Museum of the Bible opens in Washington, D.C.

The $500 million Museum of the Bible, largely funded by the evangelical billionaires who own the Hobby Lobby craft chain, opened its doors to the public, just blocks from the U.S. Capitol in a city where the separation of church and state remains hotly debated.

WASHINGTON — The world’s most famous book — the one at the center of three religions and two millennia of conflict — got its own museum Saturday in the heart of Washington.

The $500 million Museum of the Bible, largely funded by the evangelical billionaires who own the Hobby Lobby craft chain, opened its doors to the public, just blocks from the U.S. Capitol in a city where the separation of church and state remains hotly debated.

Its symbolism — heralded by religious leaders — wasn’t lost on the visitors who walked through the eight-story, 430,000-square-foot space filled with high-tech exhibits and thousands of religious artifacts. The crowd was not nearly as large as the building could hold, but those who explored the museum expressed tremendous enthusiasm for what they found inside.

“I’m 73 years old, and I’ve seen a lot of things, but this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” said Jean Johnson, of Crow, West Virginia, who was particularly startled by an exhibit on languages that the Bible has never been translated into and left thinking about how to support more foreign mission work. She wished her church group didn’t have to go to the White House after only three hours at the Bible museum; she wanted to stay all day.

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Marion Woods, of Greenville, South Carolina, was among the first inside. She had been anticipating this day for two years. When she first heard the museum was in the works, she thought, “I can’t believe there’s going to be a Museum of the Bible.” And then: “Why hasn’t this happened before?”

Woods, director of operations at a real-estate firm, flew into Washington on Thursday night and will leave Monday, spending as much time as possible in between at the museum. “Something inside of me just kept telling me I had to be there,” she said. “I feel like this museum is honoring God’s word, and I wanted to be a part of honoring God’s word.”

Not everyone was as enthusiastic as Woods; at 9:30 a.m., she was on her phone, trying to persuade her friends to come join her at the museum.

Some exhibits were bustling with visitors,…

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