David’s Threat to Nabal
How a little vulgarity got the point across By Peter J. Leithart

When David first meets Abigail, his second wife-to-be, she is married to another man, a prosperous farmer named Nabal. In Hebrew, Nabal’s name means “Fool,”1 a clear sign that he won’t amount to much in the biblical world. Indeed, Nabal dies almost as soon as he is introduced (and David’s wedding plans are then […]

A model medieval king By Richard Leson

The tumultuous world of ancient Israel collides with that of medieval Europe in a lavish 13th-century picture book now housed in the Pierpont Morgan Library, in New York, and used to illustrate the preceding article in this issue (see “David’s Threat to Nabal”). The conflicts of Abraham, Joshua and David are translated into furious […]

Unwrapping the Torah
Making a symbol real again By Tikva Frymer-Kensky

The Bible plays an enormous role in Jewish ritual life. Many of the psalms have been incorporated into the synagogue liturgy, forming an essential component of the regular daily services, as well as the Sabbath and festival services. On Jewish festivals, entire books of the Bible are read aloud: the Song of Songs on […]

Christian and Jewish Views of the Holy Land
Visiting sacred sites vs. working the land By Aaron Demsky

The famous mosaic map in a church in Madaba, Jordan, and the not-so-famous mosaic inscription from an ancient synagogue near Tel Rehov, in Israel’s Beth-Shean Valley, reflect two very different views of sacred geography. In Christianity, the Holy Land is perceived as the totality of holy sites sanctified by saints and revelation. In Judaism, […]

The Two Faces of Jesus
How the early church pictured the divine By Robin M. Jensen

In the upper reaches of the Church of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, just below the painted wood ceiling, appears a striking series of 26 mosaics portraying the life and passion of Jesus. Dating to the early sixth century, they constitute one of the oldest—perhaps the oldest—extant monumental series of images depicting Jesus’ life (see […]


That Old Time Religion
The Bible preserves hints of Stone Age rites that retained their holiness for millennia. By Ronald S. Hendel
Dining with the Divine
Anyone and everyone could pray to a god in ancient times, but often only family members could join him for meals. By Paula Fredriksen
Tower of Babel