Skip to content

Historical tours show Bible is more than a museum-piece

Mark Hendley’s Bible tours at the British Museum have proved to be a great hit. He tells Inspire how they came into being ...

Mark Hendley’s Bible tours at the British Museum have proved to be a great hit. He tells Inspire about their journey ...

How did the Bible tours get off the ground?

The tour started as the by-product of another project I was working on with a friend from my last church. We were developing men’s ministry and realised that deep friendships develop by doing activities together. Along with a broader programme we cooked up an idea along the lines of Horrible Histories and having an Old Testament day.

I had visited the museum whilst studying at Bible college and was aware of its many biblical artefacts. However, what I felt had been missing was a vibrant, engaging narrative to help connect the wealth of biblical evidence displayed to the modern walk of faith.

So I dusted off my old lecture notes and we supplemented them with information from various Christian publications concerning the history and archaeology of the Ancient Near East.

The day trip was such a hit that we subsequently had to schedule more for the rest of the congregation and eventually for other churches, Christian Unions, denominations and Christian training courses. Last October it felt right to expand and make it more of a full-time ministry venture.

To date we have taken more than 300 tourists around the museum.

What difference has your research made to your faith and your view of the Bible?

The integrity of God’s story rests and relies upon the history of the biblical narrative and the accurate recording of that history. Faced with the sheer weight of evidence that is available at the museum, it is fantastic to know that Scripture is historically correct and accurate even in its minutiae.

Having been a serious student of the Bible for over 20 years, each new historical or theological discovery has only taken me deeper in my faith, never further away.

In terms of the museum, one of my favourite moments is when ‘the lights go on’ and each participant moves from knowing the Bible is true – to knowing the Bible is true! That moment is priceless and propels them to the simple realisation: if it is true, then I can place my complete confidence and trust in his Word.

Why do Christians need to gain a better understanding of biblical history?

It is easy to fall into an isolationist reading of Scripture. We are saved by faith alone and many go on to read the Bible alone, without engaging with its historical, geographical, cultural and political context. This kind of reading can lead to fanciful interpretations and applications.

The simple truth is Scripture cannot mean now what it didn’t mean then. A basic level of understanding of the world of the Bible adds layers of texture and depth to our reading. That in turn helps us spiral ever closer to its original intent and meaning.

That has to be a good thing as we try to live an authentic Christian life in a world far removed from the one the Bible was written in.

Who are the tours primarily aimed at?

Anyone who wants to grow in understanding and relationship with God. We have hosted new Christians, home groups, theology students, church leaders, Christian training professionals and Church network leaders. We go in-depth, but make the material very accessible. In doing so we aim to provide an interactive experience that:

  • Clearly presents the framework and timeline of the Bible
  • Casts light on the historical and cultural backdrop to both the big and little stories of Scripture
  • Provides high quality corroborative evidence for many of the characters, places and accounts of the Bible
  • Re-examines familiar Bible accounts in the light of extra-biblical evidence
  • Demolishes longstanding arguments against the accuracy of the Bible
  • Presents each ‘tourist’ with artefacts that truly have the wow factor

What are your hopes and dreams for these tours?

We keep getting such encouraging reviews, I would love to see more and more Christians access this fun and faith-building day out.

I believe the tour has a valuable part to play in equipping Christians for apologetics [reasoned defence of faith], but also is a key ingredient in the discipleship and leadership training process.
Biblical literacy has been on the decline for a long time and it would be great to see a generation rise, who at a profound level understand the Scriptures, believe them and live them out in a way that bears witness to the Word – Jesus!

Photos: Simon Kluge

Get more inspiring reading

You can order our printed INSPIRE magazine in bundles of 10 for your church. Get encouraged by stories of God at work in the UK and around the world – and it's great for giving away to those on the edge of church, too! Order FREE* for your church (*we welcome an annual donation towards our costs).

Subscribe

Join the discussion