Museums and the Bible


The workshop Museums and the Bible is concerned with museums around the world especially Western national museums and the biblical artifacts they have acquired. Concomitant with the emergence of biblical archaeology in the nineteenth century was the expansion of departments of antiquities at various national museums particularly in the West. This workshop examines these expansionary moments of Western national museums, focusing not only on obvious imperial agents of these museums, but also on non-Western agents native to the areas from whence these museums had extracted its biblical artifacts. A key site of analysis is the process of orientalizing museum artifacts in biblical studies in general and in ancient Near Eastern studies and related subfields in particular. Guiding this pursuit is an ethical audit of orientalizing and other racializing discourses within the museum-Bible nexus and how they contribute to colonizing projects. Underneath national museums’ constructed world of the Bible lies the lived experiences of expendable laborers who climb cliffs, shovel dirt, chisel stone, and heave rocks. In some instances, surrounding their labor are the fresh remnants of a war zone—reminding us that for some their employment stems from economic need and material scarcity. Despite the contradictory nature of this reality in which biblical knowledge 
supersedes the well-being of the human Other, the enterprise of collecting artifacts remains persistent. 


Biblical archaeology, National Museums, Empire, Orientalism, Decolonization



Gregory Lee Cuéllar

Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary


Ma. Marilou S. Ibita

De la Salle University - Manila

Sofia 2024 Call for Papers

In 2024 this workshop will have a session of invited papers and accepts papers that deal with the following questions: 

  • How did Western Empires benefit from the partnership/collaboration between biblical archaeology and National Museums? 
  • What forms of orientalism have exhibits of biblical antiquities in Western National Museums promoted or advanced? How has the Museum’s promotion of orientalism assisted its corresponding empire in colonizing Asian and Africa?
  • How do we decolonize the collecting enterprise and exhibiting practices of Western National Museums, particularly in relation to artifacts associated with the Bible? 
  • If orientalism justified the taking of artifacts from Asia and Africa, should these artifacts be repatriated as the first step to decolonizing Western National Museums?