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Naval architect John Scott Russell heralded the Great Eastern steamship as a beacon of modern science and used it to promote his own approaches to shipbuilding among Britain’s science elites. While Russell defined the project through a rhetoric of science, to popular audiences the ship was analogous to biblical teachings, embodying profound moral lessons. This article places Russell’s projections within this wider cultural context of religious interpretation and argues that in Victorian Britain the right to define the meaning of engineering spectacles was not the exclusive privilege of men of science, but open to broader cultural understandings. Religious, as much as scientific, values shaped social constructions of the project.