Unlikely Heroes
Women as Israel By Gary A. Rendsburg

Open your Bible at random and you will notice something striking: Female characters abound. And it’s not simply a lot of women, it’s a lot of strong women. These women are the antithesis of what we might expect from a patriarchal society. They are not passive, demure, timid and submissive, but active, bold, fearless […]

How the Bible Became the Kynge’s Owne English

In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture Alister McGrath (New York: Doubleday, 2001) 340 pp., $24.95 (hardback) Wide as the Waters: The Story of the English Bible and the Revolution It Inspired Benson Bobrick (New York: Simon & Schuster, […]

What Jesus Really Meant by “Render Unto Caesar”
(It’s not about taxes) By David T. Ball

It’s Spring. Tax time. Time to, as Jesus commanded, “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” That phrase has become a kind of cliché—heard with annoying frequency every year as April 15 draws near. The full line of the quote is, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that […]

Spy Tales

013Daily news reports from the Middle East are filled with tales of espionage, terrorism and counterintelligence operations. So is the Bible.

David and Joab
United by ambition By Robin Gallaher Branch

Embedded in the biblical account of David’s rise to power as king of Israel is a parallel succession story—that of Joab. As the youthful David struggles against Saul, Israel’s first king, Joab fights beside him. When David secures the throne and becomes king, Joab is made commander-in-chief of the army, a job he keeps […]


The recently publicized bone box, or ossuary, inscribed in Aramaic, “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,” has captivated scholars as well as the lay community of Jews and Christians all over the world. The day after it was first revealed to the public by our sister magazine, Biblical Archaeology Review, it appeared on […]

Jews and Christians
Seeing the prophets differently By Rolf Rendtorff

Christians typically view the Old Testament prophets as individualists, as religious geniuses and defiant rebels, driven by their own personal experiences with God, answering to no one, and obedient only to their own inner voice. In Jewish tradition, however, the prophets are enforcers of God’s law—or torah—on earth. The difference is so striking, one […]

How Pilate Became a Saint

Pontius Pilate has a terrible reputation. We tend to think of him as one of the New Testament’s greatest cowards. Tragically, at Jesus’ trial, Pilate seems to recognize that a gross injustice is being done, yet he doesn’t use his power as the Roman governor of Judea to stop it. According to the Gospel […]

Photographing Jesus

Revelation: Representations of Christ in Photography By Nissan N. Perez (London, UK: Merrell, 2003) 224 pp., 195 illus., $50.00 (hardcover) 020 Photographs speak to us in a way no other medium does. It’s not that they tell us more than a text or painting. It’s that they force us to think, for a […]

Bringing James Out of the Shadows
Jesus’ brother led Jerusalem church By Ben Witherington III

History, it is said, is written by the winners. Perhaps that’s why we know so little about James, the brother of Jesus. Although he was a major player in the first-century A.D., his popularity waned in the next few centuries as the followers of Peter and Paul came to dominate the church. Their views, […]

Beasts or Bugs?
Solving the Problem of the Fourth Plague By Gary A. Rendsburg

Blood, frogs, lice, cattle disease, boils … Every spring at the Jewish holiday of Passover, the ten nasties that plagued Egypt are described in the Haggadah, the midrashic retelling of the Exodus from Egypt that is read aloud during the Passover Seder meal. It is thus appropriate, in this April issue of BR, to […]

Cyrus the Messiah
Why Isaiah calls a non-Jewish king of Persia Israel’s anointed one By Lisbeth S. Fried

The Persian emperor Cyrus is honored as the only foreigner in the Bible to be identified as the “messiah” or “anointed one” of YHWH, the Israelite God.1 Isaiah tells us that YHWH spoke “to his messiah, to Cyrus, whom I [YHWH] took by his right hand to subdue nations before him” (Isaiah 45:1). The […]

The True Cross
Separating myth from history By Jan Willem Drijvers

In the days of Constantine the Great, the cross on which Jesus died was “rediscovered” in Jerusalem. Tradition gives Constantine’s mother, Helena, full credit for the find. Today, visitors to Jerusalem are shown the very spot, in a cistern beneath the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where the empress is said to have unearthed […]

Parallel Paths to Heaven
Enoch and Jesus By Birger A. Pearson

At the end of the Gospel of Mark, we read: “So then the Lord Jesus … was taken up into heaven, and he sat down at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19).1 It is a remarkable fate—to be taken up bodily into heaven—yet, in the Bible, it is not unique. In the Book […]

Where Was James Buried?
Making sense of contradictory accounts By Jerome Murphy-O’Connor

Controversy over the burial of James, the brother of Jesus, is nothing new. As early as the fourth century A.D., the location of James’s tomb was disputed. In the words of the church father Jerome, writing in 392 A.D.: “Some monks think James was buried on the Mount of Olives, but their opinion is […]

The Search for Biblical Blue

Even as the first freezing drop of water trickled beneath our wetsuits, we knew that this dive would be historic. We checked our scuba equipment one last time, and then slowly descended into the deep blue waters off the ancient Mediterranean port of Akko, in northern Israel. Our goal: to find the small snail […]

Who Wrote Second Isaiah?

The Book of Isaiah contains the most astounding prophecy in the Hebrew Bible. Ostensibly, the Prophet Isaiah, who flourished in the eighth century B.C.E., according to Isaiah 1:1, accurately foresaw events that occurred a couple hundred years later: He predicted that after the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed and the Jewish people exiled, a foreign […]

Enoch’s Vision of the Next World

What is the appeal of that curious collection of tales known as the Book of Enoch? It is (and was) that it provides a glimpse into the beyond. As George Nickelsburg suggests in his new commentary, Enoch reassures the faithful that there was and will be another reality far better than their present painful […]

From vigilante to lawgiver By William H.C. Propp

Moses’ brief and violent encounter with the Egyptian taskmaster in Exodus reads like a crime report or movie script:

The Dark Side of Pilate

Poor Pilate. If ever a man was caught unwittingly in the net of historical circumstance, it was Pilate. A simple Roman governor just doing his job, he could see that Jesus wasn’t the villain the Jewish crowd thought him to be. In the end, he washed his hands of the affair—tormented, it seems, by […]

The Chapel of the True Cross

036Piero della Francesca: The Legend of the True Cross in the Church of San Francesco in Arezzo

Moses’ Egyptian Name

The history of Israel begins with its enslavement in Egypt. Israel is defined in opposition to everything Egyptian—they are powerful, Israel is weak; they are rich, Israel is poor; they have many gods, Israel has one. Isn’t it ironic, then, that the greatest Hebrew prophet and lawgiver, the man who single-handedly organized the […]

That’s No Gospel, It’s Enoch!
Identification of Dead Sea Scrolls challenged By Peter W. Flint

In 972 the Spanish scholar José O’Callaghan startled the world of biblical scholarship when he announced that he had identified nine New Testament fragments among the Dead Sea Scrolls.1 In the 30 years since, O’Callaghan’s findings have annoyed many scholars, excited a few and left most scratching their heads—wondering if they will ever know […]

Did Ancient Jews Missionize

Was ancient Judaism a missionary religion? Well, it depends on what you mean by “missionary.”

Mel Gibson’s Passion Play

“His blood be on us and our children.” This single, chilling line from the Gospel of Matthew (27:25) has caused more bloodshed than any other verse in the Bible. Matthew’s invidious portrayal of “the Jews” clamoring for Jesus’ blood provided the impetus for centuries of anti-Semitism, pogroms, and the murder of six million Jews […]

Why God Has So Many Names

When the prophet Jonah, on a ship in the Mediterranean, was asked by his fellow travelers who he was, he answered: “I am a Hebrew. I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land” (Jonah 1:9). From this passage, it is clear that the Hebrews referred to […]

The Harrowing of Hell

[He] was crucified, died and was buried.

Should Cheeseburgers Be Kosher?
A different interpretation of five Hebrew words By Jack M. Sasson

”You may not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk” is one of the Bible’s more puzzling interdictions. This short phrase—only five words in Hebrew (lo’ tebasûsûel gdi bahaleb ‘immo)—is repeated three times, once in Exodus 23:19, again in Exodus 34:26 and finally in Deuteronomy 14:21. Since Talmudic times, that is after 200 C.E., […]


Was There a Temple in Jerusalem?
Wartime reports from Palestine mask the truth. By Ronald S. Hendel
What Difference Does a Century Make?
Maybe Solomon didn’t build the gate at Megiddo. So what? By Ronald S. Hendel
Gods and the One God
In antiquity, all monotheists were polytheists. By Paula Fredricksen
Hitchhiking and the Bible
Reading the Bible is like traveling in a foreign land. By Mary Joan Winn Leith
Asking the Right Question
To get the most out of the New Testament, you need to know what kind of books you’re reading. By Ben Witherington III
Divine Scents
God doesn’t just see and hear the Israelites, he can smell them too. By Mary Joan Winn Leith
Seeing God
God appears in a colorful spectrum of images in the Bible. By Mary Joan Winn Leith
Light from darkness
From Hesed to Agape
What’s love got to do with it? By Ben Witherington III
Vision Quest
Jesus and his followers as visionary prophets By Ben Witherington III
The Search for Noah’s Flood
Scientists are looking in the wrong place By Ronald S. Hendel
The Annunciation
To the tomb
Angels of Sodom