60 Years with the Dead Sea Scrolls Part 3

Our coverage of the 60th anniversary of the scrolls’ discovery comes to a close with an examination of the ruins of Qumran. Who lived there? Were they soldiers, ascetics or industrial laborers?

Out of Egypt
The Archaeological Context of the Exodus By James K. Hoffmeier

Every spring as Passover nears, TV audiences in America are accustomed to seeing Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments starring Charlton Heston as Moses and Yul Brynner as Ramesses II, the putative pharaoh of the Exodus. For millions, the images from this classic film have shaped their understanding of the bondage of the Hebrews […]

60 Years with the Dead Sea Scrolls Part 2

In this issue, we offer Part 2 of our coverage of the 60th anniversary of the scrolls’ discovery. We begin with a question—Who wrote the scrolls?—and then take a look at the prevailing theories about who owned them, copied them and hid them in caves as Roman troops advanced across the Judean Desert in 68 C.E.

Historic Homer
Did It Happen? By Edwin M. Yamauchi

In a vigorous denunciation of the so-called Biblical minimalists, William Dever makes a very important observation on a subject not directly related to the Bible: A generation ago, even a decade ago, Classicists and ancient historians would have dismissed Homer as a mythical figure and would have argued that the tales of the Trojan […]

Who Owns the Codex Sinaiticus?
How the monks at Mt. Sinai got conned

The Codex Sinaiticus contains the oldest complete copy of the New Testament—from the mid-fourth century. Originally, it contained the Old Testament too, but most of that is now missing. The Codex Sinaiticus is one of the big three—not Ford, GM and Chrysler, but Sinaiticus, Vaticanus and Alexandrinus—fourth- or fifth-century codices of the Septuagint […]

60 Years with the Dead Sea Scrolls

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls changed many lives—arguably, including mine (as editor of BAR).

Why Is Sinaiticus Significant?

Codex Sinaiticus, written around the middle of the fourth century A.D., is arguably the earliest extant Christian Bible. It contains the earliest complete copy of the New Testament. Only one other nearly complete manuscript of the Christian Bible—the Codex Vaticanus—is of a similarly early date. The only Christian manuscripts of scripture that are definitely of an earlier date contain relatively small portions of the text.

Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?

Most scholars believe the Dead Sea Scrolls (more than 900 of them) were either written or collected by a sect of Jews called Essenes, who are described by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus and the Alexandrian Jewish philosopher Philo. However, the scrolls themselves make no explicit reference to the Essenes. Scholars infer the connection […]

Dead Sea Scrolls: Who Lived at Qumran?

The various theories about who lived at Qumran can be divided into two camps, according to whether or not one believes that an intimate connection exists between the scrolls and the archaeological ruins. This point is particularly important because some of the scrolls are clearly sectarian; that is, they describe both the beliefs and […]

Inscribed “To God Jesus Christ”
Early Christian Prayer Hall Found in Megiddo Prison By Vassilios Tzaferis

In the late 1990s, authorities at the prison that sits near the base of Tel Megiddo in northern Israel decided they needed more room. Accordingly, an addition was planned within the prison compound and work commenced. It was not long, however, before the construction workers (prisoners) hit ancient remains. Work on the prison extension […]

And the Digs Go On

What happened last summer, when many archaeological excavations were interrupted by the Israel-Hezbollah war, is past. And digs are gearing up again for the 2007 season. This year’s opportunities range from digging at the almost 30-year-long excavations of Emmanuel Anati at Har Karkom in Israel to further exploration of the newly found water system […]

An American Monk in Sinai

HERSHEL SHANKS: Tell me a little about your background. FR. JUSTIN: My parents were Baptist missionaries. I was born in Texas, but when I was two, we moved to Chile. I lived there until I was nine. That’s why my accent is not a Texas accent.

The Dead Sea Scrolls: How They Changed My Life

In this issue four prominent scholars tell BAR readers how the scrolls changed their lives. Harvard’s Frank Cross is the doyen of Dead Sea Scroll scholars; his views come in an interview with BAR editor Hershel Shanks. In the pages that follow, Emanuel Tov, the publication team’s current editor-in-chief, who replaced the controversial John […]

The Dead Sea Scrolls: How They Changed My Life

5 Scrolls Still in Private Hands By James H. Charlesworth

The Dead Sea Scrolls: How They Changed My Life

The Quote Heard ’Round the World It was 1948—I was studying theology and the Bible in Louvain (Belgium) at a college run by French-speaking Jesuits—when I first read in the press about a sensational Hebrew manuscript discovery dating to the end of the pre-Christian era. In those days one had to take everything about […]

A Grand Cooperative Project

An investigation into the modern history of the Codex Sinaiticus is just one element in a much larger Codex Sinaiticus Project, the budget of which is nearly two million dollars. Of course the codex will be conserved with the latest conservation methods to preserve it for future generations. High-quality digitized photographs will be accessible on the Internet. A replica or facsimile edition will be published.

Nebuchadnezzar & Solomon
Parallel Lives Illuminate History By Bill T. Arnold

This article is an abbreviated version of my paper “What Has Nebuchadnezzar to Do with David? On the Neo-Babylonian Period and Early Israel,” in Chavalas and Younger, eds., Mesopotamia and the Bible: Comparative Explorations, JSOTSup 341 (London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002), pp. 330–355. The current debate over the historical value of the Biblical narrative […]

Dead Sea Scrolls Spotlight
The Temple Scroll

The Temple Scroll is the longest Dead Sea Scroll (over 28 feet, preserved almost to its entire length) and one of the most important. It was excavated by Bedouin in Cave 11 in 1956 (since then no more scrolls have been discovered at Qumran).

Golan Gem
The ancient synagogue of Deir Aziz

Of the approximately one hundred ancient synagogues from, say, 150 B.C.E. to 850 C.E. found in the ancient Land of Israel, an astounding 25 percent are located in the central Golan. How do we explain this? As it happens, one of the earliest synagogues is also in the Golan: the famous synagogue in Gamla, […]

Next …

When our 60th-anniversary coverage continues in the July/August issue, Geza Vermes of Oxford University recounts his work on the historical framework of the scrolls and the ideological similarities between the Qumran sect and the early Christians, and Lawrence Schiffman from New York University discusses how the scrolls have enlighted our understanding of Late Second […]

Assyrian Palace Discovered in Ashdod

As so often happens in Israel, so it happened in 2003 when the Israel Railway Authority was constructing a rail connection between Ashdod and Ashkelon, those ancient Philistine, now modern cities on the Mediterranean coast: Ancient remains were discovered, work stopped, and the Israel Antiquities Authority was called in to investigate and excavate. What […]

Lost Tombs of the Israelite Kings
Century-old Excavation Report Yields Startling New Discovery By Norma Franklin

This is the story of an excavation in Massachusetts—actually in Cambridge—more specifically, in the basement of the Harvard Semitic Museum. I was trying to understand the buildings in an ancient capital of Israel. I ended up finding what may be the tombs of the kings. According to the Biblical narrative, the United Kingdom of […]

Monumental Tombs from Maussollos to the Maccabees
Heroes of Hanukkah Open Era of Jewish Display Tombs

Modi’in was nothing but a hick town in the second century B.C., about 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem. But it was the ancestral home of the Maccabee family who led the successful revolt against the Seleucid tyrant Antiochus IV Epiphanes after he desecrated the Jerusalem Temple and forbade circumcision and Sabbath observance. Mattathias, the […]

Village Razed, Rebel Beheaded
How Hadrian Suppressed the Second Jewish Revolt at Horvat ‘Ethri By Boaz Zissu

The second–third-century Roman historian Cassius Dio claimed that the Romans destroyed 985 Jewish villages while suppressing the so-called Bar-Kokhba Revolt, the Second Jewish Revolt. I believe we have excavated one of those villages at a site now known as Horvat ‘Ethri, just 15 miles southwest of the rebel capital at Bethar.1 At the […]

Rising Again
Hi-tech Tools Reconstruct Umm el-Kanatir

In the rugged hills of the south-central Golan, a monumental ancient synagogue is rising again—literally.

Magic Incantation Bowls
Charms to Curse, to Cure and to Celebrate By Hershel Shanks

According to Dan Levene, an expert in Jewish magic incantation bowls, more than 2,000 of these fascinating vessels have survived.1 The vast majority bear inscriptions written in a dialect known as Jewish Aramaic and were produced in Jewish communities in Babylonia between the third and seventh centuries C.E. Precisely how they functioned, however, is […]

Losing Faith: Who Did and Who Didn’t
How Scholarship Affects Scholars

Several media stories recently reported that Bart Ehrman, a leading expert on the apocryphal gospels and one of BAS’s most popular lecturers, had lost his faith as a result of his scholarly research. This raised a question for us that is not often talked about, but seemed well worth a discussion: What effect does […]

Rebuilding—Step by Step

Preparation for the Umm el-Kanatir reconstruction project involved several steps. First, small electronic chips were embedded in the toppled blocks to give each individual stone a unique identification number. Next, using a laser attached to the crane’s winch, a three-dimensional aerial scan was taken, which recorded the position and electronic ID numbers of the […]

Is a Piece of Herod’s Temple in St. Paul’s Cathedral?

If you’d like to see what may be a piece of the Second Temple (Herod’s Temple), pay a visit to St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. I’ll tell you later where in the church it can be found.

Hadrian’s Hard-Won Victory
Romans Suffer Severe Losses in Jewish War By Werner Eck

The First Jewish Revolt against Rome (66–70 A.D.), which ended with the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the Temple, was chronicled by the great Jewish historian Josephus. Much of his Jewish War, which extends to 681 pages in the standard Loeb Classical Texts edition, is an eye-witness account: Josephus commanded the Jewish […]

Why Did Joseph Shave?

Everyone knows the Biblical story of Joseph (Genesis 37, 39–50). As a young lad he has dreams that predict his dominance over his brothers and parents. In retaliation, his brothers discuss killing him but instead sell him to traders who bring him down to Egypt, where he becomes servant to Potiphar, an officer of […]

The Mystery Nechushtan
Why did King Hezekiah of Judah destroy the bronze serpent that Moses had fashioned to protect the Israelites? By Hershel Shanks

After all, it had been fashioned by Moses himself a half millennium earlier—and for good purpose. In the Biblical passage that tells us what Hezekiah did, we learn of several other things the late-eighth century B.C.E. king destroyed: “He abolished the high places (or shrines; Hebrew bamot) and smashed the pillars (or sacred pillars; […]

How Jewish Was Jesus’ Galilee?

The pendulum is beginning to swing back again. Before 20th-century archaeologists began uncovering it, Jesus’ Galilee was generally considered rural Jewish terrain. Then archaeologists made some astounding finds. Excavations at Sepphoris, less than 4 miles from Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, revealed inscriptions in Greek, Roman architecture and some breathtaking Greco-Roman art, including the […]

Did Ancient Jerusalem Draw Water Through Warren’s Shaft?

In 867 the British engineer and explorer Charles Warren discovered a 52-foot vertical shaft, now called Warren’s Shaft in his honor, that for many scholars provided the key to unlocking the mystery of King David’s conquest of Jerusalem in about 1000 B.C.E.: By scrambling up this chimney-like shaft, which connected to Jerusalem’s water supply, […]

BAR Exclusive! Major New Excavation Planned for Mary Magdalene’s Hometown

A major new excavation is being planned for the hometown of one of the most significant figures in the life of Jesus. Often referred to simply as the Magdalene, Mary Magdalene came from Magdala, an important fishing community on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The site is situated 4 miles north […]

Is This Inscription Fake? You Decide

The famous Ivory Pomegranate Inscription: Is it a forgery or authentic? You decide. And let us know your decision.

Deconstructing Forgery

On January 16–18, 2007, the Biblical Archaeology Society sponsored a private conference in Jerusalem to discuss many of the ancient inscriptions that have recently been alleged to be forgeries. The participants included many of the world’s leading epigraphers and material scientists. Hershel Shanks’s fascinating report on this conference is now available electronically info at no charge.

Past Perfect: Shall I Go to Bethlehem?

As the United Nations was deliberating over a resolution that would partition Palestine and recommend the establishment of a Jewish state, Hebrew University archaeologist Eleazar L. Sukenik, was pondering the risks of traveling to Bethlehem to see an Arab antiquities dealer who had for sale some ancient leather scrolls. Hostility between Jews and Arabs […]

Another View: The Disappearance of Two Royal Burials

In the July/August issue of BAR, Norma Franklin describes in detail how she managed to identify two royal Israelite tombs cut into the rock beneath the monumental palace built by King Omri in Samaria in the ninth century B.C.E.a The palace and the alleged tombs were excavated nearly a hundred years ago by the […]

Past Perfect: A Visit to the Wailing Wall

Frenchwoman Colette Modiano has traveled through the Holy Land several times since her first visit in 1967. Her book, Turkish Coffee and the Fertile Crescent (London: Michael Joseph, Ltd, 1974;), describes the places she visited, the people she encountered, people’s impressions of her, and her impression of the burgeoning relations among countries in the […]

First Person: Jerusalem Forgery Conference
Not how to make them, but how to detect them. By Hershel Shanks
First Person: The Joy of Print
The Duel Between the Web and the Page By Hershel Shanks
First Person: Set Apart from the Nations?
Studying other ancient cultures can help inform our knowledge of Biblical history. By Hershel Shanks
First Person: Of “Curiosities” and “Relics”
Special objects that connect us to our past are important in themselves. By Hershel Shanks
First Person: “The Tomb of Jesus”—My Take
The backlash from believers is understandable, but why were scholars so outraged? By Hershel Shanks
Athens, Greece
Erez, Israel
Bizye, Thrace


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BAR takes a look back at some important events in history that happened during the months of May and June.
On The Web
Scholar Censures Scroll Exhibit
Nominations Open
Prizes Offered for ASOR Papers
On the Web
Lecture Series on Biblical Archaeology
In History
BAR takes a look back at some important events in history that happened during the months of March and April.
Boston University Names Newly Endowed Chair
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Special Collections
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Donatello to Giambologna: Italian Renaissance Sculpture at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Strata Answers
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James F. Ross (1927–2007)
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Three Faces of Monotheism
Cartoon Caption Contest
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