Bible Review, 1990
When the enslaved Israelites sought to leave Egypt, Pharaoh said no. The Lord then visited ten plagues upon the Egyptians until finally Pharaoh permanently relented—the last of the plagues being the slaying of the first-born males of Egypt. Some of the plagues are the type of disasters that recur often in human history—hailstorms and […]
One book of the Hebrew Bible stands out like a sore thumb—Ecclesiastes. It is truly an alien amid the other books. It denies human access to revelatory insights. It presents the deity as indifferent to human conduct, dispensing rewards and punishments regardless of merit. It questions everything regardless of its source. It gives credence […]
The Dead Sea Scrolls, found between 1947 and 1956 in caves on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, provide us with a picture of a first-century Jewish community that could well have been the home of John the Baptist. At the very least, the possibility is worth exploring. Whether or not the possibility […]
During the Second World War,” the guide was saying, “all these windows were taken out and put in storage. We were afraid of bombs.”
Scholars have long theorized that collections of Jesus’ sayings circulated in the decades following his death and that therefore they would be among the earliest witnesses to his message. Modern critical scholars have even been able to reconstruct one of these collections of sayings —we’ll tell you how later. In the scholarly jargon, this […]
For 2,000 years Jews and Christians have mentioned Queen Esther and the widow Judith in the same breath. And it’s not surprising. Both women are Jewish heroines in popular books named after them. Both women were beautiful, resourceful and brave. And the books bearing their names are among the most interesting and best-written in […]
Scores of contemporary artists and writers have used Qoheleth’s words as springboards for their own. They may truly be called children of the Preacher.
I intend to argue that the New Testament Gospels are biographies! Until quite recently that would have been a surprising position for a modern scholar to take. True, that was the general view from about the second century A.D.1 to the late 19th century. But, beginning at about that time, the view that the […]
A hurtling satellite peering down from Europe’s night sky during the past millennium couldn’t have missed the blazing emblems of Christendom’s sustained disapproval of the Talmud; pyre after pyre of burning books, ordered by pope after pope, in town after town—Paris, Toulouse, Perpignan, Rome, Bologna, Ferrara, Mantua, Florence, Venice, Cremona. In the last such […]
Huldah the prophetess—let us celebrate her—holds a unique place in history. It was she who, for the first time, designated a written document as Holy Scripture. She began the process that culminated more than millennium later in the canonization of the Bible.
Dead Sea Scroll scholarship is undergoing a virtual revolution. New ideas and perspectives are percolating among the small group of scholars who dedicate themselves to primary research on the content of the scrolls. Recent publications focus on major changes in the way Dead Sea Scroll research affects our understanding of the history of Judaism […]
Who was Masek? Where is Calneh? What do Adam, Satan, Malachi and Shiloh all have in common? What did Adam say when he saw Eve for the first time? The answers to this little quiz may be disconcerting to some students of the Bible.
To the modern critical scholar, the Book of Jonah may be a romance, a short fictional delight with a moral. But that’s not what the author—whoever he or she was—intended. According to the author, our hero was an actual historical person, Jonah ben Amittai. Jonah not only has a named father but, as […]
Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh—whose brilliant coloring and radically individualized symbolism changed the way we view art—each painted portraits of themselves as Christ. Although Gauguin the Frenchman (1848–1903) and Van Gogh the Dutchman (1853–1890) were contemporaries and even lived together for a time, their self-portraits as Christ have vastly different meanings. In his […]
In 86 B.C.E.a Jerusalem lay devastated—the Temple in ruins, the king’s palace destroyed. The Babylonians, led by the fearsome Nebuchadnezzar, had deported Judah’s most prominent citizens to Babylonia. There they lived in exile for 50 years until Cyrus, King of Persia, allowed them to return under Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel. During the Exile, according to […]
Whether ancient Egyptian civilization reflected an essentially black culture has recently been the subject of a spirited exchange in the pages of BR’s sister publication, Biblical Archaeology Review.a This discussion, however, is but a relatively faint echo of an intense debate heard most frequently in black academic circles and on black campuses, and lately […]
The writings of the Hebrew prophets are, for many people, the cornerstone of the Hebrew Bible. In some of the most vivid and beautiful language in all literature, the Hebrew prophets castigate the wrongdoer, denounce injustice, offer consolation to those in misery, call for repentance and righteousness, predict calamity and envision renewal and […]
In Moses’ famous speech that comprises most of Deuteronomy, he describes the Israelite conquest of two kingdoms east of the Jordan—Heshbon, led by a king named Sihon, and Bashan, led by a king named Og. King Og alone survived— “Only Og the King of Bashan was left of the remnant of the Rephaim” […]
Recently I wrote a book with Father Andrew Greeley entitled The Bible and Us: A Priest and a Rabbi Read Scripture Together (Warner Books, 1990) that required me to focus on the nature of Jewish-Christian dialogue. The experience led me to conclude that much of the dialogue today is based on the faulty premise […]
Americans revere the Bible—but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.a
Let’s face it. Christians have a problem when it comes to the use of the Old Testament in the church. We have found a variety of ways of overlooking or de-emphasizing or simply dismissing the Old Testament and its inherent value for the church.
Sacred sex, child sacrifice, the cult of the dead—these are the subjects of a powerful, 11-verse poem in Isaiah 57:3–13. Our task will be to understand how the poet makes his points, why he juxtaposes these three seemingly different subjects and what they tell us about the times in which the poet wrote. In […]
Familial tension in the Bible is typically sibling rivalry, rather than Oedipal conflict. We are hard put to find examples of a struggle between parents and children in Genesis, although the popularity of the Greek myth would lead us to expect to find this as the prototype for all family stress. Instead, Scripture offers […]
We call them “acts of God”—the natural disasters over which we have no control. They fill us with fright and awe: fright at the possible human toll, and awe at the enormous force of nature. If we no longer regard these natural forces as mysterious, this is largely due to advances in scientific […]