Just in time to counteract all the complaints about how the true meaning of Christmas is lost in a commercial storm, the Houston Museum of Natural Science takes a hyper-literal view of religious history with The Birth of Christianity: A Jewish Story. The exhibition, which rides in on the coattails of The Dead Sea Scrolls, the 2004 HMNS blockbuster exhibition of ancient writings, combines an assortment of manuscripts, objects and artifacts, many of them twentieth-century finds.
The Birth of Christianity explores the origins of one of the worlds greatest faiths through a multi-section exhibition, starting with the Hellenistic Period on through just before the Common Era, and the first Christians. The exhibition looks at the Greek influences on Jewish life in ancient times, then moves on to the Roman period of King Herod, with coins, amphorae and other artifacts. When it comes to the biblical era, the plainest objects can conjure huge emotion: An oil lamp from the time of Herod, for example, calls to mind the Massacre of Innocents (Herods murder of all male Jewish children in an effort to kill the newborn King of the Jews who had been foretold by the Magi). Documents in the exhibit include the oldest known copy of prophecies from the Old Testament and the earliest known written copy of the nativity story, displayed side by side.
For an in-depth look at the exhibit, take the Behind-the-Scenes tour at 6 p.m. on December 16, led by HMNS Curator of Anthropology Dr. Dirk Van Tuerenhout. The exhibition runs 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Sundays (check for special holiday hours). Through April 12. One Hermann Circle Drive. For information, call 713-639-4629 or visit www.hmns.org. $16 to $18.
Dec. 12-April 12, 2008