Digging In: The Beauty of the Past

Glenn J. Corbett

Archaeology is a beautiful thing. Excavations in Israel and beyond allow us to glimpse all the complexities and intricacies of the biblical world as it was experienced thousands of years ago. Indeed, the more we uncover, the more we realize just how interconnected were the peoples of the Bible, who shared much more in common than what the Bible’s stories of war, conflict, and struggle might suggest.

It somehow seems fitting that our Spring 2024 issue presents sites and discoveries that reveal how traditions, styles, and beliefs have been adopted, blended, and reshaped across the ages to create shared identities and cultures. In “The Cave of Salome,” explore an underground labyrinth of early Jewish burial caves that later Christians commemorated as the tomb of Salome, an early disciple of Jesus remembered in the Gospels as one of the first to witness the empty tomb. In “Lifestyles of Jerusalem’s Rich and Famous,” visit sixth-century BCE Jerusalem, on the eve of its destruction, to see how the city’s wealthiest residents enjoyed many of the finer things that life under foreign imperial domination had to of-fer. As we read in “The Jerusalem Ivories,” this included exquisite decorative plaques that adorned the furnishings of the royal buildings where Jerusalem’s high officials entertained in sophisticated luxury. And in “House of the Rising Sun,” journey to the Late Bronze Age Canaanite city of Azekah, where archaeologists have unearthed a temple dedicated to the sun’s daily renewal that combined elements of both Canaanite and Egyptian religious practice.

Check out Strata for the latest biblical archaeology news and discov­eries, including new findings that suggest the Hyksos kings of Egypt—the foreign Asiatic rulers whom many associate with the biblical story of Joseph—brought their own brutal brand of justice to the throne. Learn how advanced photographic methods are helping scholars overcome the challenges of documenting thousands of Mesopotamian seals, and hear from Kiersten Neumann, curator of the Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures (ISAC) Museum (formerly the Oriental Institute Museum), who explains how the museum’s recent name change is helping it keep pace with the times. And for those itching to join an excavation, we provide our annual list of dig opportunities and information about applying for a BAS Dig Scholarship to support your next adventure.

In Epistles, sail with Paul between the port cities of the Roman Mediterranean to understand how ancient mariners traversed the seas before open-water navigation was safe or routine. Examine the tradition of Solomon’s unprecedented marriage alliance with Egypt and the biblical and archaeological evidence that suggests his Egyptian bride was no idle boast. Finally, meet Egeria, the fourth-century pilgrim who left a remarkable and detailed account of her journeys to the sites, monuments, and churches of the early Christian Holy Land.

So as we enter the season that celebrates beauty and renewal, we hope this issue inspires readers to dwell not on divisions, but rather on the multifaceted interactions and fruitful exchanges that people throughout history have been engaged in—especially in the lands of the Bible.

Digging In: A BAR for Every Taste

Glenn J. Corbett

Every issue, we get a lot of letters from our readers (see Queries & Comments). Some remark on how much they enjoyed a particular article; others voice their displeasure when our authors question the Bible; still others have thoughtful, insightful questions about something they read (my favorite!).

It’s always fun to read through these letters, but they are also a constant reminder never to assume too much about who you are, what you believe, and why you read the magazine. BAR reaches an amazing array of people: believers, nonbelievers, seekers, armchair archaeologists, history buffs, students, teachers, Bible study groups, pastors, and rabbis, to name but a few. Given BAR’s eclectic readership, my main goal as Editor-in-Chief is simply to make the best and latest scholarship on the world of the Bible accessible and interesting to as many people as possible.

I hope our Winter 2023 issue does just that! In “Archaeology in the Land of Midian,” explore the ruins of Qurayyah, a thriving desert oasis that dominated northwest Arabia—biblical Midian—during the time of Moses and the Exodus. In “The House of Peter: Capernaum or Bethsaida?” revisit the site of El-Araj on the Sea of Galilee and examine new evidence that its Byzantine church was where early Christians commemorated the house of the chief apostle.

In “Hard Power,” learn about the impressive stone statues of the biblical Ammonites, one of ancient Israel’s chief rivals east of the Jordan, and why this small Iron Age kingdom developed such a monumental artistic style. And in “Warrior Women,” study a new mosaic from the Huqoq synagogue that depicts Deborah’s victory over the Canaanites and learn why this famous biblical story continued to resonate with Jewish audiences in late antiquity.

In addition to news, updates, and our always-enjoyable quizzes, Strata examines the “woman in the window” motif in ancient Near Eastern art and the biblical passages that shed light on its meaning and symbolism. Author Jennifer Tobin seeks the origins of the world’s seven great wonders and finds that ancient authors could never quite agree on which sites should make the list. Test Kitchen also delivers a savory meat cake from medieval Mongolia that will add the perfect amount of spice to any holiday meal.

Epistles takes a critical look at the history, traditions, and peoples behind the biblical text. In searching for the Nativity story’s Star of Bethlehem, BAR Assistant Editor Nathan Steinmeyer reminds us of the very different ways in which ancient astronomers perceived and interpreted celestial events. Andrew Tobolowsky probes the origins of ancient Israel’s tribes and concludes that the 12-tribe tradition was likely more idealized myth than historical reality. Finally, Jonathan Robie demonstrates how artificial intelligence is revolutionizing Bible translation but also presenting new challenges for producing reliable and trusted results.

As with every issue of BAR, some will find these articles informative and enlightening, others will find them challenging or even troubling, and many will simply enjoy their beautiful illustrations (which is fine, too!). But my hope is that everyone finds something to enjoy while also appreciating the diverse values, backgrounds, and interests of all those who read the magazine.

Digging In: Labor of Love

_____

The content you enjoy in each issue of BAR is the work of a small team of editors dedicated to making the latest in archaeology and biblical scholarship available to all. In addition to meticulously editing each issue, our editors work to develop and curate our feature articles, select and caption the beautiful images that accompany each story, and research and write the news, profiles, and quizzes that make BAR a truly popular magazine.

As such, it is never easy to say goodbye to one of our own. The Fall 2023 issue is the last for BAR Managing Editor Megan Sauter, who, after a decade serving the magazine, is moving on to other new and exciting adventures. As with each issue she has managed, Megan’s hard work, professionalism, and attention to detail can be found throughout.

In “The Millo: Jerusalem’s Lost Monument,” leading archaeologists identify the ancient fortifications around Jerusalem’s Gihon Spring as the Millo, a mysterious biblical structure whose exact location has long puzzled scholars. In his article, “Yahweh or Baal,” biblical scholar Michael Stahl examines the biblical and archaeological evidence for the religion of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and finds that its infamous rulers may not have been the heathen Baal worshipers portrayed in the Bible. Archaeologist Dennis Mizzi then looks at the enigmatic jar burials from Qumran’s cemetery and postulates that this unusual practice reflected the religious views of the sectarian Jewish community responsible for the Dead Sea Scrolls. And in “Constantinople: Christianity’s First Capital,” BAR Contributing Editor Sarah Yeomans explores the deep history of Istanbul and the magnificent monuments that still give an impression of the city’s glorious Christian past.

This issue’s Strata brings you the latest news from the world of biblical archaeology, including an update on the recently published Mt. Ebal curse tablet that continues to stir controversy among scholars. Aaron Demsky takes a fresh look at a short Hebrew inscription from Second Temple Jerusalem and the meaning behind its apparent reference to Daedalus, the master craftsman of Greek mythology. Reflecting on her own recent travels abroad, Megan guides you through the Catacomb of Priscilla in Rome, an underground labyrinth of ancient burials that preserves some of the world’s earliest Christian art. We also hear from Steed Davidson, the new Executive Director of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), who shares his exciting plans for the organization’s future.

In Epistles, Gary Rendsburg reexamines the symbolism behind the “horns of Moses” and argues that the writers of Ex-odus gave the prophet horns—and other unique qualities—to make him the equal of the Egyptian pharaoh. Rodney Caruthers explores the biblical concept of inspiration and its meaning to ancient writers, from Plato to the authors of the New Testament. And Hanna Tervanotko recovers the complex figure of Miriam in the Hebrew Bible, an important woman in the life of Moses and early Israel but one that Jewish and Christian traditions have rarely evaluated on her own terms.

So as we say goodbye to Megan and wish her well, I also offer my thanks and appreciation to a colleague and friend who has not just been a joy to work with but has been essential to making BAR the magazine that it is today. Thank you, Megan, for everything.

Digging In: Find Your Summer Fun with BAR

_____

BAR’s Summer 2023 issue is the perfect read for your summer adventures, whether you’re relaxing on the beach, experiencing the great outdoors, or maybe even getting your hands dirty in an excavation trench in the Holy Land. We’ve packed this issue with stories, profiles, news, quizzes, and contests that are sure to entertain, inform, and enlighten.

Our cover story, “The Rise of the Maccabees” by archaeologist Andrea Berlin, explores the historical and archaeological evidence for the power politics that lay behind the dramatic rise of the Hasmonean state in the late second century BCE. Then, in “David and Solomon’s Invisible Kingdom,” authors Zachary Thomas and Erez Ben-Yosef present a bold new theory that the legendary biblical kings did, in fact, rule over a powerful kingdom, but that it was made up largely of archaeologically invisible tent-dwelling nomads in addition to city dwellers and townspeople who would have left behind buildings and monuments.

In “Jerusalem’s Temple Treasures: Where Did They Go?” biblical scholar Elena Dugan uncovers a little-known Hebrew text that preserves the intriguing tradition that some of the First Temple treasures were hidden in Mesopotamia following the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE. And in “The Amorites and the Bible,” archaeologist Aaron Burke examines the Amorites, one of several groups encountered by the Israelites after their arrival in Canaan, and the massive Bronze Age monuments that the biblical writers attributed to this legendary people of gigantic origin.

This issue’s Strata brings you the latest news and developments in the world of biblical archaeology, including a profile of two new methodologies that make use of the earth’s geomagnetic field to reveal buried buildings and even the precise date of biblical battles. Archaeologist Robert Mullins then analyzes a short Hebrew inscription from Abel Beth Maacah that reveals ancient Israel’s northern border in the ninth century BCE. And scholar Jonathan Klawans visits a still-functioning Crusader-era church located just outside of Jerusalem to explore its brilliant frescoes that depict scenes from the life of Jesus.

In Epistles, Zohar Amar uses ancient texts and experimental archaeology to identify zori, the mysterious biblical resin grown in the land of Gilead that was used to treat everything from cough to indigestion. David Clausen summarizes what modern biblical scholarship teaches about the historical Paul by addressing five common myths about the apostle, his teachings, and his relationship to the Judaism of his day. We also take a close look at the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Mesopotamian tale that influenced generations of storytellers and writers from across the ancient world.

So wherever your summer plans take you, be sure to pack the latest issue of BAR. Between adventuring and relaxing, take some time for yourself and explore the sites and discoveries that continue to reveal exciting new details about the biblical past.

Digging In: Back in the Trenches

Glenn J. Corbett

Over the past year, biblical archaeology, like many fields and professions, has thankfully seen a gradual return to the familiar rhythms of pre-pandemic life. Scholars are again meeting at conferences to present their latest findings, BAR readers and archaeology enthusiasts are once again traveling to BAS seminars and taking part in overseas study tours, and now, for the second year in a row, archaeologists will be back in the field, unearthing remarkable finds from the biblical past.

There is therefore a welcome and refreshing comfort in introducing our Spring issue, which by tradition is when BAR highlights volunteer opportunities for the upcoming summer dig season in Israel, Jordan, and elsewhere. In addition to seeing what sites are being excavated this season, you can also read about a few sites “off the beaten path” and why they have just as much archaeology to offer as better-known biblical sites and cities.

With many excavations now back in full swing, our features showcase the many ways that archaeology continues to open up new vistas on key figures and events from the Bible. In his article “Jeremiah’s Journey to Egypt,” archaeologist James Hoffmeier traces the textual, archaeological, and geological evidence for the prophet’s little-known escape to Egypt following the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem. Similarly, in “Jesus in the Synagogue,” scholar Jordan Ryan examines the growing number of first-century synagogues that have been discovered and what they reveal about the early Jewish communities Jesus encountered during his ministry.

Just in time for our dig issue, archaeologist Shlomit Bechar invites BAR readers to join her in the new excavations of Hazor’s Lower City to help answer the question, “Who Lived at Hazor?” Hazor was the largest Canaanite city during the Bronze Age and remembered by the biblical writers as “the head of all those kingdoms.” And in “Set in Stone?” text scholars Matthieu Richelle and Andrew Burlingame question whether new photographs of the famous Mesha Stele presented in BAR’s Winter 2022 issue actually confirm the inscription’s much-debated reference to the “House of David.”

In Strata, archaeologist Laura Mazow explores the many bath-shaped vessels found throughout ancient Israel and why most were not actually used for personal bathing. Beyond our always interesting and thought-provoking news articles, tributes, and quizzes, observant readers will also notice our latest department, World Wonders, where we profile remarkable finds, sites, and monuments from across the ancient world, such as a wondrous clay mask from Iraq that depicts the face of the Mesopotamian monster Humbaba.

In Epistles, Lee Jefferson discusses the complicated and sometimes troubling history of early Christian depictions of Moses and why later medieval and Renaissance artists often showed Judaism’s most important prophetic figure with horns. Barbette Stanley Spaeth examines Paul’s reference to the prostitutes of Corinth (1 Corinthians 6), often interpreted as sacred prostitutes. The surprising archaeological and historical evidence paints a far less salacious picture of cultic life in the prosperous Greek city where the apostle spent so much of his mission. Finally, Jean-Georges Heintz reveals the broader Near Eastern context for the language, meaning, and symbolism of the covenant relationship in ancient Israel and the Hebrew Bible.

I hope that this issue of BAR serves as just one more sign that things are gradually getting back to normal. And the return to normal is also an invitation to try new things. If you have ever wanted to join a dig, this issue is your chance to start a new adventure!

Digging In: Celebrate Discovery

This year marked the anniversaries of some of the most important archaeological discoveries from the world of the Bible. We celebrated 200 years since Egyptian hieroglyphs were first deciphered, the centennial of the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, and perhaps most significantly for biblical archaeology, the 75th anniversary of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

These remarkable discoveries, which opened up entirely new areas of study and rewrote our histories of the ancient and biblical past, remind us why archaeology continues to captivate so many. A single swing of the pick or swipe of the trowel can completely transform our view of the past, revealing new, exciting, and often unexpected insights into peoples, events, and even everyday lives about which we previously knew little.

Just in time for the holidays, our Winter 2022 issue celebrates the latest discoveries—from the monumental to the mundane—that continue to shape our understanding of the biblical world. In “Mesha’s Stele and the House of David,” André Lemaire and Jean-Philippe Delorme take a detailed look at the famous monumental inscription of the Moabite king, Mesha, and the new photographic evidence that they believe confirms its long-suspected reference to the kingdom of David. Similarly, in “The Genesis of Judaism,” Yonatan Adler systematically examines the archaeological and historical evidence to determine when early Jews first began to observe the laws of the Torah—and reaches a surprising conclusion.

In his article “Enduring Impressions,” archaeologist Oded Lipschits highlights Judah’s long tradition of stamped jar handles, which reveals an innovative and remarkably durable administrative system that persisted across more than six centuries of local and imperial rule. And for those who have always wondered how Christmas came to be celebrated on December 25, T.C. Schmidt’s article “Calculating Christmas” examines an early Christian inscription that indicates the date was determined not by the appropriation of a pagan holiday but by the calculations concerning Jesus’s conception.

In addition to news, tributes, and our always enjoyable quizzes, Strata highlights the latest in Dead Sea Scrolls research, with an article by Christy Chapman and Brent Seales on the incredible technology that allows scholars to digitally unwrap and read the interiors of rolled-up and previously undocumented scrolls. We also interview Joe Uziel, head of Israel’s Dead Sea Scrolls Unit, whose team works to document, conserve, and make accessible the more than 25,000 scroll fragments recovered from the Judean Desert since 1947. And for the collector and travel enthusiast in all of us, Katharine Scherff examines a fantastic Byzantine reliquary that reveals Christianity’s long fascination with Holy Land keepsakes.

Epistles explores a broad range of biblical and textual stories and themes. David Fiensy looks at the early Jewish laws, customs, and traditions that governed Joseph and Mary’s engagement and wedding in first-century Galilee, while Jonathan Yogev profiles the mysterious Rephaim, mythical characters of a bygone age often associated with death and the underworld in the Bible. Aaron Koller then examines how ancient scribes understood the written word and the very different function that writing served in antiquity.

As we gather with family, friends, and colleagues this holiday season, we hope our latest issue provides not just hours of enjoyable reading and conversation, but also an opportunity to celebrate the many remarkable discoveries that continue to make biblical archaeology such a fascinating and thought-provoking field.

—GLENN J. CORBETT

Digging In: Passing the Torch

BAR has witnessed several important transitions over the past few years, and this issue marks yet another. Susan (Sue) Laden, the magazine’s longtime Publisher and the guiding force behind the Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS), is stepping back after nearly five decades of service to the organization (see “Celebrating BAR Publisher Susan Laden”). Her role now passes to her son Jonathan Laden, who has been BAS’s Chief Financial Officer since 2019 and has worked for BAS for the past 15 years.

Sue, along with the late Hershel Shanks and Sue Singer, created a rich legacy of publication excellence, making BAR the world’s top-selling magazine on biblical archaeology. Now it falls to us, BAR’s next generation, to carry on that legacy and grow the magazine and the society for the future.

This next step in BAR’s journey begins with our Fall issue, which includes all of the engaging, informative, and thought-provoking content our readers have come to expect. In the article “Yahweh’s Desert Origins,” archaeologist Juan Manuel Tebes reexamines centuries-old questions about the origins of Israel’s God and the archaeological and biblical evidence that suggests Yahweh first emerged in the desert lands south of Judah. In her article “Journey to Jerusalem,” Jodi Magness reviews the compelling evidence—from texts to tombs—for the many Diaspora Jews and foreign proselytes who made Jerusalem their home during the time of Herod the Great and his successors.

In their fun and instructive article “Taking a Sling,” Boyd Seevers and Victoria Parrott reveal the tools and methods of ancient slingers and the effectiveness of such a simple weapon in David’s defeat of the more heavily armed Goliath. And in “Magdala’s Mistaken Identity,” historian Joan Taylor offers a critical look at how an ancient Jewish port city on the Sea of Galilee came to be wrongly identified with the hometown of one of Jesus’s most famous disciples, Mary Magdalene.

In Strata, we continue to mark the 75th anniversary of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls with two fascinating columns that reveal the latest developments in scroll research. First, Årstein Justnes and Signe Hægeland attempt to unravel the mystery of thousands of scroll fragments that have gone missing since their original discovery. Mladen Popović then details how researchers use artificial intelligence technology to identify different scribal hands among the scrolls. Moving on to our latest Site-Seeing column, Jonathan Klawans takes us on a tour of Tel Dan in northern Israel, a site renowned for both its biblical ruins and breathtaking beauty.

Epistles offers important context for key biblical figures and episodes. Kristine Henriksen Garroway highlights the ancient Near Eastern legal background to the complicated marriage agreements made between Jacob, Leah, and Rachel in the Book of Genesis. Robyn Faith Walsh invites us to consider the Gospel writers not simply as eloquent spokespersons for early Christian belief but rather as trained biographers and storytellers who were well versed in the literary conventions of their day. Finally, in Text Treasures, we celebrate the Rosetta Stone, the famed commemorative stela that allowed Jean-François Champollion to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs 200 years ago this September.

Periods of transition always come with mixed emotions. While there is a certain anxiety about moving on from the familiar, there is also tremendous anticipation for what comes next. As BAR looks to the future, we are humbled to inherit the remarkable legacy of the magazine’s founders but also excited to explore new and creative ways to bring the world of biblical archaeology to our devoted readers.

—GLENN J. CORBETT

Digging In: I Have to Say, This Is Pretty Fun!

It is hard to believe a whole year has passed since I became editor of BAR, and what a fun year it has been! Every day, I wake up excited to be part of this magazine, always searching for new and interesting content or thinking through new ways to make BAR more engaging and accessible. It is an incredibly creative and rewarding experience that fosters not only a tremendous pride in the magazine but also a firm commitment to ensuring BAR remains enjoyable for its readers.

I hope that creative passion comes through in the fun and exciting Summer 2022 issue. Of course, this year marks the 75th anniversary of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and we begin our coverage of this momentous event with Charlotte Hempel’s article “Ezra and the Dead Sea Scrolls,” in which she explores the virtual absence of one of early Judaism’s most important figures, Ezra, from the scrolls found at Qumran. In “Moses and the Monks of Nebo,” by archaeologist Debra Foran, we jump ahead several centuries to discover the fascinating Byzantine churches and monasteries that commemorate the mountain in Moab from which Moses viewed the Promised Land right before his death.

We also get two views on the dramatic events that led to the demise of the Bronze Age world of the biblical Canaanites. In “1177 B.C.—The Collapse of Bronze Age Civilization,” archaeologist Eric Cline examines the various human and natural forces that brought about the end of one of the most interconnected and globalized periods in human history. And in “Pharaoh’s Fury,” Gezer excavators Steven Ortiz and Samuel Wolff present dramatic new evidence of the city’s violent destruction in the late 13th century B.C.E., presumably at the hands of Pharaoh Merneptah, who famously claimed to have laid waste to “Israel” during the same campaign.

As always, Strata is filled with the fun and informative. Two leading archaeologists highlight critical developments in Israel’s archaeology: First, Gideon Avni, head of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s archaeology division, answers our questions about the growing importance of salvage excavation amid the rapid growth of Israel’s cities. Second, Shay Bar, excavator at Tel Esur in northern Israel, highlights his project to engage Israel’s diverse youth in the country’s archaeology. Our latest Classical Corner, by Mercedes Aguirre and Richard Buxton, looks at the enduring myth of the cyclops and the various and often paradoxical ways that ancient authors understood this fantastic character of Greek mythology. We also offer news, trivia, tributes, and even a recipe for Samaritan hummus.

In Epistles, Dimitrios Papanikolaou examines the resurgence of the Psalms in Greek Byzantine inscriptions and these texts’ revelations about early Greek translations of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). Patricia Ahearne-Kroll then introduces us to Aseneth, the little-known Egyptian wife of the Israelite patriarch Joseph who fascinated later writers and became a symbol of Jewish independence from Greek and Roman domination.

So enjoy your excavation of the fun facts, incredible insights, and dramatic discoveries that fill the pages of our summer issue. In the meantime, we’ll be working with passion and creativity to bring you the next issue of BAR.

—GLENN J. CORBETT

Digging In: A Season to Refresh, Renew, and Reflect

Spring is the perfect time to refresh and renew, a chance to embrace new challenges and ideas and turn from the past toward new horizons. Of course, it is also when we observe and celebrate two cherished religious traditions, Passover and Easter, both of which have their origins deep in the biblical past. For our Spring 2022 issue, we’ve brought together a fascinating array of articles that provide both fresh outlooks on old questions and insightful reflection on the history behind the season’s holidays.

In the article “Piece by Piece: Exploring the Origins of the Philistines,” archaeologist Daniel Master examines the background to one of biblical archaeology’s most debated origins questions and presents new DNA evidence from Philistine Ashkelon that may settle the issue once and for all. Similarly, in “Jesus in Arabia,” scholar Ahmad Al-Jallad highlights an extraordinary new inscription that may not only offer the earliest evidence of Christian worship in the Arabian Peninsula but also indicate the Arabian adoption of monotheism centuries before Islam.

Proof Positive: How We Used Math to Find Herod’s Palace at Banias,” by Frankie Snyder and Rachel Bar-Nathan, takes a fresh look at long-forgotten flooring pieces excavated at the beautiful Roman site of Banias near Mt. Hermon. Using geometry, they provide an ingenious reconstruction of the floor’s design, which they propose once decorated a lost palace of King Herod the Great. And in the Biblical Archaeology 101 piece “Storage and Staples in Biblical Israel,” Tim Frank illustrates how, when studied in context, even ancient storage jars—the mundane Tupperware of their day—can open up new vistas on everyday life in biblical times.

The Spring issue also allows us to look forward to the upcoming summer dig season. In Strata, you’ll find a listing of scheduled digs for Israel and Jordan, as well as reflections from dig directors on how the pandemic has changed archaeological work both in and out of the field. In addition, anthropologist Allison Mickel reminds us of the critical but often underappreciated role that local laborers play in archaeological projects, while Yossi Garfinkel highlights two new inscriptions from ancient Israel, one of which might preserve the name of a biblical judge.

In Epistles, we explore the historical and biblical context for the sacred events at the heart of the season’s religious traditions. Barry Beitzel considers the biblical evidence for the location of the Red Sea, where the Israelites finally escaped the clutches of their Egyptian taskmasters, and Ben Witherington III reflects on the apostle Paul’s understanding of Jesus’s resurrection found in 1 Corinthians 15, the earliest discussion of the resurrection in the New Testament.

Our Spring issue also offers an opportunity to introduce the members of BAR’s new Editorial Advisory Board, who are listed in the masthead at right. The advisory board includes leading scholars and experts in the many fields covered by the magazine, and we look forward to gaining from each member’s advice and counsel in the years ahead.

Finally, on as a Milestone we note the passing of our longtime colleague and former Managing Editor Sue Singer, who had a formative role in BAR’s founding and early success.

Until next time, my friends.

—GLENN J. CORBETT

Digging In: The Perfect Holiday Conversation Starter

Like many of you, we celebrate the return of cherished holiday traditions, including coming together with friends and family for meals, laughs, and good conversation. But what to talk about? Thankfully, our Winter 2021 issue is packed with insightful, thought-provoking articles sure to promote enjoyable (and not too contentious) discussion around the holiday table.

The holidays always seem like the ideal time to talk about the Herods, the first-century dynasty of Judean rulers so reviled by the gospel writers and others. Our cover story, “Who Built the Tomb of the Kings?” by journalist Andrew Lawler, presents new evidence that one of Jerusalem’s largest and best-known monuments was initially built not for a foreign queen, as has long been supposed, but for Herod Agrippa I, the last of the Herods to rule over Judea.

And what would the holidays be without a good debate? We present two opposing views on the infamous Shapira Scrolls, the now lost manuscripts that surfaced on the antiquities market more than 150 years ago, proclaimed by seller Moses Shapira to be an early version of the Book of Deuteronomy. Ronald Hendel and Matthieu Richelle use new evidence about the script of the scrolls to argue they are forgeries, as most scholars have long suspected, while Idan Dershowitz and James Tabor present new textual and archival evidence that they believe proves the scrolls are genuine manuscripts.

Returning to a topic on which all can agree, esteemed archaeologist Carol Meyers explores our shared fascination with archaeology and the field’s unique ability to uncover past lives, from the monumental to the mundane, from the extraordinary to the everyday, in Biblical Archaeology 101: “Why We Dig.

Strata has several short articles on food, drink, and family—all so important to our enjoyment of the holiday season. Author and travel expert Mark Wilson takes us on a “Site-Seeing” tour of the Izal plateau in southeastern Turkey, where local vineyards are reviving the region’s ancient wine-making tradition and renewing interest in its early Christian monasteries and biblical sites. Religious studies scholar Kerry Sonia examines how funerary rituals, commemorative feasts, and memorials were used throughout ancient Israel’s history to affirm familial, communal, and even national ties. And in BAR’s Test Kitchen, try out a scrumptious medieval Egyptian recipe for sweet, flaky samosas, perfect for the holidays.

Epistles also offers up some tasty tidbits for discussion. Ben Witherington III explores the apostle Paul’s brief but puzzling visit to Arabia at the outset of his ministry, and, in a particularly fun piece, Elizabeth Backfish discusses how Greek translators of the Hebrew Bible adapted different forms of Hebrew wordplay to preserve the puns, double meanings, and alliterations of the biblical text. On a more reflective note, Jon Beltz examines how the peoples of the Bible and the ancient Near East personified the devastating impact of plagues and disease through the attributes and personalities of the various gods who were thought to control them.

So as you host friends and family this season, be ready to pass around your latest issue of BAR … It’s always a great conversation starter!

Until next time, my friends.

—GLENN J. CORBETT