The Holy Bible is the most printed and most read book in human history, influencing
everything from art and music to politics and pop culture.
Regardless of whether its first scribes were touched by a divine hand as Christians
believe, the Bible`s evolution from ancient Hebrew text to the English language is
a rich lesson in the history of civilizations, origins of the written word and the revolution
The tale is recounted in an exhibition opening at the Florida International Museum
on Jan. 13 that boasts artifacts as rare and priceless as they come, among them bits
of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a fragment of the Gospel of John dating to about 250 A.D.,
a 1455 Gutenberg Bible and a first edition of the King James version from 1611.
William H. Noah, founder and curator of the exhibit, isn`t a biblical scholar but a
pulmonary physician who lives near Nashville, Tenn. He said his personal interest in
the history of the sacred text led him to study it and begin to assemble a collection
that opened in Tennessee a year ago called "Ink & Blood: Dead Sea Scrolls to the
English Bible." "I had traveled the world researching this for years and was just
curious," Dr. Noah said. "You get all these extreme views [of the Bible] from different
groups, and as I started to research this, I found that the real academic view was an
Dr. Noah said the focus of the 8,500-square-foot exhibit is more historical than
religious, tracing the evolution of the Bible from pictograph writings on clay tablets
5,000 years ago to the Dead Sea Scrolls -- the oldest known copies of most of the
Old Testament books, written on animal skins -- to translations into Latin, German,
French and English.
The displays include a working replica of Johannes Gutenberg`s printing press,
which brought the Bible to the masses in the 15th century.
The St. Petersburg opening is the first big splash for the exhibit, which was tested
in civic centers in Knoxville, Tenn., and then Lexington, Ky., last year, drawing
about 100,000 visitors. The four-month St. Petersburg stop is the exhibit`s first in
a museum and its first in a major population center.
"I wanted to open in a smaller community because of the controversial nature
of anything biblical, and I wanted to see how it would be received," Dr. Noah said.
"I was very impressed." The crowds, he said, included academicians, religious
leaders, the faithful and the curious. The exhibit was held over in Knoxville because
of the demand.
In Lexington, the exhibit drew visitors from all across Kentucky, said Niki Heichelbech,
spokeswoman for the city`s convention and visitors bureau.
"Whatever you may go into it with, you come out with a completely different feeling,"
she said. "It definitely opens your eyes in ways you thought it might not. It certainly
had an effect on people."
The exhibit is being promoted heavily with mailings to area churches and schools,
and the museum hopes to lure the area`s wintering snowbirds.