The Ancient Library of Alexandria
The West’s most important repository of learning By J. Harold Ellens

In March of 415 C.E., on a sunny day in the holy season of Lent, Cyril of Alexandria, the most powerful Christian theologian in the world, murdered Hypatia, the most famous Greco-Roman philosopher of the time. Hypatia was slaughtered like an animal in the church of Caesarion, formerly a sanctuary of emperor worship.1 […]

What Really Happened at Mount Sinai?
Four biblical answers to one question By Baruch J. Schwartz

Booming thunder and bolts of lightning accompany Moses as he descends the cloud-covered Mount Sinai, bearing aloft two heavy tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. Most people know this cinematic version—à la Cecil B. de Mille—of the giving of the law on Sinai. The biblical version, however, is much less familiar, even to many […]


Unfortunately, it’s impossible to avoid The Bible Code (Simon & Schuster, 1997), by former Wall Street Journal and Washington Post reporter Michael Drosnin, with its Nostradamus-like warnings about earthquakes in Los Angeles and nuclear annihilation—all embedded within the Hebrew text of the Bible through a secret code. Drosnin’s claims are an extension of the […]

The Christian Apocrypha
Preserved in art By David R. Cartlidge

Gazing in adoration at the newborn Jesus, three shepherds join Joseph and Mary in the manger in an early-15th-century painting of The Nativity, attributed to the Netherlandish artist Robert Campin. Outside the rustic shed appear two women, the midwives who attended Jesus’ birth. Midwives! What are they doing in the picture? The Bible does […]


We are pleased—and honored—to present our readers with the first of a series of insightful essays by Elie Wiesel, the world-renowned author and human rights advocate. Wiesel is best known for his numerous books on the Holocaust and for his profiles of biblical figures and Hasidic masters. In 1986, he was awarded the Nobel […]


Who was Jesus? What did he really say? And can we distinguish Jesus’ beliefs from those of the authors of the Gospels, written down more than a generation after Jesus’ death?

Why the Ugly Attacks?
Scholars know some sayings are inauthentic By Robert J. Miller

The Jesus Seminar has received a good deal of attention from scholars, most of it negative. The polemical rhetoric of some of the seminar’s critics is, in all honesty, the ugliest I have ever encountered in scholarly writing.

The Serpent

In the story of creation, the Serpent stands out because of his talent to deceive. He is talkative. And active. His role is unquestionably significant. If he were not there to fulfill his seductive mission, the human adventure would have stopped with the first couple. So why was he punished? Let’s look at the […]

The Secret Code Hoax

If the Bible is the ineffable word of God, then it makes sense that all truth is to be found in it. An early rabbinic sage by the delightful name of Ben Bag-Bag said, “Turn it and turn it again, for all things are in it.”1 The history of biblical interpretation is filled with […]

Buyer Beware!
Sensationalist claims sold here By Ben Witherington III

Robert Miller’s thoughtful response to critics of the Jesus Seminar, myself included, is of value not least because of its irenic tone. It was my aim when I wrote The Jesus Quest (InterVarsity Press, 1995) to approach the matter in the same way. Arguments should be answered with arguments, not mere rhetoric or polemics. […]

Where Was the Capitol in Roman Jerusalem?

When Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem, the site of what would one day be the Holy Sepulchre Church was an abandoned stone quarry. A catacomb cut into the western side of the quarry attests that the quarry had fallen into disuse. The innermost chamber of the catacomb contains kokhim tombs. These deep recesses into the rock, typical of the first centuries B.C. and A.D., can still be seen behind the Syrian Chapel in the Holy Sepulchre Church today.

The Biblical Minimalists
Expunging ancient Israel’s past By Hershel Shanks

An increasingly modish—virulent?—strain of biblical scholarship concludes that the Bible is useless for reconstructing the history of ancient Israel. If this history can be reconstructed at all, it must be based solely on archaeological evidence as interpreted by anthropological models. A recent extension—criticism, really—of this thinking argues that the attempt to locate ancient Israel […]

Snake Oil for Sale

The recent massive publicity surrounding Michael Drosnin’s book The Bible Code has aroused, alas, a great deal of interest in the patently ridiculous idea that future events were encoded in the “original Hebrew” text of the Bible—and done in such a way that they could only be decoded in our day with computers.

The Jewish Roots of Matthew’s Vitriol

The Evangelist Matthew considered himself and his followers Jews. The gospel writer saw himself as being involved in a Jewish struggle, as he and the emerging rabbinic movement vied for leadership. Anthony Saldarini, in his excellent BR article on the Gospel of Matthew 23, correctly portrays Matthew’s attack on the “scribes and Pharisees” as […]

The Gospel Truth?
Read the Bible critically By Robert J. Miller

Ben Witherington’s response to my essay is helpful in that it does more than just find fault: It begins to grapple with some fundamental issues.

Gospels in the Classroom
Where the Bible’s just a good book By Paul Q. Beeching

Every other spring for the last dozen years I have taught an undergraduate course: English 361The Bible as Literature: New TestamentSpring Semester. 3 hrs

A Biblical Spice Rack

The Bible reflects an intimate knowledge of herbs and spices, which perfumed the Jerusalem Temple (2 Chronicles 2:4), sweetened the home (Song of Songs 7:13) and seasoned meals during the Exodus (Numbers 11:5–6). Repeated references to herbs and spices indicate that the people of the Bible knew how these plants tasted, smelled and looked, […]

Getting Personal
What names in the Bible teach us By Richard S. Hess

What’s in a name? That question has many answers when it’s applied to the Bible.

Wisdom Literature Makes A Comeback
Pursuing the good life By Katharine J. Dell

For decades, the Wisdom literature in the Hebrew Bible has been the “poor relation,” living in the shadow of other supposedly more significant biblical genres, such as the Law and the Prophets, as well as the stories in Genesis. Wisdom literature (primarily the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Job), we are told, is “secular,” […]

That Ol’ Time Religion
American folk artists depict apocalyptic texts By David Vintinner, Ginger Young

Down dusty rural roads and in inner-city housing projects, American folk art has always flourished. Folk artists may be teenagers just beginning their lives, or they may be octogenarians who knew grandparents emancipated from slavery. Some of them work as janitors in bakeries; some farm the land. One, a quadriplegic, wields a paintbrush in […]

Forgotten Heroines of the Exodus
The exclusion of women from Moses’ vision By Tikva Frymer-Kensky

The beginning of the Book of Exodus introduces us to a world of men’s affairs. Jacob and his descendants, numbering 70 men and their families, come down to Egypt. The men are named and counted; their wives and daughters remain anonymous. The tale then unfolds: A new king arises who, unaware of Joseph, is […]

The Leningrad Codex
Rediscovering the oldest complete Hebrew Bible By James A. Sanders, Astrid Beck

Even though the city has changed its name back to St. Petersburg, the book is still called the Leningrad Codex. It’s the oldest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible in the world. Since glasnost—remember that?—we have been able to photograph it using the latest equipment and photographic techniques and to prepare a new replica […]

Son of God
From Pharaoh to Israel’s kings to Jesus By James K. Hoffmeier

I am your son,” the pharaoh says to the Egyptian sun god Re in an Old Kingdom pyramid text (c. 2300 B.C.).1 From an early period, Egyptian pharaohs were regarded as divine, the offspring of gods. Did this influence Hebrew understanding of kingship? And did it, either directly or indirectly, through Hebrew mediation, affect […]

As Simple as ABC
What acrostics in the Bible can demonstrate By Harvey Minkoff

Acrostics are alphabetical texts.Bible scholars disagree on their purpose.Consequently, translations differ.Despite differences in emphasis,Every translator acknowledges thatForm and meaning are connected.Given the strictures of acrostics, however,Holding on to both is impossible.If the acrostic in a poem isJust an ornament or aid to memory,Keeping it intact is not necessary.Leave it with the detritus of translation.Meaning […]

Jesus’ Triumphal March to Crucifixion
The sacred way as Roman procession By Thomas Schmidt

30 Scholars have long recognized that the Evangelists do not simply report the events of Jesus’ life. They select, arrange and modify material at their disposal to stress important themes—like the connection between Jesus and the Old Testament, the inclusion of gentiles in the kingdom and the nature of discipleship. Mark’s gospel was probably […]

Did Paul Fall Off A Horse?
A deceptively simple question reveals differences in Bible By Charles T. Dougherty

As Paul was journeying to Damascus to persecute the Christians there, “suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’” (Acts 9:3–4). Question: At this critical moment, when Paul was converted to Christianity, did he […]

Understanding Matthew’s Vitriol

Seven times in one chapter (23) of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus curses the “scribes and Pharisees” as hypocrites and blind guides. This occurs after numerous disputes with leaders of the Jewish community in Galilee and a series of confrontations with the authorities in Jerusalem. Finally, Matthew’s Jesus mounts a climactic attack on his […]

Jefferson’s Bible
Cutting and pasting the Good Book By C. Bruce Hunter

Among his many other accomplishments, the third president of the United States rewrote the Bible. That might seem a remarkably audacious thing for anyone to do, but it was quite natural for a man of Thomas Jefferson’s complex nature. He was a true genius who often got into trouble for refusing to follow the […]

Who the Devil is Beelzebul?

Three passages in the Synoptic Gospels identify the enigmatic figure of Beelzebul as the ruler of demons (Matthew 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15). In each of these passages, Jesus’ enemies attribute his ability to heal to the powers of “Beelzebul, the prince of demons.”a No more information is given. Other verses where Beelzebul appears […]

A Case of Mistaken Identity
The judges in Judges don’t judge By Ellis Easterly

Our idea of a judge is someone who wears a black robe, sits behind a huge paneled desk, adjudicates disputes and bangs a gavel to control a courtroom. If we project the concept back into Old Testament times, we picture elders sitting on stone benches at the city gate, listening to and resolving conflicts. […]


The Two Faces of Faithfulness
At stake in Paul’s letter to the Romans is not simply “how sinners get saved,” but how God is faithful to his covenant. By N. T. Wright
The Bible: Word of God in Human Words
The Greek word synkatabasis refers to God’s “stooping” to meet human beings at their own level, just as a parent gets down on the floor and “lisps” to a child. By Bernhard W. Anderson
The Uses and Abuses of Heresy
Heresy is inevitable—and useful to religious traditions. By Anthony J. Saldarini
Israel and Revelation
The particularity of God’s revelation to the ethnic group Israel and the universality of the Christian community need not be in conflict. By Bernhard W. Anderson
Good News for a Pagan World
Those who explain Paul as a Hellenizer are swimming against the tide. The arguments for his essential Jewishness are overwhelming. By N. T. Wright
The Plain Sense of Scripture
Do you recognize it when you see it? By Ronald S. Hendel
Knocking on Heaven’s Gate
Death, insanity and heresy await the unwary who dabble in heavenly mysteries. By Ronald S. Hendel
The Blood Taboo
Blood should not be ingested because it contains life. Whoever does so is guilty of murder. By Jacob Milgrom
Rediscovering the Message of Lent
Often, Lent means very little. Modern American Christianity tends to leap from a cross of ashes borne on Ash Wednesday right into the glory of Easter. By Helmut Koester
The Bible Within the Bible
Some think that congregations should be more critical in selecting scripture readings. They insist upon creating a canon within the canon. But this bases the authority of the Bible not on the Bible itself, but on the Bible as read by a particular communit By Bernhard W. Anderson
Jubilee: A Rallying Cry for Today’s Oppressed
The laws of the Jubilee year offer a blueprint for bridging the gap between the have and have-not nations. By Jacob Milgrom
Taking Law Seriously
Contrary to later Christian polemics, the New Testament does not speak of legalism or of law as decadent. By Anthony J. Saldarini