It’s January 1945 and Soviet troops have invaded Hungary. Like many Hungarians, Klara Kutasi flees on foot, carrying her most precious possessions. Inside one of her bags and wrapped carefully in a cloth is her heavy family Bible, dating from 1704. Throughout her exhausting journey she abandons all her possessions, one by one. When she finally arrives in the free zone, she only has her Bible left.
Klara’s Bible is now on display at the Bible Museum of Budapest, in the famous Ráday street. The eyes of Museum Curator Gabriella Timár sparkle when she speaks of the wonders it houses. The Bibles on display are evidence of the history of Hungary and the faith of its people.
Bible with a curious hole
The exhibits include Gospels copied on typewriter by Hungarian prisoners of war imprisoned in Soviet camps in Siberia, a family Bible, in which births and deaths are recorded, and a Bible with a curious hole: when the Soviet troops entered Budapest, a soldier carved out its leather cover to make a new shoe sole. He must have been very young, probably a teenager, because the footprint is quite small.
Only a few Bibles are currently available to view because the museum is undergoing extensive renovation and modernisation work. At the moment, the main room is being used for temporary exhibitions. Through some glass doors, the public can glimpse, for the very first time, the museum’s biggest treasure – the impressive Ráday collection and library – 15,000 books from the 18th Century.
More than just dusting off some Bibles
Mrs Timár’s vision is more than just dusting off some Bibles and panels: she wants the museum to take a completely different approach, offering children and young people a true “biblical experience”.
“I felt convinced that we had to rethink the message of the Bible Museum”, she says.
The renovated museum will offer two different experiences. The first will be a traditional exhibition of the written Bible, including the history of Bible translation in Hungary and worldwide. The second part, which will be housed in the vaulted basement, will use new technologies to offer young people an unforgettable interactive experience of the Bible.
On the ground floor, visitors will be able to browse through a collection of thousands of Scriptures from around the world, including recently launched ones. The collection will highlight the international history of this museum, which was opened in 1988 at the United Bible Societies’ World Assembly.
Link us to the fellowship of Bible Societies
“When a new Gospel of Mark is published in Inuit, the visitors to our Bible Museum will soon find out about it, says Mrs Timár. “This part of the museum will link us to the life of the fellowship of Bible Societies and their work around the world. It will also show how demanding and intellectually challenging the work of Bible translation is.”
Museum visitors will end their tour in the Bible bookshop, which opened last spring and sells Scriptures published by the Hungarian Bible Society.
“If we have managed to engage them with the Bible – its inner world – they will naturally feel encouraged to buy one for themselves, so that they can continue to read it and understand more about it”, explains Mrs Timár.
However, the collaboration with the Bible Society isn’t limited to the Bible bookshop. The Society plays a key role in the whole project.
“The new Bible Museum which is being developed will be an important pillar of the Bible Society’s strategic plan as we aim to communicate the message of the Bible to secular Hungarian society in new and effective ways,” says Ottó Pecsuk, the Bible Society’s General Secretary. “Our objective is to develop an effective tool to introduce children and young people in Hungary to the world of the Bible, and eventually to train them to be daily Bible readers.”
Watch this video about the Bible Museum –