Earliest Christian Inscription
Bishop Avercius’s last words document emergence of the church By Laurence H. Kant

Every so often, when historians find incongruities in an ancient text, they err by throwing the baby out with the bathwater: They dismiss the entire document as unhistorical. This is what happened with one of the most important documents from early Christianity, an undeservedly obscure poem commissioned by Avercius, an early bishop of the […]

Who Wrote the Gospel of Luke?

The answer seems obvious: a man named Luke, of course. But do we really know this, and, if so, how? The gospel itself never reveals the author’s name. The title “The Gospel According to Luke”—printed in virtually every Christian Bible today—is late: We have no evidence that it appeared on the earliest versions of […]

The Magi and the Star
Babylonian astronomy dates Jesus’ birth By Simo Parpola

The wondrous star that hovered over Bethlehem at Jesus’ birth has long mystified Bible scholars and astronomers alike. Attempts to identify the star with historical celestial phenomena have been inconclusive at best, leading many to dismiss the gospel account as a beautiful but imaginative myth. Still others 018keep returning to this question, knowing that […]

Seductress, heroine or murderer? By Janet Howe Gaines

For 4,000 years Lilith has wandered the earth, figuring in the mythic imaginations of writers, artists and poets. Her dark origins lie in Babylonian demonology, where amulets and incantations were used to counter the sinister powers of this winged spirit who preyed on pregnant women and infants. Lilith next migrated to the world of […]

The Favored One
How Mary became the Mother of God By Ronald F. Hock, David R. Cartlidge

Five million Christian pilgrims travel each year to the grotto of Lourdes in southwestern France, where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to a peasant girl in 1858. The map of Rome is spotted with churches dedicated to the Queen of Heaven and Mother of God. The liturgical calendars of the Catholic […]

To Be Continued…
The Many Endings of the Gospel of Mark By Michael W. Holmes

Francis Ford Coppola filmed two endings for Apocalypse Now, and John Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman offers a choice of endings. But nothing quite matches the last chapter of the Gospel of Mark for variety. At least nine versions of the ending of Mark can be found among the 1,700 surviving ancient Greek […]

Reading David in Genesis
How we know the Torah was written in the tenth century B.C.E. By Gary A. Rendsburg

For the last two hundred years, a central question in biblical studies has been the authorship of the Torah (or Pentateuch). The Age of Enlightenment led scholars to realize that the traditional Jewish and Christian belief in Moses’ participation in the creation of the first five books of the Bible was not historically accurate. […]

Witnessing the Divine
The Magi in Art and Literature By Robin M. Jensen

The magi lend an exotic and mysterious air to the Christmas story. The sweet domesticity of mother and child and the bucolic atmosphere of shepherds and stable are disturbed by the arrival of these strangers from the East. The background music changes from major to minor. Sentiment gives way to awe, perhaps even […]

The Seductress of Qumran

This article is based on Joseph M. Baumgarten, “On the Nature of the Seductress in 4Q184,” Revue de QuÆmran 15 (1991–1992), pp. 133–143, and appears here with his approval.

Genesis as Rashomon
The creation as told by God and man By Pamela Tamarkin Reis

Ever since Rashomon took the grand prize at the Venice Film Festival 50 years ago, the movie by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa has been the subject of extensive critical analysis. Based loosely on two early-20th-century short stories, one of which was itself a retelling of several tenth-century Japanese narratives, the film relates the […]

Reversal of Fortune
Rahab & Achan: the Israelite & the Canaanite By Frank Anthony Spina

Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute, plays an essential part in Israel’s successful conquest of Jericho. The Israelite Achan, a member of the prestigious tribe of Judah, is to blame for Israel’s subsequent failure to capture Ai. Why is a Canaanite prostitute portrayed so positively while a prominent Israelite is depicted so negatively? Perhaps because a […]

Searching For Saul
What we really know about Israel’s first king By Marsha White

A handful of Hebrew Bible scholars, in recent years, have attacked the historicity of the biblical account of King David’s reign (1 Samuel 16 through 1 Kings 2). There is no evidence outside the Bible, these scholars claim, for the existence of David.1 They note that these stories are part of the Deuteronomistic History,2 […]

Was the Early Church Jewish?

In the twenty-third chapter of his gospel, Matthew describes Jesus speaking against the Pharisees and scribes. “Woe to you,” Jesus cries out, labeling these Jews “hypocrites,” “blind fools,” “blind men,” “serpents” and a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 23:13–36).1 In Mark’s account of the cleansing of the Temple, Jesus condemns the Jewish leaders, saying, “My […]

Why Deborah’s Different

Some see her as an ancient Israelite Joan of Arc, a devout maid who led her people to victory against a hated national foe.1 Others picture her as the prototype of the modern militant feminist, who challenged the forces of an oppressive patriarchy as she delivered Israel from the Canaanites.2 Most readers simply admire […]

Whose Earrings Did Jacob Bury?

When the patriarch Jacob returns to Canaan with his family after a 20-year sojourn with his uncle Laban, God instructs him to go to Bethel and build an altar (Genesis 35:1). Jacob immediately tells his entourage to rid themselves of the alien gods in their midst, to purify themselves and to change their clothes […]

The Un-Moralized Bible

Sometime around the year 1225, a Latin Bible with illustrated commentary was made for King Louis VIII of France.1 It is called the Bible moralisée, and it is a remarkable and disturbing work. This Bible is massive both in size and scope. Every one of its 246 pages is coated in gold. Each page […]

Was Jesus’ Last Supper a Seder?

Many people assume that Jesus’ Last Supper was a Seder, a ritual meal held in celebration of the Jewish holiday of Passover. And indeed, according to the Gospel of Mark 14:12, Jesus prepared for the Last Supper on the “first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb.” If Jesus and his […]

Mad to See the Monuments
How ancient Assyria saved Victorian Bible scholarship By Steven W. Holloway

In August of 1847, the British Museum mounted the first major display of Assyrian antiquities in England. For a year, the public had pored over sketches from Austen Henry Layard’s Mesopotamian excavations in the Illustrated London News. Now, it was possible to inspect the impassive, chiseled faces of the Assyrian kings during a comfortable […]

Adam Meets the Evil Archon
The Biblical Roots of a Persian Religion By John C. Reeves

The first world religion wasn’t Judaism, Christianity or Islam. It was Manichaeism. Today, even the name of this long-dead religion is unfamiliar. But its foundation story will not be—or at least not entirely. For here, Adam, Eve and the other beloved characters of Genesis are woven into an alien account of a primal battle […]

The Bible Through a Poet’s Prism
Reading Emily Dickenson’s poems as Revelation continued By Cliff Edwards

The Bible,” wrote American poet Emily Dickinson, “is an antique Volume…/ Written by faded Men / At the suggestion of Holy Spectres.” Condemning contemporary pastors for rendering the sacred texts lifeless, the poet urged that Scripture be sung in a manner relevant to everyday life: “Had but the Tale a warbling Teller…/ All […]

Sperm Stealing
A moral crime by three of David’s ancestresses By Shlomith Yaron

The Bible describes three cases of “sperm stealing,” incidents in which women seduce a man and make him an unwitting sperm donor. And all three instances involve an ancestor of David, ancient Israel’s great hero-king. Sperm stealing is a fact of human life as old as the most ancient civilizations and as contemporary as […]

It’s Elementary
Psalms 9 and 10 and the order of the alphabet By John Strugnell, Hanan Eshel

Psalms 9 and 10 have always been somewhat of a puzzle. The first question is whether they are actually two parts of one long psalm or whether they are two separate psalms. What suggests that they were originally really one piece is that together they form an acrostic poem built with the Hebrew alphabet […]

What’s in a Name?
The Strange Case of Veronese’s Last Supper By David L. Sills

034 When first gazing at Veronese’s painting of the Last Supper, it is difficult to recognize that it actually is a painting of the Last Supper. Indeed, the first reaction of most viewers to this Italian Renaissance masterpiece is simply awe at its scale. Measuring 42 feet wide by 18 feet high, Veronese’s […]


Speaking of Good and Evil
How can we gain a biblical understanding of the social and political events of our day? By N. T. Wright
King David Loves Bathsheba
Is what the historical David did or said more important than what the Bible relates? By Ronald S. Hendel
The Shape of Justification
A misunderstood term has caused great confusion in understanding Paul, and it’s time to get it right. By N. T. Wright
The Empire of David—or Not?
Modern maps show David’s kingdom reaching to the Euphrates. But what does the Bible say? By Ronald S. Hendel
Farewell to the Rapture
Little did Paul know how his colorful metaphors for Jesus’ second coming would be misunderstood two millennia later. By N. T. Wright
Of Doubt, Gadflies and Minimalists
The minimalists are right to question what we know anout the time when the Bible was composed, but they are wrong in their conclusions. By Ronald S. Hendel
Jacob and the angel
The face of Jesus
Jacob and Isaac
Jonah in the whale
Naomi and Ruth
The Good Shepherd