Bob Jones University: Underground Art Gallery

Bob Jones University is a private university in Greenville, SC and is home to America’s finest collection of religious art; copies of the art are on display. Unknown to most people, the original pieces are housed underground in a converted bomb shelter along with a lamp that belonged to Abraham from the Bible.

Abraham’s Lamp is a part of the BJU logo.

The shelter was built by Greenville residents in 1939 at the outset of WWII, eight years before Bob Jones University moved to Greenville, SC. After the move to Greenville, Dr. Bob Jones Jr. began to collect art with a budget of $30,000 a year.

Dr. Jones renovated the shelter and, after displaying the art for several years, he moved all of it into the shelter to preserve the pieces and to avoid theft. Also housed in the shelter are two large vases, given to the university by Chiang Kai Shek shortly after WWII. The copies of these vases are on display at the front of the university’s main auditorium, Founder’s Memorial Amphitorium.

Abraham’s lamp would be the main attraction of the collection if the shelter were to ever be opened for viewing. How long the university has owned it is unknown because information on the artifact is scarce. The significance of Abraham is that the Bible regards him as “the father of many nations.” He is known in the New Testament as a man of great faith in God.

The entryway to the shelter is found in the Jerusalem Chamber, one of many rooms in the University’s library. Each weekday at 11:00 am, the students and staff are required to go to a university chapel service. In the Jerusalem Chamber there is a fireplace with five small shields mounted on the mantle. At 11:15 am, one of the five shields may be removed. The shield is then used as a key inside the fireplace. Once unlocked, the fireplace can be moved and workers are able to come and go as needed for a period of ten minutes.

A photo of the Jerusalem Chamber. Notice the missing shield above the fireplace.

Students and the vast majority of the staff and faculty at Bob Jones University are unaware of the shelter and the originals that are stored in it. How long the university plans to continue to use and hide the shelter is unknown. Copies of the artwork are on display at Bob Jones University’s Museum and Gallery.

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9 Responses to “Bob Jones University: Underground Art Gallery”


  1. 1 Joy August 26, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    Dave…. I worked in the library for 4 years, my brothers worked there before me, and our parents before us. This secret of the Chamber has been passed down through many generations of loyal library staff without ever getting out. However did you manage to find out and how could you betray our secret?

  2. 2 John Matzko August 28, 2008 at 9:44 am

    Hope you’ll permit me to make a serious comment in response to this humorous piece. The vases in Founder’s Memorial Amphitorium are JAPANESE and therefore an unlikely gift from Chiang Kai-shek, who fought the Japanese as well as the communists during World War II.

  3. 3 Dave Newell August 28, 2008 at 9:50 am

    The staff at The History Bluff appreciates the correction. However, while the vases came from Japan, they were made in China. After chapel one day you may try turning the vases over and looking at the bottom.

  4. 4 Topher September 2, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    Just wondering, is this wholly satirical, because the idea of housing such a lamp is ridiculous, as there is nothing but tradition that could sustain such a claim? I’m not a regular reader, so if the site is usually humorous in its claims, Sorry for the intrusion of reality

  5. 5 Dave Newell September 2, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Thanks Topher.

    The staff at The History Bluff appreciates the discerning readers out there. The staff also agreed that if we come up with a gopher as our mascot, its name will be Topher the Gopher.

    What’s beautiful about history is that no matter how ridiculous the story is, the possibility of it being true is there. You said, “the idea of housing such a lamp is ridiculous, as there is nothing but tradition that could sustain such a claim.” The staff grants you that but says, “There is nothing publicly available that could sustain a claim that such a lamp is not down there.” The coin has two sides, Topher.

    So until we receive undeniable evidence…Abraham’s lamp is a part of the collection housed in an underground shelter.

    We apologize for the intrusion of levity.

  6. 6 Rob September 12, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    Have you actually been in the shelter or seen it opened? I live in Greenville and if this is true, can I sneak in?

  7. 7 Dave Newell September 12, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Hi Rob,

    Either on a Sunday or a weekday, go to the Information Desk in the Administration Building and ask for a pass to the Bob Jones University Underground Shelter.

    The process after that is somewhat strict, you will need to have your Driver’s License and an informal documentation of identification (power bill, rental agreement, etc). After your identification has been verified, you will be asked to fill out two forms. One stating that you will not publicize the existence of the shelter and the other to agree that you will not attempt to visit the shelter again within a two-year time period.

    Upon completion of the forms, you will either be escorted to it or be asked to schedule an appointment.

    Let us know how it goes,
    The History Bluff

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  1. 1 for now . forever . for God » BJ logo - Abraham’s lamp? Trackback on October 28, 2008 at 7:42 am

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