Esther and Samson

I grew up thinking of Samson as nothing more than a Hebrew Hercules and Esther as just another pretty young queen. Later in life, I recognized there was something more to these two characters: By transcending the limits of their own personalities and circumstances, both underwent an amazing spiritual transformation. Each moved from psychological […]

Did Eve Fall or Was She Pushed?

The first woman has been blamed for a host of ills—from inspiring witches to being the very source of sin. Tracing the roots of Eve’s bad reputation leads not to Genesis (as many people assume) but to an obscure set of texts known as the pseudepigrapha.

Eldad and Medad

Of the 0 elders who advised Moses, why are these two the only ones mentioned by name?

The ancestor of us all By Elie Wiesel

Adam fathered not only Cain and Abel but, in his old age, a third son. What lessons can we draw from the life of this youngest child, who became the ancestor of us all?

Why 2K?
The biblical roots of millennialism By James D. Tabor

January 1, 2000…The biggest birthday any of us will ever live through,” trumpeted the New York Times in announcing the Millennium Series in its Sunday magazine. Newspapers predict that as many as 1.5 million people will crowd Times Square at midnight, December 31, 1999, watched by an estimated television audience of more than 1 billion. […]

The Israelites

The Bible’s portrayal of the Chosen People preserves the good and the bad.

“Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land”
The economic roots of the Jubilee By Michael Hudson

According to biblical law, every 50 years a Jubilee year is to be proclaimed—debts are to be canceled, and property is to be returned to its original owner. How such a year could avoid causing economic disruption and chaos, however, has been hard for scholars to understand. Many have regarded the Jubilee law as […]

Friedman’s Thesis: An Overview

Bible scholar Richard Elliott Friedman claims to have found the world’s first prose masterpiece embedded in the Bible. This hidden book, he claims, opens with the Creation and ends with the death of David. Our two-part coverage begins with an article by BR editor Hershel Shanks, who details Friedman’s unconventional theory. In part two, Friedman’s book serves as a springboard for a spirited discussion among three leading scholars on how the Bible came to be.


A remarkable child, his birth hailed by visitors from afar, grows into a miracle worker who spreads a faith of love and compassion. Jesus? Yes, but also Buddha. Our authors explore the uncanny parallels in their lives and whether there are any connections.

Fishers of Fish, Fishers of Men
What we know of the first disciples from their profession By Jerome Murphy-O’Connor

What sorts of men were Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John—crude, ignorant laborers or savvy and practical men of the world? The reliability of much of the Gospels rides on the answer.

Searching for the Better Text
How errors crept into the Bible and what can be done to correct them By Harvey Minkoff

Ancient versions of the Bible are far from error-free. Happily, a better understanding of the Dead Sea Scrolls and of how manuscripts evolved has helped resolve some of the vexing textual problems.

Geza The Jew

Cats can have nine lives, not people. But the case of Dead Sea Scroll specialist Geza Vermes will make you wonder. His remarkable life is now encapsulated in an autobiography, reviewed herein.

Part I

I. For more than 1,800 years, the mirrorlike natures of the Buddha and Jesus remained buried in the ancient texts of each religion. Then scholars examining these holy books began to detect remarkable patterns.

Bible Critics Respond: An Interview

Hershel Shanks: Do you agree or disagree, or don’t you know whether you agree, with Dick Friedman’s contention that J, as we have it in the Tetrateuch, is also the author of the passages he identifies in Deuteronomy and the rest of the Deuteronomistic History through Kings? P. Kyle McCarter: In one word? Ronald S. Hendel: Scholars can’t use just one word.

Can We Find God Without History?
The story of one scholar’s failed attempt By Paul D. Hanson

How can we discover—or uncover—the Israelite God in the text of the Hebrew Bible? That is the problem scholars refer to as Old Testament theology. A recent book that has created quite a stir in the academy, written by the prominent Old Testament theologian Walter Brueggemann, answers the question in a way that I believe […]

The Lowdown on the Riffraff
Do these obscure figures preserve a memory of a historical Exodus? By Robert R. Stieglitz

When the Israelites fled Egypt, they were accompanied by a slew of dubious characters—an odd detail that may lend credibility to the biblical account.

And the Band Played On…But What Did They Play On?
Identifying the instruments in Nebuchadenezzar’s orchestra By Terence C. Mitchell

The text itself is music. Like a refrain, the litany of instruments is repeated four times in chapter 3 of the Book of Daniel: “the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick.” Like an insistent ostinato, the names Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego—the three young Hebrew exiles who will be fed […]

The Fluid Bible
The blurry line between biblical and nonbiblical texts By Sidnie White Crawford

We like to think of Holy Writ as unchanging, but the ancients didn’t. A study of the Dead Sea Scrolls reveals that texts could exist in different forms—even be consciously modified—without losing their sanctity.

Lights, Camera, Plagues!
Moses in the movies By Peter T. Chattaway

When the National Rifle Association recently elected Charlton Heston, who is best known for his portrayal of Moses in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, as its new president, the NRA’s vice president said that it was “a way of saying, ‘Hey, Moses is on our side.’” And when Jeffrey Katzenberg, cofounder of the […]

Part II

II. If Jesus did not travel to India, if the Buddha’s teachings did not enter Palestine via the Silk Road, then how can their similarities be explained? In the following essay, Marcus Borg contemplates the possibility that they derive not from cultural borrowing but from shared experiences.

Caution: Bible Critic at Work

The task of the biblical text critic is to try to make sense of biblical verses. The text critic faces many kinds of problems. I would like to offer as illustrations two cases where I would recommend emending the text—actually changing the biblical text as it has come down to us to a version […]

In Death as in Life
What the biblical portraits of Moses, Aaron and Miriam share By Erica S. Brown

We expect to learn from the lives of great people, not from their deaths. But in the case of Miriam, Aaron and Moses, their deaths reflect their lives.

Triumph over Temptation
The historical core behind the testing of Jesus By Jerome Murphy-O’Connor

Three gospels tell of the devil testing Jesus in the wilderness, an incident so remarkable as to seem almost certainly unreal. But is it? Our author suggests a historical core to the tale, a substratum reflecting struggles Jesus faced in his lifetime.

Parallel Lives
The trials and traumas of Isaac and Ishmael By Curt Leviant

Although the Bible emphasizes the differences between Isaac and Ishmael, the half brothers suffer at least one strikingly similar life (or should we say near-death) experience. Do they have more in common than we thought?

Who Is the Teacher of Righteousness?

Dead Sea Scroll scholars have long debated the identity of the shadowy figure described in the scrolls as the Teacher of Righteousness. But was he a historical figure or someone expected at the end of time?

Wish Upon a Stone
Discovering the idolatry of the even maskit By Victor Hurowitz

Leviticus bans the Israelites from bowing upon a maskit stone. But what is a maskit? A recently deciphered Assyrian inscription may hold the key to identifying this mysterious prohibited object.

Laying Down the Law
A response to John Gager By Ben Witherington III

Did Paul preach the gospel of Jesus Christ for Christians alone—as John Gager recently proposed in BR? Or was his message intended for both Jews and Christians?

“Thus Far the Words of Jeremiah”
But who gets the last word? By Steve Delamarter

A brief aside in the prophet’s book opens up a world of multiple authors, editors and textual strands within the Bible and provides a portrait of both Jeremiah and his faithful scribe.


Democratizing the Image of God By Hershel Shanks
Did Moses Enter the Promised Land? By Michael M. Cohen
Why Does Jonah Want to Die? By Chaim Seiden
Toxic Knowledge
The Garden of Eden comes with a warning label. By William H.C. Propp
A Return to Origins (Again)
The early Christian martyrs were not reading the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas or the hypothetical sayings source that scholars refer to as "Q." They were reading Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. By N. T. Wright
Why Is Esther Missing from Qumran? By Eugene Ulrich, Peter W. Flint
Milk and Honey
Biblical comfort food. By William H.C. Propp
Our Bodies, Our Bibles
Our bodies and our biblical interpretations seem to be involved in a long-running, secret affair. The implications may be both liberating and scandalous. By Ronald S. Hendel
What Price the Uniqueness of Jesus?
To wrench Jesus out of his Jewish world destroys Jesus and destroys Christianity. By Anthony J. Saldarini
The Great Debate
Jesus doesn’t really matter in Britain, but he clearly does in America. Why? By N. T. Wright
The Prodigal Son
Paul’s Challenge to Caesar
The promise of resurrection for all God’s people in Christ carries a strongly political edge. By N. T. Wright
Going Around in Circles
Science and religion are still doing a wary dance around each other. By Ronald S. Hendel
St. Michael & the Devil
The Ten Commandments on the wall By Michael D. Coogan
The Resurrection
The God of Real Life
Our modern bias toward a nonthreatening, friendly, loving and intimate God collapses before the robust, engaged and demanding God of the Bible. By Anthony J. Saldarini
Doubting Thomas
Agony in the garden
Abraham’s farewell to Ishmael