Abraham’s Eight Crises
The bumpy road to fulfilling God’s promise of an heir By Larry R. Helyer

The Abraham cycle (Genesis 11:27–25:11) is a drama of increasing tension—a tension between Yahweh’s promise that Abram would have an heir, indeed, that he would become the father of many nations, and the threat to the fulfillment of that promise by a series of crises. The literary technique employed is what Peter Ellis calls […]

Staging Jonah

22 For a long time, I wanted to write a play about the comic, contentious, absurd, salvific relationship between God and us—to present a comic Everyman locked in mortal (salvific) combat with Yahweh. But I got nowhere with the idea and let it lie, until one night I read through some of the Minor […]

The Raising of Lazarus

An intriguing image frequently appears on the walls of ancient Christian catacombs and on carved reliefs of early Christian tombs—a mummy-like creature emerging from a small booth. Nearby, a man holding a wand taps or points at the mummy. The scene is stunning, even slightly horrifying. The door of the tomb is open. The […]

Is There a Gospel of Q?

19Try to imagine flying to a non-existent island on an airplane that has not yet been invented. Even if this impossible trip were to take place during the thirteenth month of the year, it would not be as fantastic as the tale, recently christened as scientific certainty by some New Testament scholars, concerning the […]

The Search for (the wrong) Jesus

The first half of this decade has been a busy one for questers after the historical Jesus. The Jesus Seminar capped a decade of self-promotion with the publication of The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus.1 Highly publicized forays into the search for Jesus were undertaken by amateurs like Bishop […]


In the “Culture Wars” now raging across America, the educational system is one of the hottest battlefields. BR presents two views on the Bible’s role in secular teaching.


No other book has influenced American culture, its values and institutions, more than the Bible. If students are to understand fully the culture in which they live, somehow they must be introduced to the Bible. Can this be done constitutionally in public schools? It not only can be; it should be.

Divine Authorship?
Computer reveals startling word patterns By Jeffrey B. Satinover

Among the oft-derided Christian literalists, it is said that the Bible is the wholly inspired and inerrant Word of God, and that Holy Spirit guided the mind and hand of its human authors. Orthodox Jews are even more extreme in their literalism: Among them, tradition holds not merely that every word of the Bible […]

Erasing History
The minimalist assault on ancient Israel By Baruch Halpern

The recent discovery at Tel Dan of a ninth-century B.C.E. inscription—the first extra-biblical reference to the House of David—is causing extraordinary contortions among scholars who have maintained that the Bible’s history of the early Israelite monarchy is simply fiction. According to these scholars, the history of the Israelite monarchy was made up after the […]

Deconstructing the Book of Job

I propose to raise two seldom-asked questions about the Book of Job: Why is there a Book of Job? And what does it do to you when you read it; what is its effect on you as a reader?


Charles R. Kniker is not only a fine scholar, but a recognized authority on Bible education. He states well the case for the objective teaching of the Bible in the public schools. But that case fits the period 1960 to 1980 better than it does the current and future decades, since the United States […]

Julian the Apostate and His Plan to Rebuild the Jerusalem Temple

Of the Roman emperors after Constantine, only Julian (331–363) rejected Christianity in favor of the pagan gods. A nephew of Constantine, the first Christian emperor, Julian incurred the wrath of a burgeoning Christian community by deciding to rebuild the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, which had been destroyed by Roman legions in 70 C.E. Actually, […]

Abraham & Yahweh
A case of male bonding By Philip R. Davies

24 This article will offend some readers. It will jar many more. Why then are we publishing it? Because it makes us think. If we reject the author’s textual analysis, we should know why. In this way, it has the capacity to take us to a deeper level of meaning—our own meaning. The author […]

Altar-Ed States
Incense theory goes up in smoke By Menahem Haran

31 Archaeological artifacts do not interpret themselves. Here’s a case in point: Some 40 relatively small altars were found in at least nine sites in Palestine. After most scholars agreed that they were intended for burning incense, they were designated “incense altars.” I too once subscribed to the belief that they were incense altars, […]

Scorpion Ash Saves Woman’s Eyesight

His curved tail tipped with a poisonous barb, the scorpion signals peril in Scripture as in life. The word for scorpion (akrab) appears nine times in the Old Testament and five times in Greek (scorpios) in the New Testament. It occurs dozens of times in the rabbinic writings of the Talmud. We know from fossils […]

Lost in Translation*
* Do we really need to read footnotes? By Daniel N. Schowalter

“Read the fine print,” the lawyers tell us. They’re usually talking about contracts, but the warning also applies to the fine-print footnotes in some editions of the Bible—such as those for the New Testament in the Oxford edition of the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV),a which will serve as our examples. These footnotes reveal […]

Multiple Judaisms
A new understanding of the context of earliest Christianity By Gabriele Boccaccini

38 The subject of this article—from Judaism to Judaisms—is not only about names, but about ways of looking at things. For nearly two thousand years both Jews and Christians have looked at Judaism as a single fixed thing—a kind of point. Paradoxically, each religious community had reasons to adhere to this image. For oppressed […]

A Gospel Among the Scrolls?
Scholar claims to have identified a fragment of Mark among the Dead Sea scrolls and the oldest fragment of Matthew By Graham Stanton

On December 24, 1994, the Times of London ran a front-page story entitled “Oxford papyrus is ‘eyewitness record of the life of Christ.’” The article reported the claim that three papyrus fragments of Matthew’s Gospel in Magdalen College, Oxford, date to the mid-first century C.E. Instead of having been written a generation or more […]

Did Jesus Oppose the Purity Laws?

20In the last century, especially in the last few decades, historians of Christianity have increasingly understood Jesus of Nazareth as a participant in the Judaism of his day. Many scholars, however, while emphasizing Jesus’ articulation of Jewish ethics, or his Jewish scriptural sensibility, or the apocalyptic convictions he shared with so many contemporaries, draw […]

How Did Adam & Eve Make a Living?

Is it a coincidence? The opening chapters of Genesis depict situations that parallel modern anthropological theories about the transition from a gathering/hunting society to an agricultural/herding society. And conversely, recent economic studies may help us interpret Adam and Eve’s role in the Garden of Eden story. Earlier anthropological theory understood the introduction of agriculture as […]

Tracing the Evolution of the Hebrew Bible
What the Dead Sea scrolls teach us By Adam S. van der Woude

In some ways—oddly enough—the more than 200 biblical manuscripts in Hebrew found among the Dead Sea Scrolls have elevated the authority of the Greek Septuagint at the expense of the Masoretic text, the received Hebrew version preserved by the Jewish community for 2,000 years. Nevertheless, there is reason to believe that the received text […]

Naming is Creating
Biblical women hold the power By Savina J. Teubal

40 In the biblical world, nothing exists unless it is named. The power of naming is linked to the power of creating: In one inseparable motion, God creates, and then immediately names, Day and Night, the Sky, the Earth and the Seas (Genesis 1:1–10). In the same way, when children are born in the […]

Ancient Medicine
In case of emergency, contact your local prophet By Hector Avalos

27When an ancient Israelite got a raging bellyache, what did she do? Where could she—or he—go for help? According to one recent scholarly study, the answer to the first question was “nothing”; to the second “nowhere”: “In general a sick person had virtually no aids at his disposal worth mentioning, no physicians in the […]

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Q

Eta Linnemann’s article on the Q hypothesisa takes Burton Mack and me to task not only for our scholarship, but also for what she takes to be our attack on traditional Christian beliefs. It’s a clever exercise in apologetics. However, this attempt to undergird her own very conservative understanding of Christian faith by discrediting […]


Where God Can Be Found: The Radical Message of Jesus’ Death
In Luke’s Gospel, the poor, those who weep, and those who are hated and excluded are called heirs to the Kingdom. By Helmut Koester
“The Alien in Your Midst”
Every nation has its ger: the permanent resident. The Torah commands us, first, not to oppress the ger, and then to befriend and love him. By Jacob Milgrom
What Does God Require of Us?
What God demands is not fantastic but profoundly simple, indeed within anyone’s reach. By Bernhard W. Anderson
How Did Jesus Die for Our Sins?
The use of a sacrificial metaphor to interpret Jesus’ death subverted the role of the Temple: Its sacrifices were no longer the only way of dealing with impurity and sin. By Marcus J. Borg
Bible Versus Babel
Why did God tell Abraham to leave Mesopotamia, the most advanced civilization of its time, for the backwater region of Canaan? By Jacob Milgrom
What Did Jesus Know?
Though historical scholarship generates uncertainties about what Jesus knew and didn’t know, I am convinced Jesus knew God. By Marcus J. Borg
Revelation and the Militias
It is a terrible irony when the Book of Revelation is used not to comfort victims of oppression, as its author intended, but to justify violence against the innocent. By Marcus J. Borg
The Most Basic Law in the Bible
It is easy to “love” the war-ravaged Bosnians, the AIDS-stricken Zaireans or the bereaved of Oklahoma City. But what of the strangers in our midst, the vagrants on our sidewalks? By Jacob Milgrom
What Is—and Is Not—Inspired
Christians who want to follow the teachings of the New Testament about the Holy Spirit should discard the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture. By Helmut Koester
Explaining Jesus’ Crucifixion
Neither Luke nor Matthew nor Mark accuses the Pharisees or “the Jews” in general as the parties responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. By Helmut Koester
The Role of the Messiah
The terms “Christ” and “Messiah” do not refer to a divine being but to the function an agent of God plays in bringing the kingdom that is to come on earth as in heaven. By Bernhard W. Anderson
Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain—Which Name?
God’s name is wrongfully used whenever it is invoked to support social injustice or to serve national interests. By Bernhard W. Anderson