Native Tulsa artist bringing Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. to life

Posted at 5:40 PM, Oct 27, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Two blocks from the national mall, construction crews move quickly on the eight-story building -- the Museum of the Bible.

"You're standing in the grand entranceway. Our visitors will come in those doors down there," said executive director Tony Zeiss.

From the Jerusalem marble on the floors and walls to the designs on floating stairs connecting each floor, Zeiss said every detail involves biblical writings.

"Half of this museum is the Hebrew bible. Because, old testament and of course, the new testament." 

The driving force behind the museum is Hobby Lobby founder Steve Green. He envisioned a place where people can immerse themselves in the Bible and visit the places where Jesus and the prophets lived. 

"And so it's as close to what the real thing was in the first century as possible," Zeiss said. "We're excited about it. We'll have living actors in here."

Actors will play out biblical scenes in areas now covered in construction dust. Murals show where Jesus lived.

"This is the sea of Galilea and we're standing just a little bit west of where Jesus gave the sermon on the mount," said Jonathan, an artist and lead designer for the Nazareth village, who also happens to be a native Tulsan. 

"(We want to) give people the best representation of the world that Jesus would have lived in," Martin said.

The Oral Roberts University graduate flew to Nazareth to see it first hand and returned with impressions and pictures he's using to make the scriptures live. He spends endless hours painting every blade of grass perfectly. 

"You want to do this unto the lord and Jesus's hometown, we better get it right," Martin said.

Only it's not just art. 100 scholars from around the world help ensure everything is authentic.

"Every single exhibit here has a team of scholars that are experts in their fields so not only do we hope to be really entertaining but absolutely academically sound in everything we do here," said Shannon Bennett, director of community relations and events for the museum.

The content, and the history.

"And then this floor is the history floor, and this is where we learn about how the Bible came to be, how it's been translated and transmitted throughout time and cultures and languages," Bennett said.

The museum came to be with the help of half a billion dollars in private donations. $42 million  was spent on technology alone.

Chapters from the Bible will play out on stage too, in a theater inspired by the tabernacle.

"And then the icing on the cake is really in what we can do with it," Bennett said. "So we have digitally mapped the walls and depending on what's going on on the stage, we can completely immerse our guests in that."

The plans are set and crews work feverishly to finish.

Exhibit areas from the Vatican, exhibit areas from the Israeli antiquities authority, people all over the world know that this is happening and they want to be a part of it," Bennett said. 

While there was trouble with U.S. customs over paperwork on some donated artifacts, there is still plenty to see.

Such as a brick from an ancient temple doctor Zeiss had tucked in his file cabinet.

"Written in the ancient Syrian language, and it's a clay brick and it's been around since 536 B.C."

As for Martin, opening day is drawing near, on Nov. 17. He's anxious for his family back home in Tulsa to see his work and the museum that brings the Bible to life.

"It's huge," Martin said. "It's the highest honor so far. So, it's just amazing and for us to be involved, we are pinching ourselves everyday."

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