The scholarship of biblical poetry might be thought the most benign of worlds. In fact, it has recently been rocked by a dispute that resembles a courtroom drama. The antagonists are both experts. Their dispute is personal, as well as scholarly. Both are the authors of recent books on biblical poetry. James L. Kugel, […]

Two Questions About Crucifixion
Does the victim die of asphyxiation? Would nails in the hand hold the weight of the body? By Frederick T. Zugibe

Despite the uncertainties and controversies concerning Jesus’ life and death, there is universal agreement about at least one thing: He was crucified. Yet even here questions have been raised, questions about the physical cause of death and about how people were nailed to the cross. I would like to address these two questions, or […]

The Nine Commandments
The secret progress of Israel’s sins By David Noel Freedman

Embedded in the sequence of books from Genesis through Kings is a hitherto unnoticed sequence of violations of the Ten Commandments, one by one, book by book, by the community of Israel, leading, in the end, to her Exile. I would like to suggest that this sequence of violations may reveal the hand of […]

What Did Jesus Really Say?

About 40 scholars, all specialists in the study of the historical Jesus, are seated around a table. They have just completed their discussion of a saying attributed to Jesus in the Gospels. The time has come for each to vote on a simple but complex question: Do you think Jesus actually said that? Or, […]

Saul & David
Crossed fates By Jan P. Fokkelman

20 In ancient times history-writing and storytelling were two faces of the same coin. The reporting of facts was inseparable from their interpretation and from the utilization of narrative art to tell and interpret the facts. In what follows, I want to understand Israel’s first king, Saul, by what the biblical narrator tells us […]

The Resurrection in Recent Scholarly Research

At the very end of Martin Scorsese’s film version of Nikos Kazantzakis’s now famous novel. The Last Temptation of Christ, Jesus returns to the Cross, from his out-of-body temptation sequence, to those last, agonizing moments of death. Then, suddenly, white flashes of light streak the screen, the image is lost—as if someone has just […]

Taking the Heat in Struggle Over Biblical Poetry

James Kugel writes as a historian of scholarship and as one who practices historical criticism. Robert Alter writes as a literary critic and an analyst of individual biblical poems. Kugel’s book is a trailblazer, clearing the brush of centuries of scholarship in order to move more readily into an analysis of the poetry of […]

The Great Eighth Century

22 A century is a wholly arbitrary block of time. History surely does not proceed by 100-year chunks. And to mark the beginning and end of a historical period by the start and finish of a particular century can be justified by nothing more than our attraction for round numbers. Yet, if we don’t […]

Did Paul Commit Suicide?

The question this article will explore may appear disturbing at first sight, and for good reason. Since Augustine’s time, the church has condemned suicide as a sin—a sin beyond redemption, just like apostasy and adultery. How then could Paul, the premier apostle of early Christianity, even have contemplated suicide, much less gone through with […]

Israel’s Emergence in Canaan
BR interviews Norman Gottwald

26 Norman K. Gottwald, W. W. White Professor of Biblical Studies at New York Theological Seminary, is known for his pioneering work in developing and applying sociological and anthropological methods in the study of the Hebrew Bible. Of special interest are his views regarding the vexed question of Israel’s emergence in Canaan. For years […]

Bringing Miriam Out of the Shadows

Buried within Scripture are bits and pieces of a story awaiting discovery. It highlights the woman Miriam. To unearth the fragments, assemble them, ponder the gaps and then construct a text requires the play of many methods but the dogmatism of none.1 This enterprise welcomes all lovers of Scripture who seek to redeem life […]

My Odyssey in New Testament Interpretation

Karl Marx, when he was living in Highgate, London, was once asked to address a group of theologians. On his arrival, the meeting place was full of tobacco smoke, and Marx remarked, “Theologians always cloud the issues.” When I remind theologians of this, they invariably reply, “Yes, and you in biblical studies always simplify […]

Responses to Jew-Hatred
Midrashic texts reveal how the Jewish community faced antagonistic neighbors By Pinchas H. Peli

Midrash is a special kind of Jewish biblical literature. What it tells of is not necessarily in the Bible, but is derived from the Bible or is based on the Bible—in a way, a commentary on the Bible. It is post-biblical, although there are hints of midrashic technique already in the Bible itself, as […]

Amos’s Four Visions
Of judgment & hope By H. Neil Richardson

Taking a short passage from the Bible and looking at it from a variety of perspectives can be very instructive. For example, from a short passage from the book of the eighth-century B.C. prophet Amos, we can learn: something about the problems of translation and why scholars sometimes emend (that is, change) the text; […]

The Hebrew Bible Contains the Oldest Surviving History

The extraordinary achievement of the Hebrew Bible as history is rarely remarked on, but it is worth considering. For the Hebrew Bible contains the oldest surviving historical work as such and perhaps the earliest history ever written.

Mission To Alexandria
Truth and legend about the creation of the Septuagint, the first Bible translation By Leonard J. Greenspoon

It often comes as a surprise to laypeople to learn that ancient copies of the Bible vary, sometimes in minor ways, but sometimes, also, in important ways. Variation exists between any two manuscripts of the Bible, even when they are written in the same language. But apart from minor variations among ancient manuscripts, when […]

Bible for A King
J. Paul Getty II reunites abducted manuscript illuminations

Some missing illuminations from the pages of an ornately illustrated Bible that once belonged to a medieval king have been returned to their original setting, thanks to the largesse of London industrialist and manuscript collector J. Paul Getty. The history of this expressively illustrated Bible is for the most part shrouded in mystery. What […]

The Binding of Isaac
Rembrandt’s contrasting portraits By Jack Riemer

It is hard to believe that there are only 19 verses in chapter 22 of Genesis, the chapter that tells the story of the Binding of Isaac, or Akedah in Hebrew. More commentaries have been written on this chapter—by medievals and by moderns, by Jews and by Christians, by poets and by playwrights, by […]

Coarse Language In The Bible?
It’s culture shocking! By Harvey Minkoff

22 In an article I recently wrote in Bible Reviewa on the problems of Bible translating, I distinguished two styles of translation: reader-centered (covert) and text-centered (overt). The first style of translation tries to convey to the reader the impression of an original author in the language of the translation. The second style of […]

Visual Glories
The Hebrew Bible in medieval manuscripts By Roger S. Wieck

Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any manner of likeness, of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath. … Thou shalt not bow down unto them, nor serve them …” (Exodus 20:4, 5). The Second Commandment’s prohibition against the worship of idols often […]


Semite, Semitic, Semitic languages By Harvey Minkoff
My View
How the archaic becomes contemporary By Kenneth R. R. Gros Louis
Bible Lands
The Negev—The southern stage for biblical history By Oded Borowski
My View
Why Christians should bother with the Old Testament
BR article spawns new theory of biblical poetry By Harwood D. Schaffer
Bible Lands
Three capitals in the hills of Ephraim By Harold Brodsky
My View
Neither the liberal nor the conservative God is adequate By Joanne Swenson
Canon: Choosing the books of the New Testament By George Howard
Canon—How books of the Hebrew Bible were chosen By Marc Zvi Brettler
Special Letter Section
Readers reply to the virgin birth controversy
Eschatology: Understanding the end of days By F. F. Bruce
Readers Reply
Phyllis Trible’s Miriam—An insightful discovery or a feminist demon?
Readers Reply
Scholars and the virgin birth