Psst. There’s something you should know about Christmas. The Christmas carols, we’re afraid, might have it wrong: Jesus, many New Testament scholars believe, was not born in Bethlehem but Nazareth.

Mary, Martha and the Kitchen Maid

My mother is a Martha; her best friend, a Mary. My mother raised five children while working, for almost all of her adult life, as a schoolteacher. My mother’s best friend had, well, more fun.1 Which is why my mother, as she cooked dinner or sat correcting spelling tests while her friend cheered on […]

How Bad Was Jezebel?

For more than two thousand years, Jezebel has been saddled with a reputation as the bad girl of the Bible, the wickedest of women. This ancient queen has been denounced as a murderer, prostitute and enemy of God, and her name has been adopted for lingerie lines and World War II missiles alike. But […]

The Man Moses

The introduction of Moses in the first chapters of Exodus marks a new, a second beginning in the Bible’s account of the history of Israel. The first beginning had been in the Book of Genesis with Abraham and the patriarchs that followed him. There the focus was on Israel as a family bound in […]


At last, almost all of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been transcribed, transliterated, translated and either published or nearly published. But as soon as this task is accomplished, scholars are faced with a new challenge: How can they improve the text of the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, based on insights from the scrolls?


What an ugly and overwhelming story, that of Korah! Disconcerting on more than one level, distressing in more than one sense, it confronts the reader and forces him to reread it, so overwhelming and invasive is its perplexity. It is not at all astonishing that Rashi, the greatest of our biblical and talmudic interpreters, […]

O Little Town of…Nazareth?

Where was Jesus born? In Bethlehem, of course, in a manger, because there was no room for Joseph and Mary at the local inn. That’s what all the Christmas carols say. And that’s what the Gospels say, too. Or is it? Once we begin to examine the gospel stories carefully, we find that […]

The Desert Tabernacle
Pure fiction or plausible account? By Kenneth A. Kitchen

The patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob invoked the Lord at simple outdoor altars apparently built for the occasion. King Solomon, however, built the Lord a permanent home, the Temple in Jerusalem. Midway between these two biblical traditions stands the portable Tabernacle that housed the Ark of the Covenant during the Israelites’ desert trek from […]

The Bad Boy of Historical Jesus Studies

A Long Way from Tipperary: What a Former Irish Monk Discovered in His Search for the TruthA Memoir John Dominic Crossan (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000) 216 pp., $23.00 (hardback) Dom Crossan is a nice guy—I know him—but he has some controversial things to say about Jesus and the New Testament stories about him. […]

Combine the Best from Each Tradition

I believe that we are ready for a new critical edition of the Hebrew Bible.

All in the Family
Identifying Jesus’ relatives By Richard J. Bauckham

Teaching at the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus amazes his fellow congregants. “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary?” his astonished listeners ask. “And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us?” (Matthew 13:55–56). The story of Mary and […]

Why Did God Choose Abraham?

He is, on first appearance, an elusive character. We know the name of his father—Terah—and his homeland—Ur. He has two brothers, Nahor and Haran, the Book of Genesis tells us, and a barren wife, Sarai. And we know that at some uncertain time, his father, Terah, gathered the family together, “and they set out […]

The Divine Warrior in His Tent
A military model for Yahweh’s tabernacle By Michael M. Homan

022 Yahweh could have asked Moses for just about anything—a temple, a palace, even a pyramid. Instead, Yahweh requests that Moses build him a tent (Exodus 25:8–9). Once the tent has been constructed according to Yahweh’s exacting instructions, the Israelite deity moves in. For the rest of the Israelites’ stay in Sinai, throughout […]

Why Megiddo?

Armageddon—the name is synonymous with apocalypse, Judgment Day and end-time. As the site of the cataclysmic battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil, Armageddon has gripped the imagination of Christians ever since John wrote the New Testament’s Book of Revelation at the close of the first century A.D.1 The […]

Mt. Sinai—in Arabia?

We set off…to climb each of the mountains,” wrote the fourth-century C.E. Christian pilgrim Egeria of her visit to Mt. Sinai. “They are hard to climb. You do not go round and round them, spiraling up gently, but straight at each one as if you were going up a wall, and then straight […]

And the Winner is…BR’s Short Story Contest Results Are In

First Place: “Home Is Where…,”by Susan Gabbay (aka Lot’s Wife) Second Place: “Divining the Divine,”by Molly Pickering Grose (aka Balaam) Third Place: “Pursuing Knowledge,”by Bruce Martin Wildish (aka the Serpent) When we printed a small announcement for our short story contest in the April 2000 issue of BR, we really weren’t expecting a […]

Bethlehem…Of Course

Steve Mason has probably made the best case possible that we should adopt an “agnostic” position regarding the birthplace of Jesus. But although Mason has examined the literary data with exemplary care, he has failed to demolish the Gospels’ conviction that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the days of Herod the king. […]

Who defeated this Jewish art? By Steven Fine

The delicate carving on the side of the sarcophagus depicts Zeus, in the guise of a swan, graphically forcing himself on the Spartan queen Leda. The scene is one of the best known in ancient Greek mythology, so its appearance on a sarcophagus should be no surprise. This particular sarcophagus, however, comes not […]

The Book of Jeremiah: a Work in Progress

The Book of Jeremiah (or should we say the Books of Jeremiah?) provides us with a unique opportunity to explore how a biblical book developed over time. That is because we can compare in detail two quite different versions that have come down to us. These two versions—or witnesses, in more scholarly jargon—are (1) […]

Casting Genesis
George’s Segal’s biblical sculptures By Jack Miles

The familiar, the quotidian, the unexalted—these are the subjects of George Segal’s most famous sculptures. The American artist’s best-known works may be mentally arranged as a walk through a typical small city—out the front door of a diner onto the street corner, down the road past the gas station, the dry cleaner and the […]

King David: Serial Murderer
New biography compares Israelite king to Saddam Hussein By Hershel Shanks

035 King David: A Biography Steven L. MacKenzie (New York, NY: Oxford Univ. Press, 2000) 232 pp., $25.00 (hardback) 034 I started reading this book with high hopes. Despite its title, which suggested (at least to me) a novelized treatment of Israel’s great king, the book is an attempt to find the historical […]

Now Playing: The Gospel of Thomas

One Sunday morning several years ago, a most astonishing thing happened to me. I was attending services at a local church in Claremont, California, where I was a graduate student working on a (then) relatively obscure text known as the Gospel of Thomas. I rose and began to sing the announced hymn with the […]

Response and Surresponse

We invited Professor Mason to respond to Professor Murphy-O’Connor’s comments in Bethlehem…Of Course, and he agreed. We then asked Professor Murphy-O’Connor to respond to Professor Mason. He too agreed. Their statements appear below:

Van Gogh’s Bible
Finding message of hope in Isaiah By Cliff Edwards

When his father died unexpectedly in 1885, a somber Vincent van Gogh decided to create a memorial to the Reverend Theodorus van Gogh. He placed his father’s heavy pulpit Bible on a cloth-covered table, set beside it a snuffed-out candle and small book, and then painted the scene. As dark and somber as […]

Keep Each Tradition Separate

As one of those “reluctant” scholars whom Professor Hendel describes as “all too often averse” to creating an eclectic text of the Hebrew Bible, I would like to clarify that my reluctance stems not from any aversion, but from long experience.1 For nearly 40 years, I have been deeply involved in the discipline of […]

Did Ecclesiastes Copy Gilgamesh?

Nearly a century ago, the German scholar Hubert Grimme NOTICED some startling similarities between the biblical Book of Ecclesiastes and the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh. This was indeed strange. Ecclesiastes, most scholars agree, dates to the second half of the third century B.C.E. and was written by a sophisticated Jerusalemite intellectual. On its face […]

The private man behind the public leader By J. Daniel Hays

Solemnly ascending Mt. Sinai, angrily smashing the Tablets of the Law, boldly parting the waters of the Red Sea—these are the images of Moses we know best. But what about the personal life of the man who led Israel from Egypt to Canaan? A person’s private life can be as telling as the public—if […]

Extra! Extra! Philistines in the Newsroom!
David’s battle with Goliath rages on as reporters enhance their stories with biblical quotes By Leonard J. Greenspoon

Pity the poor newspaper writer. Every day he (or she) must grab the reader’s attention, convey something newsworthy in a fresh way and do it all in the space of a few inches of type. Is it any wonder that newspaper reporters and editors reach for the Bible? But when newswriters pick up […]


When the Bible Enters the Fray
As Vermont legalizes civil unions for same-sex couples, both sides of the debate turn to the Bible for support. They might do better to turn to Bible scholars, too. By Susan Ackerman
Judgement and Mercy
For there to be forgiveness or mercy, the truth, no matter how harsh, must be told. That is a lesson to be learned from the God of both testaments. By N. T. Wright
Of Sacred Leopards and Abominable Pigs
How common practice becomes ritual law By Ronald S. Hendel
Paul, Leader of a Jewish Revolution
Paul’s theology—grounded in Jewish thought and scriptures—propelled him to confront the powers of Rome and the pagan gods that stood behind them. By N. T. Wright
Harry Potter and the Bible: should they both be banned? By Cliff Edwards
Where Is Mount Sinai?
The holy mountain is shrouded in mystery, its location seemingly unknowable. Perhaps that is what makes it holy. By Ronald S. Hendel
Moses on Mt. Sinai
Teaching Creation in Kansas
What would happen if we actually taught the biblical creation story in the science classroom? By Ronald S. Hendel
Imagining a New Millennium
In an era of cynicism, the Bible offers hope for an ideal world, a world in which God’s activity serves as the foundation of our human efforts. By Anthony J. Saldarini
Lot’s Wife
The Scorpion
How Pharaoh learned his lesson in Nineveh By Hershel Shanks
Discovering Women in Scripture
Creating a dictionary of biblical women poses a unique challenge for the editors: How can they alphabetize the hundreds of unnamed women? By Carol Meyers
John on Patmos
The Resurrection of Resurrection
Christianity was born into a world where one of its central tenets, the resurrection of the dead, was widely recognized as false—except, of course, by Judaism. By N. T. Wright
The Nativity
The Penitent St. Jerome