Reinterpreting John
How the Dead Sea Scrolls have revolutionized our understanding of the Gospel of John By James H. Charlesworth

Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, many scholars considered the Fourth Gospel—the Gospel According to John—to be a mid-to-late-second-century composition inspired by Greek philosophy. Today, 45 years later, a growing scholarly consensus finds John to be a first-century composition. More surprising still, it is perhaps the most Jewish of the Gospels. Elements […]

Paul and Judaism: 5 Puzzles

In recent years, five questions have dominated scholarly discussions regarding Paul’s attitudes toward Judaism and its Law.

Apocalypse at Waco—Could the Tragedy Have Been Averted?
FBI spurns advice of Bible scholars By James D. Tabor

The government doesn’t understand, I said to myself as I watched the drama of the Branch Davidians at Waco, Texas, unfold on CNN day after day. Was there anything I could do to help, I wondered. As my frustration mounted, I decided to offer my services to the FBI, which by this time […]

The Gospels that Didn’t Make the Cut

A few years ago, I was part of a team of scholars who set out to produce a new translation of the gospels. We were all teachers frustrated with the various New Testament translations in our college and seminary courses. While most of the major translations are quite good, they are designed primarily for […]

Child Sacrifice: Returning God’s Gift
Barren women give birth to exceptional children By Susan Ackerman

Six barren woman in the Bible receive an annunciation from God promising an end to their barrenness. In a 1983 article,1 Robert Alter borrowed the term “type-scene” from Homeric scholarship and used it to describe these six biblical stories about women who had difficulty conceiving but ultimately became pregnant after an annunciation: to Sarah, […]

John’s Anti-Jewish Polemic

In the previous article, Professor Charlesworth calls the Gospel of John the most Jewish of the Gospels. This means, not that it is pro-Jewish or sympathetic to Jewish interests, but that it is by and about Jews acting in a Jewish environment. In fact, the Gospel of John is also probably the most anti-Jewish […]

The Holy Land in Christian Imagination

The idea of a holy land has its beginnings in ancient Israel and in the Hebrew Bible. Biblical history begins with the call of Abraham to leave his people and his land in Ur of the Chaldees (Iraq) to serve the one God in a new land, the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:1). During […]

Rings of Gold—Neither “Modest” Nor “Sensible”

Several passages in the New Testament discourage Christian women—and men—from adorning themselves with gold rings. But by the time the Christian movement became more secure—and wealthier—one Church father said gold rings were all right—at least for limited purposes.

What Was the Star that Guided the Magi?

Near the time of Jesus’ birth, “wise men from the east” appeared in Jerusalem inquiring, “Where is he who has been king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:1–2). What exactly was this star? 022 Matthew tells us that it […]

The lost gospel By Stephen J. Patterson

The Lost Gospel. The very concept provokes a flood of questions. If it is lost, how do we know it ever existed? How do we know what was in it? Who lost it? And how was it lost? Perhaps most intriguing of all: Will it ever be found?

Why Search for the Historical Jesus?

Currently I am working on a book on the historical Jesus, trying to determine what we can say about the life of Jesus here on earth in terms that would satisfy an objective historian. Contrary to my expectation, it has turned out to be a two-volume project. The first volume—484 pages—has recently been published.a […]

What Are Pagan River Gods Doing in Scenes of Jesus’ Baptism?

From its earliest days, one of the most popular scenes in Christian art has been John the Baptist baptizing Jesus in the Jordan River—and understandably so. Jesus’ baptism is a central moment in the Gospel narrative. The standard cast of characters in the baptism scene includes the Baptist, Jesus and the dove of the […]

The Suffering Servant at Qumran

Much of the current interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls is stimulated by parallels, real or imagined, between passages in the scrolls and New Testament statements about Jesus. A new text has recently been published that, its editor claims, contains a new and very interesting parallel. The text allegedly refers to a “servant messiah”—that […]

A Pre-Christian “Son of God” Among the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scroll Son of God text from Qumran Cave 4 has attracted attention both in scholarly publications and in the press because it contains remarkable parallels to the annunciation scene in the Gospel of Luke. The Aramaic text has been known for 20 years, since J. T. Milik presented it orally […]

Fantasy & Reality
Ancient maps of Jerusalem By Rehav Rubin

Jerusalem—Holy City for Jews, Christians and Muslims—exists in time, in space and in imagination. Early maps of the city, which often combine these elements in ways that the modern eye finds disconcerting, can teach us much about the city— and the people—of the past.

How the Books of the New Testament Were Chosen

How did the Church decide which books to include in the New Testament? When was the decision made? By whom? The surviving evidence unfortunately does not provide answers in the detail we would like, but it does document a number of the developments that eventually produced the New Testament as we know it.

Was Eve Cursed?
(or did a woman write Genesis?) By Adrien Janis Bledstein

In a recent popular book entitled The Book of J—for a period in 1990, it was on the best-seller list—Harold Bloom argues that the biblical author known to scholars as J was a woman. J is the name scholars give to what is probably the oldest authorial strand of the Pentateuch; J stands for […]

How Job Fulfills God’s Word to Cain

Ronald S. Hendel’s article, “When God Acts Immorally—Is the Bible a Good Book?” BR 07:03, obviously touched a raw nerve. In examining the story of Cain, Hendel suggested that God may not be a perfect God, but a good God nevertheless, and that the Bible may not be a wholly good book, but […]

The Binding or Sacrifice of Isaac
How Jews and Christians see differently By Robin M. Jensen

The Akedah (ah-kay-DAH), or binding of Isaac, is one of the most powerful narratives in the Hebrew Bible. For nearly 2,000 years, however, it has been read somewhat differently by Jews and Christians. It is even portrayed differently in the pictures they make. For most Christians, the Hebrew word akedah is unfamiliar; more often […]

The New Testament in the Comics

For Paul, as well as for the Gospels as they have come down to us, the most meaningful moments of Jesus’ life were his crucifixion and—beyond that—his resurrection. It is not difficult to understand, however, why contemporary cartoons and comic strips look elsewhere in the New Testament for their material. For popular entertainment, cartoonists, […]

God Tests Abraham
Abraham tests God By Lippman Bodoff

In Jewish tradition, the Torah has 70—that is, many—facets. Its interpretations are inexhaustible. I would like to suggest a new interpretation of the Akedah, the binding of Isaac (Genesis 22), a story that has received as much “interpretation” as any in the Hebrew Bible. The story of the Akedah has already been recounted in […]

Why Did God Harden Pharaoh’s Heart?

The Exodus account of that classic contest of wills—between Moses acting under his patron, the God of Israel, and Pharaoh, ruler of Egypt—contains a strange, but repeated reference to the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. Just when Moses thinks he has demonstrated Yahweh’s power to Pharaoh and Pharaoh has agreed to let the Israelite […]

Why Did God Harden Pharaoh’s Heart?

The Exodus account of that classic contest of wills—between Moses acting under his patron, the God of Israel, and Pharaoh, ruler of Egypt—contains a strange, but repeated reference to the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. Just when Moses thinks he has demonstrated Yahweh’s power to Pharaoh and Pharaoh has agreed to let the Israelite […]

The Oldest Cookbooks in the World

When the three messengers visited Abraham to announce the forthcoming birth of his beloved son Isaac, Abraham demonstrated his hospitality by inviting the messengers to a meal before even learning what their mission was. “Let me fetch a morsel of bread that you may refresh yourselves,” he said (Genesis 18:5) with modest understatement, […]

Songs of the Heart
Understanding the Book of Psalms By Nahum M. Sarna

The Hebrew Bible has three parts: the Law (Torah), the Prophets (Nevi’im) and the Writings (Kethuvim). The Book of Psalms is part of the Writings. In the Law and the Prophets, God reaches out to man. The initiative is his. The message is his. He communicates, we receive. Our God-given free will allows us […]

Why Didn’t Joseph Call Home?

The Hebrew Bible contains many unanswered questions and questions for which the answers provided seem inadequate. This, however, is part of the charm of Torah; it challenges us to exercise our powers of conjecture and imagination to supply plausible responses. One of the most intriguing of these questions involves Joseph’s behavior after he has […]


Promised Land
In the presence of native Americans who lost their land to invaders, I took a new interest in those forgotten peoples of the Bible who were dispossessed by the fulfillment of God’s promise to the Israelites to give them “a land flowing with milk and honey By Bernhard W. Anderson
The Priestly “Picture of Dorian Gray”
Ancient Israel’s priests would be aghast at the moral pollution of the earth: the brazen slaughter of thousands, millions dying of hunger, while the free world silently changes the channel. By Jacob Milgrom
The Passion Narratives and the Roots of Anti-Judasim
The difference in date between Passover and Easter is only the external sign of a division between Jews and Christians that has resulted in the darkest chapters of Christian history. By Helmut Koester
The Biblical Circle of Homosexual Prohibition
Is Heterosexuality—the biological norm for reproduction—also the ethical norm for human sexual relations? My proposal does not provide answers, but gives a basis for discussion in terms of biblical theology. By Bernhard W. Anderson
Why Was Jesus killed?
It makes no historical sense to say, “Jesus was killed for the sins of the world.” By Marcus J. Borg
Jesus in Four Colors
To what extent are the Gospels historical—or nonhistorical—and what does one do with the nonhistorical parts? By Marcus J. Borg
Recovering the Original Meaning of Matthew’s Parables
They did not communicate a hidden meaning when they were told by Jesus. The parables could be understood by all. By Helmut Koester
Does the Bible Prohibit Homosexuality?
The biblical prohibition is addressed only to Israel. It is incorrect to apply it on a universal scale. By Jacob Milgrom
Hebrew for Bible Readers
An introduction to the Masoretic text By Keith N. Schoville
The Future Is Now
The apostles were radically opposed to any church hierarchy. By Helmut Koester
Hebrew for Bible Readers
Tackling an extended passage By Keith N. Schoville
Historical Criticism and Beyond
Historical criticism has yielded a view of Scripture that challenges the community of faith, both Jewish and Christian. By Bernhard W. Anderson
Greek for Bible Readers
Nouns of the second declension By David Alan Black
Hebrew for Bible Readers
Studying the creation story in Genesis 2 By Keith N. Schoville
Greek for Bible Readers
Present and Future active indicative (continued) By David Alan Black
Greek for Bible Readers
Conjugations: Present and future active indicative By David Alan Black
Greek for Bible Readers
Adjectives of the first and second declensions By David Alan Black
Sweet Land and Liberty
Whether real or utopian, the laws in Leviticus seem to be a more sensitive safeguard against pauperization than we, here and now, have devised. By Jacob Milgrom
Faith and Scholarship
How can I be a Christian and say the things I say? … The truth of Christianity does not depend on the literal troth or historical infallibility of the Bible. By Marcus J. Borg
Canaanites: Who were they and where did they live? By Michael D. Coogan
Hebrew for Bible Readers
Planning the downfall of Jericho By Keith N. Schoville
The Book of Numbers
Crime and punishment
Greek for Bible Readers
The article, conjunctions and Greek word order By David Alan Black