The Arian Controversy—How It Divided Early Christianity

22The city of Ravenna has endured as a shimmering monument to late antique art and civilization—the imperial tombs, the palace churches, the oratorios (prayer chapels) and the baptisteries all glisten with the mosaic makers’ art. One of the most interesting buildings—and perhaps the one with the most intriguing story—in this northern Italian city is […]

Did King Solomon Violate the Second Commandment?

Reader’s Letter Sparks Article When reading Victor Hurowitz’s “Inside Solomon’s Temple,” BR 10:02, a question suddenly occurred to me that I should have thought of years ago.

Understanding Jesus’ Miracles

17 That Jesus was a miracle worker is central to the Christology of the New Testament Gospels and Acts. In Mark, the earliest Gospel, 17 stories of miracles appear in the first eight chapters. Most of the stories are repeated by Matthew and Luke. In Peter’s Pentecost speech, he recalls Jesus’ ministry by saying […]

Climate and Collapse
Did the weather make Israel's emergence possible? By William H. Stiebing Jr.

The Late Bronze Age did not die a slow, lingering death. It came to a swift end in the 12th century B.C.E., marked by sudden cultural collapse and widespread population shifts. Out of the ashes of the Bronze Age destructions emerged classical Greek culture and biblical Israel. When one considers the contributions these two cultures […]

Jeremiah’s Polemic Against Idols
What archaeology can teach us By Philip J. King

Biblical archaeology envisions a dialogue between artifacts and the scriptural text. In many ways archaeology can provide the context that brings the text to life. Recently I completed a book on Jeremiah and archaeology in which I fill in the background of the prophet’s entire work.1 Here we will look at a single passage […]

Jacob’s Terrible Burden
In the shadow of the text By Gordon Tucker

21 There is scarcely a more poignant human story of love and tragedy in the Bible—if not in all of literature—than that of the Patriarch Jacob and his beloved Rachel. Sent by his father Isaac to find a wife among the daughters of his mother’s brother Laban in Haran, Jacob meets Laban’s daughter Rachel […]

The Undiscovered Symmetry of the Bible—An Interview with David Noel Freedman—Part II

Readers of our December issue will recall David Noel Freedman’s analysis of the organization of the Hebrew Bible and his insights into when the Hebrew Bible assumed its final shape (“How the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament Differ—An Interview with David Noel Freedman—Part I,” BR 09:06). In this concluding half of the […]

King Saul—A Bungler from the Beginning

When creating the first woman, God says, “I will make [the man] a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18).1

Inside Solomon’s Temple

“Then Solomon said … ‘I have built thee an exalted house, a place for thee to dwell in forever.’”

Escape and Rescue—An Interview with Geza Vermes
An Oxford Don’s peregrinations

Despite the close historical links between Judaism and Christianity, few scholars cross the line to work in both Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity. One notable exception is Geza Vermes, professor emeritus of Jewish studies at Oxford University and director of the Forum for Qumran Research at the Oxford Centre for Postgraduate Hebrew Studies. […]

Counting the Ten Commandments

Some readers may have noticed that two beautiful paintings of the Ten Commandments in a recent BR picture them differently.aIn the Rembrandt painting, the Sixth Commandment runs “You shall not commit adultery.” In the Rembrandt painting, the Tenth Commandment includes all the prohibitions against coveting. But in the de Champaigne painting, the coveting prohibitions […]

Literalism vs. Everything Else
A continuing conflict By Martin E. Marty

A fissure runs through communities that take the Bible seriously, especially within American Protestantism. “Literalism” marks the divide between the two camps, the two spiritual regions, the two political forces. Listen to the two factions fighting for the spoils within a single denomination—as in the recent case of the Southern Baptist Convention1 or the […]

Sexual Power and Political Prestige
The case of the disputed concubines By Ken Stone

Sex has always been of greater interest to anthropologists than to students of the Bible. For that very reason, however, anthropology may offer an added dimension for understanding biblical texts.

The Eucharist—Exploring Its Origins

What Jesus was doing at the Last Supper has not been understood for the better part of 2,000 years. The reason for the misunderstanding is that Jesus, a Jewish teacher who was concerned with the sacrificial worship of Israel, has been treated as if he were the deity in a Hellenistic cult. A generation […]

Profiles in Scholarly Courage
Early days of New Testament criticism By Marcus J. Borg

More than two centuries ago, it occurred to a few European intellectuals that Jesus as a figure of history may have been quite different from Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels. With the awareness of that potential difference, the scholarly quest for the Jesus of history began.

Why Not Idol Meat?
Is it what you eat or where you eat it? By Ben Witherington III

That food and dining in the Greco-Roman world provide the background for understanding several difficult passages in Paul’s letters is not surprising. What is surprising is that these same food and dining customs indicate that the supposed rift between the Jerusalem Christians under James and the diaspora Christians under Paul was not as wide […]

The Catholic Church and Bible Interpretation
Major Catholic report endorses modern critical scholarship, condemns fundamentalist biblical interpretation

The historical-critical method of Bible interpretation is “indispensable”, declares a remarkable new report of the Pontifical Biblical Commission of the Roman Catholic Church.1 “Proper understanding [of the Bible] not only admits the use of this method but actually requires it.” Holy Scripture is the “word of God in human language”; in short, the Bible “has […]

Jesus and the Teacher of Righteousness—Similarities and Differences

The similarities between the Jewish Dead Sea Scroll community and early Christianity are sometimes striking. The public has been fascinated by these similarities, often forgetting the differences, which are in many ways greater. In this article, I will compare the leaders, or founders, of these two religious organizations—the Teacher of Righteousness and Jesus. Their […]

What Was Paul Doing in “Arabia”?

About Paul’s missionary journeys to the west much has been written. But almost nothing has been said of his trip to Arabia. No wonder; it is barely mentioned, almost as an aside, in Galatians 1:17: “I went away into Arabia, and again I returned to Damascus.”

The Eucharist—A Sacrificial Formula Preserved

In the previous article Bruce Chilton presents some convincing ideas regarding the eucharistic words Jesus uttered at the Last Supper: “This is my body [the bread]; this is my blood [the wine]” (with slight variations in Mark 14:22–24; Matthew 26:26–28; Luke 22:19–20; and 1 Corinthians 11:24–25). The traditional interpretation is that Jesus is referring […]

My View: On Becoming a Male Feminist Bible Scholar

Had someone told me a decade ago that I would be teaching a course on “Women and the Bible,” I would have laughed. My academic training in Bible was quite traditional. The word “gender” never entered the classroom. Yet I have just completed teaching my department’s first-ever Women’s Studies course. I serve on the […]

The Shepherd of Hermas
An early tale that almost made it into the New Testament By Carolyn Osiek

The Shepherd of Hermas was one of the most popular Christian texts in the first centuries of the church. True, it did not make the final cut; that is, it was not included in the New Testament.a But it was considered canonical by the influential second-century church father Irenaeus. Tertullian, another prominent church father of […]

Re-creating the Tablets of the Law

49 How should we imagine the Tablets of the Law that Moses twice brought down from the mountain? Whether the story is legend or history is irrelevant to this question. However we, are to appreciate the story, we should try to understand these tablets in the context of their time. In Cecil B. de […]

The Great Gulf Between Scholars and the Pew

Three great intellectual revolutions of the 19th and early 20th centuries have profoundly shaped and transformed the way we think of ourselves and our world. The first is Marxism and its derivative, socialism. The dissolution of the Soviet Union and the changes in Eastern Europe may appear to have thoroughly discredited Marxism; such is […]

Unintended Sex Leads to Unintended Fall
How a story from the Talmud tainted a Bible professor with a charge of sexual harassment By Steven Feldman

Call it the case of a fictional falling man who threatens to cause the downfall of a real man, or call it a case of political correctness run amok. Whatever you call it, Graydon F. Snyder, a professor of New Testament at Chicago Theological Seminary, suddenly finds himself the most famous Bible scholar in the country—and dearly wishes he weren’t.

Scholars Face Off Over Age of Biblical Stories
Friedman vs. Van Seters By Richard Elliott Friedman, John Van Seters

In the December 1993 BR we published a lengthy review of John Van Seters’s Prologue to History: The Yahwist as Historian in Genesis (Bible Books, BR 09:06). Our reviewer, Richard Elliot Friedman, of the University of California at San Diego, leveled numerous criticisms at the book, writing at one point, “There is therefore reason to doubt the soundness of method and reasoning in Van Seters’s work. In this scholarship the [Bible’s] text rarely speaks for itself …. Rather it is the scholar’s spin on the text that houses the point.” Van Seters’s rebuttal to Friedman’s critique follows this introduction; Friedman’s reply follows that.


The Book of Numbers
When did it happen?
Jesus Before Pilate
The questions of the Roman prosecutor and Jesus’ answers in the Gospel of John epitomize the conflict of the early Christian church with the representatives of the Roman government. By Helmut Koester
How Not to Read the Bible
I am not for homosexuality, but I am for homosexuals. When the Bible is distorted to make God their enemy I must speak out to set the record straight. By Jacob Milgrom
The Changing Scene in Biblical Theology
The Old Testament/Hebrew Bible has an independence that should not be compromised by either Christianizing or Judaizing it. Together, we need to discuss what it says about God and God’s relationship to human beings and the world. By Bernhard W. Anderson
Thinking About Easter
Whatever happened at Easter, it was not resuscitation. Easter does not mean that Jesus resumed his previous life as a finite person. By Marcus J. Borg
Miriam’s Challenge
Why was Miriam severely punished for challenging Moses’ authority while Aaron got off scot-free? There is no way to avoid the fact that the story presupposes a patriarchal society. By Bernhard W. Anderson
Homosexuality and the New Testament
The prohibition of homosexual behavior is embedded in an ancient legal code that Christians typically see as no longer in force. By Marcus J. Borg
Sex and Wisdom: What the Garden of Eden Story Is Saying
There is a plain, unambiguous meaning to the story: It is about sexual awareness and the creativity of which that is a part. By Jacob Milgrom
Mark and the Life—and Death—of Jesus
For Mark, belief in Jesus as the powerful messianic teacher and worker of miracles was not the point. Jesus is ultimately something very different. By Helmut Koester
Moving Beyond Masculine Metaphors
The holy God is beyond all our categories, including gender distinctions of masculine or feminine. By Bernhard W. Anderson
Thinking About the Second Coming
To mainline New Testament scholars, it seems highly unlikely that early Christian scenarios about the future, wrong in their own time, might nevertheless be correct about some future time. By Marcus J. Borg
A Political Christmas Story
Luke presents Jesus’ birth as a political message. But it is not the birth of an emperor that ushers in an era of peace: Rather it is the birth of a child in Bethlehem. By Helmut Koester
An Amputated Bible, Peradventure?
The publishing house of Simon and Schuster has come up with a radical solution to the problem of "boring" passages in the Bible: Eliminate them. By Jacob Milgrom