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Bible Museum draws criticism for leaving out texts from other faiths

(Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)A visitor looks at various Bibles during a preview at the Museum of the Bible in Washington.

The newly-opened Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. has drawn some criticism for not including other religious points of view such as Islam.

In a recent interview with The New York Times (NYT), Joel S. Baden, a professor of the Hebrew Bible at Yale University, complained that the exhibits at the museum puts too much emphasis on American Protestantism and leaves out some of the Bible's history.

"There are a number of prominent omissions that make it clear that it's not a museum of the Bible as one might imagine it from a secular perspective," Baden said.

"They don't do a good job of talking about whether parts of the Bible are historically accurate," the professor added.

Baden had admitted that he had not visited the museum in person, but he had done some research and he had questioned the lack of representation from other faiths, such as Mormonism and Islam.

The $500 million museum, located just blocks from the U.S. Capitol, opened its doors to the public on Saturday, with six floors of exhibits featuring more than 500 biblical artifacts and texts, as well as the world's largest private collection of retired Torah scrolls.

Tony Zeiss, the museum's executive director, said that the aim of its exhibits was to educate people about the Bible, noting that 100 scholars added their input to the museum during its creation.

"Things are divisive, but we will not get into any of the cultural or social debates if possible. We just want to present the Bible as it is, and let people make up their own minds," Zeiss told NYT.

Prior to its opening, some critics have noted that the exhibits at the new establishment includes "lots of tech — but not a lot of Jesus."

An article published by The Washington Post last month pointed out that while visitors can view a recreation of a first-century village in Galilee where actors will tell them what the villagers think of Jesus, the story of the crucifixion and resurrection is "almost absent."

Steven Bickley, the museum's vice president of marketing, administration and finance, explained that the museum includes a Narrative floor that is divided in half between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

He noted that among the features of the floor is an exhibit called "The World of Jesus of Nazareth," which depicts the "sights and sounds of Jesus' day," as well as a film focused on the spread of the early church "as told from the perspective of those who knew Jesus."

Museum officials have estimated that guests would need more than a week of daily eight-hour visits to fully absorb all of the exhibits.

The administrators are hoping that the new establishment, which stands just two blocks from the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum and its National Museum of the American Indian, would also become a must-see stop on Washington tourists' lists.

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