What Makes the Ten Commandments Different?

We start with a problem. And some questions. With the exception of the tenth commandment, prohibiting coveting, all the commandments in the Decalogue, as the Ten Commandments are called, appear in similar form elsewhere in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). The prohibitions against idolatry and swearing falsely, the commandments to […]

The Shunammite Woman
In the shadow of the prophet? By Burke O. Long

I would like to explore a single episode—or pericope—involving the prophet Elisha, not so much to understand it better (although I certainly want to), but, more importantly, as a basis for discussing what I believe is an important new trend in biblical studies—the shift from the text to the interpreter. Increasingly, scholars are […]

The Dead Sea Scrolls and Early Christianity: Part One
How are they related? By James C. VanderKam

Almost from the moment the first Dead Sea Scrolls came under scholarly scrutiny, the question of their relation to early Christianity became a key issue. The early days of Qumrana research produced some spectacular theories regarding the relationship among Jesus, the first Christians and the Qumran community. In 1950 the French scholar André Dupont-Sommer […]

The Abisha Scroll—3,000 Years Old?
Does the Samaritan community in Nablus have a Torah Scroll written by Aaron’s great-grandson? By Alan D. Crown

A small group of Samaritans—they now number fewer than 300—continues to live in ancient Shechem (modern Nablus on the West Bank) at the foot of their holy mountain, Mt. Gerizim. They claim to have the oldest Torah (the Pentateuch, or five books of Moses) in existence. It was written, they say, by Abisha,a the […]

The Testimonium
Evidence for Jesus outside the Bible By John P. Meier

Over the years, when editors and journalists have asked me to write about the historical Jesus, almost invariably the first question they raise is: Can you really prove he existed? The implication is that the biblical evidence for Jesus is biased because it is encased in a theological text written by committed believers.

How Desert Culture Helps Us Understand The Bible
Bedouin law explains reaction to rape of Dinah By Clinton Bailey

When Abraham sends his concubine Hagar and their son Ishmael into the “wilderness of Beersheba” (Genesis 21:14), he hangs from Hagar’s shoulder “a skin of water.” In Sinai and the Negev, Bedouin shepherdesses today still carry to pasture the same type of container, made from the skin of a butchered goat, because its […]

What’s a Massa?
The collection of prophetic books ends with three massas—but what’s a massa? By Richard Simon Hanson

The prophetic collection of books in the Hebrew Bible ends with three massa’ot (singular, massa’). So what’s a massa (pronounced mah-SAH)? The prophetic collection of books in the Hebrew Bible also ends with the little Book of Malachi. Who’s Malachi? Answer: He’s nobody. He’s simply the last massa. So, once again, what’s a […]

Circumcision of Gentile Converts
The root of hostility By Jack T. Sanders

The seminal historical circumstance in the hostility between Christians and Jews was, I believe, the conflict over whether gentiles could be converted to Christianity without undergoing circumcision. Until that conflict, Christianity and Judaism were not seen as diametrically opposed to each other. Jesus and his followers did not seek to establish a new […]

A well-watered place By Richard S. Hess

In 979, a bilingual inscription was found in Syria that provides new background for understanding two significant puzzles in the opening chapters of Genesis. The first puzzle is the statement that mankind was made in the “image” of God, in his “likeness” (Genesis 1:26), a metaphor that has teased scholars for millennia. The second […]

Drama of the Exodus

I used to wonder what would happen if a Polish pope challenged the Evil Empire. Could a Polish pope return to his homeland, stand before the Iron Curtain, proclaim “Let my people go” and win? Or even live? Amazingly, a scant decade later, the question has been rendered moot. Not only is it […]

The Samaritans
A Jewish offshoot or a pagan cult? By Reinhard Pummer

The best-known incident in the Bible regarding the Samaritans is of course the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25–37: A priest and a Levite both pass by a man who has been robbed and beaten. The Samaritan, however, stops and takes care of him. Then, as now, Samaritans were not at the […]

The Aleppo Codex
Ancient bible from the ashes By Harvey Minkoff

The date was December 2, 1947, four days after the United Nations decision to partition Palestine into a Jewish state and Arab state. Arab mobs in Syria were once again looting, burning, murdering and raping local Jews under the aegis of their, government’s anti-Zionism campaign. Similar pogroms had been staged throughout the country […]

West Coast Obstetrician Discovers Bible Illustrated by David Roberts

My profession is medicine, but my passion is Egyptology. Whenever I travel, I visit museums and used-book stores. So it was that I found myself in a modest little bookshop in Seattle. “I do have something that’s sort of on Egypt,” the proprietor told me. “It’s a Bible, but I haven’t been able to […]

The Bible in the Funny Papers

Adam and Eve discussing women’s liberation, Methuselah happily listening to Golden Oldies, metal detectors for animals entering Noah’s ark, Moses with the tablets of the law being questioned by civil libertarians, King David increasingly exaggerating Goliath’s proportions with each re-telling of the story. The names are familiar, but their activities are not. At least […]

Did Jephthah Kill His Daughter?

Did the ancient Israelite judge and warrior Jephthah actually kill his own daughter? Perhaps rashly, he vowed to sacrifice as a burnt offering “whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me on my safe return” if the Lord would only grant him a victory over the Ammonites (Judges 11:30–31).1 He […]

Ancient Aromas
Good and bad By Kjeld Nielsen

The Roman poet Ovid, in Metamorphosis (10:298–518), relates a story that sensitively reflects much about one of the best-known aromatic substances in the ancient world, myrrh. In the story, Myrrha, the beautiful daughter of the king of Cyprus, falls in love with her father. She disguises herself and proceeds to seduce him. When the […]

Is Everybody a Bible Expert?
Not the authors of the Book of J By Richard Elliott Friedman

It is a strange fact that we biblical scholars always seem to meet people who are surprised that we really know things about the Bible. They assume that the study of the Bible is a matter of opinions and interpretations, with few verifiable facts one way or another. Even though the archaeological revolution is […]

Heavens Torn Open
Mark’s powerful metaphor explained By David Ulansey

Mark, the earliest and the shortest of the Gospels, begins with John baptizing Jesus in the Jordan River (Mark 1:9). As Jesus emerges from the water, Mark tells us, Jesus sees the “heavens torn open” (schizomenous tous ouranous) (Mark 1:10). The Spirit then descends upon Jesus, like a dove (Mark 1:10). A voice calls […]

How Early Christians Viewed the Birth of Jesus

“Can Scholars Take the Virgin Birth Seriously?” BR 04:05, by J. Edward Barrett, produced more letters to the editor than any other article ever published in this magazine. Of the 27 letters printed, only two suggested that Barrett’s exploration of the subject had any merit whatever. Such a response leads me to believe that […]

When God Acts Immorally
Is the Bible a good book? By Ronald S. Hendel

The Bible is often called the Good Book. In the way we usually think about the Bible, its good reputation is warranted. From it we learn moral precepts such as “Love your neighbor,” “Honor your father and mother,” “You shall not murder” and much more.1 The Bible urges us to envision the possibility of […]

Sung Sermons
Melodies, morals and biblical interpretations in Byzantium By R. J. Schork

Sermons in stone,” “sermons in glass”—these multimedia figures of speech should surprise no one, since for long periods of time and in a broad range of places the largely illiterate faithful in Europe learned the Bible and the teachings of the church in ways that had nothing to do with formal, academic instruction—or […]

Computers and the Bible

Computers promise to revolutionize how we study the Bible. The last decade has witnessed the development of a variety of Bible-related programs—simple games for children, vocabulary drills for students of Hebrew and Greek, sermon preparation, sophisticated concordances, lectionary software, computer-assisted learning, church management software, multilingual Greek and Hebrew word processors and much more.

The People of The Dead Sea Scrolls
Essenes or Sadducees? By James C. VanderKam

Adjacent to the 11 caves on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea where the famous Dead Sea Scrolls were found are the remains of an ancient settlement overlooking the Wadi Qumran. It is almost certain that the people who lived in this settlement placed the scrolls in the nearby caves. In two of […]

Biblical Law
Establishing a moral order

The Torah—the five books of Moses—has rightly been called a book of Law. It is, however, idealized Law—what should be, or, more precisely, what God intended. In the second section of the Hebrew Bible—the Prophets—we learn about the reality.


The Book of Numbers
Little and big
Hebrew for Bible Readers
Honing your pronunciation By Keith N. Schoville
Hebrew for Bible Readers
Using pronouns and nouns By Keith N. Schoville
Bible Lands
Exploring the valleys of Jerusalem By Philip J. King
Greek for Bible Readers
Getting at the meaning of words By David Alan Black
Greek for Bible Readers
A simple word study By David Alan Black
Greek for Bible Readers
From Greek to English By David Alan Black
My View
What we learn from studying religion— and Judaism in particular By Jacob Neusner
The ineffable name of Israel’s God By Choon-Leong Seow
Greek for Bible Readers
Starting with alpha By David Alan Black