By “biblical reproductions” is meant here works of art, architecture, and artifice that purport to reproduce the place, space, and material artifacts of the Bible, for example, by translating biblical descriptions into specific plans and elevations or by building three-dimensional replicas. In particular, this entry briefly surveys some of these reproductions in western Europe and North America since the Enlightenment.

Defending Orthodoxy through Science: Scheuchzer, Noah’s Ark, and Solomon’s Temple.

From early Christian times there has been a devotional interest in certain places and artifacts mentioned in the Bible, expressed in practical terms through pilgrimage and the procuring of relics. From at least the late seventeenth century and increasingly through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, attention was directed toward material objects and geography in the interest of challenging or establishing the Bible’s historical reliability.

Johann Jacob Scheuchzer, a Swiss doctor and naturalist, provides an example of the latter. Alert to the criticisms of Spinoza and the philosophers, he argued for the Bible’s veracity in matters of physical data, producing for this purpose a multivolume work of erudition, profusely illustrated (with about 750 full-page folio plates), on the subject of “sacred natural science” (Physica Sacra, Augsburg, 1731–1735). Some 30 pages are devoted to the Flood (which he believed was verified by fossils located in the Swiss Alps) and to Noah’s ark, its plan, and its ability to float. (He advised against modern implementation of the design—the sea after the Flood must have been exceptionally calm, he explains.) Pictures of previously postulated designs of the ark are shown, including the one considered correct, a large foldout plan shows the vessel’s layout, and other plates show it from different aspects.

Even more attention is given to Solomon’s Temple—twice the text and 40 pages illustrating the Temple and its contents in scrupulous detail. The attention to detail is not surprising, since this building and Ezekiel’s vision of its restoration occasion two of the lengthiest descriptions in the Bible (1 Kgs 6–8 [cf. 2 Chr 3–5]; Ezek 40–47). Competing opinions are assessed, though for the most part the geometrical projections of the sixteenth-century Jesuit scholar and architect Juan Bautista Villalpando loom large in the great architectural project that appears on the pages. Along with depictions of the tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Temple vessels, a view or “prospect” of Solomon’s Temple, frequently labeled in English publications as “an exact representation,” was a regular feature of illustrated Bibles and Bible histories from the end of the seventeenth century and well into the nineteenth century. Another popular addition to such volumes was a map of ancient Jerusalem, also based on Villalpando.

The Bible and the Holy Land in the Nineteenth Century.

Fascination with the realia of the Bible grew along with the growth of travel between western Asia and Europe. Increasingly, reference was made to customs and artifacts of the contemporary Holy Land and adjacent regions in order to establish for reader or viewer a “correct” perception of the biblical world. By the nineteenth century, Bible histories and dictionaries are replete with descriptions and drawings of towns, houses, tents, doors, locks, hammers, tent pegs, fields of corn, and foxes. Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt produced a wave of ancient (and modern) Egyptian “illustrations” of ancient Israelite buildings and artifacts, and a similar phenomenon appears later in the century with the excavations of ancient Babylon and Assyria and the hugely popular exhibitions in Europe that followed. In the meantime, the steamship made it much more convenient for travelers to see the Holy Land for themselves. And they flooded Europe and America with their accounts and pictures of the Land where, apparently, time had stood still and things were as they had always been.

The representation of biblical artifacts and space helped shore up the Bible against the depredations of the skeptics such as Voltaire. It also reassured those open to emerging historical criticism and the argument that the Bible was not, historically speaking, uniformly reliable. For them, the visual presentation of an “authentic” world meant that all was not lost. There really was an ancient world of tangible stuff; the world in which the biblical stories took place was “real.”

Panoramic Jerusalem: Wharton.

For many people, then and now, seeing the thing or place or space makes the text, the story, “real.” Seeing and being there leads to proper understanding. But if travel to Jerusalem was not a possibility for most people, an alternative was to bring Jerusalem to them. An engraved map of the ancient place was one thing. Quite another was the Panorama. In Selling Jerusalem: Relics, Replicas, Theme Parks (2006) Annabel Jane Wharton tells the story of some of the panoramas of Jerusalem painted and displayed in the nineteenth century from as early as one by Alexander Fink on display in New York in 1802. Another—“a view of the city of Jerusalem and the surrounding country”—was exhibited in 1835 at the Leicester Square Panorama in London, painted by the owner, Robert Burford, from drawings made a year earlier by the architect and archaeological illustrator Frederick Catherwood. With Burford’s encouragement, Catherwood established a panorama in New York, on Broadway, using some of Burford’s canvases. Alas, in a tale too often told of panoramas, the building burned down in 1842, and Jerusalem went with it.

More successful was a painting of Jerusalem on the day of the crucifixion (a common choice) exhibited first in Munich in 1886. It was more than 15 meters high and nearly 120 meters long. Bruno Piglhein, who designed it, took a team to Jerusalem to see and draw the real thing before returning and creating the Jerusalem that large crowds would flock to see. It earned the proprietors a large profit. From Munich it moved on to Berlin and then Vienna—where, alas, it too burned, in 1892. Half the circumference of the panorama was the walled city viewed from the southeast, the other half a barren landscape with the crucifixion at the far left and close by the burial cave. Truly a work of what Burke Long might call a “real-imagined” Jerusalem.

Holy Land at Chautauqua and St. Louis: Long.

In his book, Imagining the Holy Land: Maps, Models, and Fantasy Travels (2003), Long explores some other ways the Bible has been “reproduced” in North America. Jerusalem, for example, could be found in three dimensions by Lake Chautauqua on the grounds of the famous Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York, where, from 1874 until the present day, people have come for recreation, religious devotion, and learning, especially through Bible study. A topographical replica of biblical Palestine stretched for about 400 feet at the lakeside, while nearby in Oriental House was a model of Jerusalem. Farther on was the Pyramid of Giza—for the children to climb up—and Moses’s wilderness tabernacle, where a clergyman, dressed up as an ancient Hebrew priest, might be giving lectures on the symbolic meaning of the tabernacle for Christians. Even a panoramic painting of Palestine (13 feet high and 30 feet long), with biblical locations marked, was on display in the early days, presenting a Holy Land tour. In Chautauqua’s Holy Land, Long finds, ironically, “material-ideational icons in an iconoclastic Protestant culture” (2003, p. 40). Chautauqua overlays biblical authority and evangelical piety with romanticism, progressive education, scientific inquiry, and American entrepreneurial energy.

Jerusalem could also be encountered at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. Set in about 11 acres next to the splendid Palace of Fine Arts was a nearly same-size replica of contemporary Ottoman Jerusalem, and just beyond it the giant Ferris wheel. “Faithfulness to the original,” observes Long, “was the key” (2003, p. 47). Trusted measurements and genuine artifacts would create an “authentic realism” with which to accompany and confirm the morally and spiritually uplifting commentary of the guides. This Jerusalem, however, this piece of Holy Land, was also reproduced in the midst of a celebration of the United States, of territorial expansion (the Louisiana Purchase), and of the advance of capitalism and entrepreneurial invention. What could be plainer than that the United States “was heir to God’s blessings bestowed on the world through ancient Jerusalem” (p. 48).

Reproductions, Biblical

Replica of Jerusalem, the Festival Hall, and the Palace of Fine Arts as seen from the Ferris wheel at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

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Holy Land USA, The Holy Land Experience, and Rebuilding Noah’s Ark: Beal.

Long compares the St. Louis Jerusalem to a more recent American reproduction in the Ozark Mountains near Eureka Springs, Arkansas, namely the New Jerusalem park with its giant statue of the Christ of the Ozarks, inviting arms outstretched. Since the late 1960s it has been the destination of millions. It might have been the destination of another explorer of North American biblical reproductions but was not. His itinerary was already full. Timothy K. Beal writes of his own tour of America’s home-produced Holy Land in Roadside Religion: In Search of the Sacred, the Strange, and the Substance of Faith (2005), a tour for much of the time in the company of his family, living out of a rented motor home. Along the way he visited such places as Holy Land USA near Bedford, Virginia; Golgotha Fun Park in Cave City, Kentucky; and Cross Garden in Prattville, Alabama. He got up close to the World’s Largest Ten Commandments (“awefully big,” as he puts it) in Fields of the Wood, Murphy, North Carolina, and he took in The Holy Land Experience in Orlando, Florida (“When you pass through our city gate, you will travel back in time to an ancient land that is 2,000 years old and 7,000 miles away!” is the web portal’s invitation).

The Holy Land Experience is to be had a few miles up the interstate from Disney World and Universal Studios. It is a multimillion-dollar production on 15 acres, and it will reveal to the visitor “in elaborate and authentic detail” the ancient city of Jerusalem and its religious importance. It attracts visitors, mostly conservative Protestant Christians, by the thousands. It displays a scale model of Jerusalem patterned on the famous one (on a 1:50 scale), which for many years was in the lobby of the Holy Land Hotel in the west of present-day Jerusalem (see Wharton, 2006, pp. 220–223). A highlight for many visitors to the Experience is a regularly scheduled crucifixion (except when lightning makes it dangerous for the actor up on the cross).

Holy Land USA is a much more modest operation, though it still manages to host a large number of visitors. The Beal family sat at the back of a couple of flatbed trailers hitched behind a pickup as the guide took them along dirt roads to see the exhibits, each representing the place of a particular biblical story, in this roughly 1:100 replication of the Holy Land at the time of Jesus. Instead of the dressed-up actors of the Holy Land Experience, the stories are represented by wooden cutout characters. A collection of old-fashioned farm equipment in the workshop of Joseph and Jesus is intended to remind the visitor of the distance in time between the first-century world of Jesus and that of modern American society. A gold-painted box topped with cutout wings set inside an old water tower encircled by blue pillars made of oil drums invokes the Ark of the Covenant, that is, the real thing. In Jerusalem, the main exhibit is an old two-story wooden building, once a government-operated still, now the scene of the Upper Room and the Last Supper. A small trail, a Via Dolorosa, leads up to a compact area at the base of three tall wooden crosses. One woman knelt there much longer than anyone else. “Over the course of the tour,” Beal writes, “a remarkable transformation had occurred for many on board. They had become part of the story world of Holy Land USA. It had, in a very profound way, become real”—real in a religious sense, as in becoming part of the story.

Pastor Richard Greene in Frostburg, Maryland, was also involved in a story, a story that required him to rebuild Noah’s ark as a warning to all people to repent before disaster strikes. At the time of Beal’s visit to the site of God’s Ark of Safety, the structure was still in progress and had been for some three decades. Funding was a problem. The first third of the huge frame was in place and a concrete foundation poured for a structure designed (following Genesis 6 and assuming a “cubit” to be about 18 inches) to be about 450 feet long, 45 feet wide, and 75 feet high. But Pastor Greene was still persevering. Beal saw him remaking himself: over the long course of the project, “Pastor Greene has come to see his life as a contemporary re-enactment of the biblical Noah story” (2005, p. 96).

Understanding Biblical Reproductions.

Biblical reproductions have taken many forms. In addition to theme parks, both Long and Wharton discuss, for example, the role of photography in the recreation of the “real” Bible. All three scholars explore the phenomenon of the desire for true, correct, accurate, and authentic (etc.) reproduction. Their work is intent on bringing into view political, ideological, and religious dimensions of these reproductions, the relationships between symbolic meanings and materiality.

Wharton’s thesis is that a major driving force has been the West’s desire to possess and control the Holy City, the expression of an imperial ideology conjoined with piety and capital. Long’s analysis is conceived by way of Edward Soja’s spatial categories, especially an understanding of these constructed spaces as “complex, layered constructions.” Long constantly seeks alternative perspectives, competing meanings, and multiple emotional and ideological investments. Beal’s is an approach shaped by the disciplines of religious studies. He, too, looks for the unspoken, especially the ideological subtext, but he includes also his own subjectivity as part of the exploration. His book is both travel guide (for the religious studies traveler) and autobiography. In a surprising and moving way it accords respect to religious experience that might easily be dismissed as odd and empowers what many might think of as merely marginal voices.



  • Beal, Timothy K. Roadside Religion: In Search of the Sacred, the Strange, and the Substance of Faith. Boston: Beacon, 2005.
  • Comment, Bernard. The Painted Panorama. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999.
  • Goldhill, Simon. The Temple of Jerusalem. London: Profile Books, 2004.
  • Lamy, Bernard. De Tabernaculo Foederis, de sancta Civitate Jerusalem et de Templo ejus [On the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy City of Jerusalem, and Its Temple]. Paris: Dionysius Mariette, 1720.
  • Long, Burke O. Imagining the Holy Land: Maps, Models, and Fantasy Travels. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003.
  • Long, Burke O. “Picturing Biblical Pasts.” In Orientalism, Assyriology and the Bible, edited by Steven W. Holloway, pp. 297–319. Sheffield, U.K.: Sheffield Phoenix, 2006.
  • Poortman, Wilco C. Bijbel en Prent. Vol. 2. The Hague: Boekencentrum, 1986.
  • Rosenau, Helen. Vision of the Temple: The Image of the Temple of Jerusalem in Judaism and Christianity. London: Oresko, 1979.
  • Scheuchzer, Johann Jacob. Physica Sacra. Augsburg and Ulm, Germany: Christian Ulrich Wagner, 1731–1735.
  • Soja, Edward W. Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996.
  • Wharton, Annabel Jane. Selling Jerusalem: Relics, Replicas, Theme Parks. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.

David M. Gunn