-view mirror, some expressed concern over how Green would guide his $400-million budget to unveil the Museum of the Bible in the fall of 2017, and whether his vast collection of more than 40,000 artifacts would be used as evangelical propaganda.
“The proximity of the museum to the world-class Smithsonian and the Capitol has raised eyebrows. How will it fit in among the venerable institutions lining the Mall? How will it function in a multicultural city? And what version of the Bible will we get?” wrote art historian Noah Charney in the Washington Post last year. “To many in the scholarly community, the museum seems like an oversize piece of evangelical claptrap.”
The collection on exhibit will include some of Israel’s most precious archaeological artifacts, including selections from the Dead Sea Scrolls, cuneiform tablets from Abraham’s time, materials from the First and Second Temples, and various other antiquities that go back to the Canaanite period.
In August 2015, the Israel Antiquities Authority agreed to a multi-year agreement with the museum, under which it will have a 4,000-square-foot top-floor exhibit featuring a selection of ancient artifacts excavated in Israel. The IAA has not yet announced which exact artifacts will be on display.
“It’s an opportunity for Israel to have a dedicated space in Washington where we can exhibit archaeological material from the IAA that will be seen by millions of people,” Jacob Fisch, executive director of the New York-based Friends of the Israeli Antiquities Authority, who organized the deal, told The Times of Israel.
Click here to read more.