Wilderness Wanderings
Ethnographic Lessons from Modern Bedouin By Zeʼev Meshel

Does the narrative of the journeys of the Israelites in the wilderness have any authentic background? Could the wanderings really have taken place in Sinai? After all, as is frequently noted, there is a complete absence of any archaeological remains that would evidence their wanderings. Every natural environment, however, has its unique characteristics, […]

Nebi Samwil
Where Samuel Crowned Israel’s First King By Yitzhak Magen

On Tuesday morning, June 7, 1099, the knights of the First Crusade caught their first glimpse of Jerusalem—from a height near the campsite where they had spent the night. The Crusaders called the hill Mons Gaudii—Mount Joy, or Montjoie in Norman French. The Holy City had finally come into view only after a long, […]

Fit for a Queen: Jezebel’s Royal Seal

Thousands and thousands of seals and seal impressions (bullae) from the ancient Near East have been found, including Hebrew exemplars in Israel. Documents would be tied up with string and a blob of clay placed over the string; a seal would then be impressed into the clay to identify the sender and assure the […]

Solomon, Socrates and Aristotle
In Earliest Biblical Painting, Greek Philosophers Admire King’s Wisdom By Theodore H. Feder

Is it possible that the earliest existing picture of a scene from the Bible also includes the philosophers Socrates and Aristotle as onlookers? It is not only possible; I believe that is the case. The earliest depiction of a Biblical scene comes from a site that is perhaps better known to some for its […]

Digs 2008

For the Young and the Young at Heart

Exploring the Holy Land Close to Home

I have never been to Israel. But after visiting the Explorations in Antiquity Center just an hour outside of Atlanta in LaGrange, Georgia, I have a much better idea of what it was like to live there 2,000 years ago.

The Life of the Dead Sea

Millions of years ago, seismic forces where two tectonic plates come together formed the Great Rift Valley. Millions of years later, the Dead Sea was created in that valley—the lowest point on earth. Thus begins the story of the life of the Dead Sea. That life is now imperiled. Can the Dead Sea be […]

Did Captured Ark Afflict Philistines with E.D.?

I’ve always been troubled by the Philistine hemorrhoids. The Hebrew word is ‘opalim (Mylpe). That was supposedly their affliction when they captured the Ark of the Covenant and placed it before a statue of their god Dagon. The story is told about the Ark (sometimes called the Ark of God) when it was resting […]

The Shattered Crown
The Aleppo Codex, 60 Years After the Riots By Yosef Ofer

The Aleppo Codex, the most revered copy of the Hebrew Bible, survived intact for more than a millennium before it was ripped apart, burnt, stolen, secreted and, finally, rescued. On November 29, 1947, the very day that Hebrew University Professor E.L. Sukenik acquired the first three Dead Sea Scrolls and brought them back to […]

Inside, Outside: Where Did the Early Israelites Come From?

Before they settled in the hill country of Canaan, where did the earliest Israelites come from and what was the nature of their society? The Bible is very clear. They were pastoral nomads who came from east of the Jordan. Much of the scholarship of the last part of the 20th century, however, has […]

Shasu or Habiru: Who Were the Early Israelites?

It is time to clarify for BAR readers the widely discussed relationship between the habiru, who are well documented in Egyptian and Near Eastern inscriptions, and the Hebrews of the Bible. There is absolutely no relationship! The first appearance of the term habiru (also ‘apiru1) surfaced in the late 19th century in the cuneiform […]

To What God?
Altars and a House Shrine from Tel Rehov Puzzle Archaeologists By Nava Panitz-Cohen

Recent finds from Tel Rehov shed a bright light on domestic religious observance in ancient Israel and, like so many archaeological finds, raise unanswered questions, reminding us how little we really know. At 25 acres, Tel Rehov is one of the largest mounds in Israel. It is located a little more than half way […]

Judas Iscariot Among the Gnostics
What the Gospel of Judas Really Says By Birger A. Pearson

As we go to press, the National Geographic has announced the publication of a substantially revised edition of its The Gospel of Judas, which it originally published less than two years ago, in 2006. The new edition is not yet available for sale but has been made available to the media. It is clearly […]

October Quake Strikes Great Rift

On the night of October 13, 2007, a mild earthquake, measuring 3.0 on the Richter scale, roiled the Great Rift Valley between the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee. A similar quake occurred two months earlier.

Emmaus: Where Christ Appeared
Many sites vie for the honor, but Emmaus-Nicopolis is the leading contender By Hershel Shanks

AT DAWN THE TOMB OF JESUS WAS FOUND EMPTY. Later that very day two of the disciples, Cleopas and another unnamed, were walking on the road to Emmaus when Jesus appeared to them, but they did not recognize him. As they drew near Emmaus, Jesus went to go on, but they pressed him […]

Archelaus Builds Archelais
Herod’s son constructs a desert city that cecomes Pagan, then Christian By Hananya Hizmi

Herod’s son Archelaus was hated by his Jewish subjects no less than his father. Herod had left instructions that on his death leading scholars were to be put to death to ensure that there would be mourning when he died. This gives some idea of the attitude of the people toward him.

Decapitated Bulls in “Asphalt Lake”

Bovine-size blocks of bitumen sometimes float to the surface of the Dead Sea during periods of increased seismic activity. Although this has happened rarely in recent years (see photo of one such example), it was a common occurrence in the first century C.E., when Flavius Josephus wrote this descriptive passage about the Dead Sea […]

First Publication: A Newly Discovered House Shrine

A long, sometimes bitter debate has been going on in BAR as to whether Yahweh, the God of ancient Israel, had a consort. One of America’s most prominent Biblical archaeologists, William G. Dever, says that in popular religion he sometimes did. Others question Dever’s evidence, even doubting his concept of “popular religion.”a Another kind […]

Jordan’s New Dead Sea Museum

Visitors to Jordan should not miss driving the winding road from Amman down to the stunning new Dead Sea museum. The view from the Zara cliff, overlooking the sea toward Israel’s Judean desert, is itself reason enough for the trip. But there is much more to see.

Did the Essenes Write the Dead Sea Scrolls?
Don’t Rely on Josephus By Steve Mason

The vast majority of Dead Sea Scroll scholars are committed to the so-called Essene hypothesis—the belief that the scrolls (or at least those scrolls regarded as “sectarian”) were written by the Essenes, an exotic Jewish movement described at some length by the ancient Jewish historian Josephus.

A Temple Built for Two
Did Yahweh Share a Throne with His Consort Asherah? By William G. Dever

First Publication: A Newly Discovered House Shrine Should We Ignore Unprovenanced Artifacts? A long, sometimes bitter debate has been going on in BAR as to whether Yahweh, the God of ancient Israel, had a consort. One of America’s most prominent Biblical archaeologists, William G. Dever, says that in popular religion he sometimes did. Others […]

Lot’s Dead Sea Museum: Coming Autumn 2008

A new museum in Jordan will highlight the long cultural heritage of the Dead Sea region. Located near the southeastern shore of the sea, an area traditionally associated with Lot and his family, the Museum at the Lowest Place on Earth is expected to open in autumn 2008 and will feature indoor and outdoor […]

Ein Gedi’s Archaeological Riches

I have visited Ein Gedi, the oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea, a number of times. But not until I looked at this volume did I appreciate its rich variety of archaeological treasures.

The Salome No One Knows
Long-time Ruler of a Prosperous and Peaceful Judea Mentioned in Dead Sea Scrolls By Kenneth Atkinson

When people hear the name Salome, they immediately think of the infamous dancing girl of the Gospels. Herod Antipas—the man Jesus denounced as a “fox”—had married his brother’s wife, Herodias. When John the Baptist denounced this illicit union, Herod Antipas cast him into prison. It was Herodias’s daughter, Salome, who danced before Herod at […]

Why Milk and Meat Don’t Mix
A New Explanation for a Puzzling Kosher Law By Gloria London

I may have found a partial explanation for the basic law of kosher cooking, grounded in the Bible, of rigorously separating all forms of milk from all forms of meat. I am an ethnoarchaeologist. I concentrate on what I think Biblical archaeology does best: reveal the everyday lives of ordinary people in ancient times. […]

Sound Proof
How Hezekiah’s Tunnelers Met By Hershel Shanks

I’ve been writing about Hezekiah’s Tunnel for 35 years. (I can be seen with a long beard standing in my undershorts up to my hips in water in the picture of Hezekiah’s Tunnel in the standard archaeological encyclopedia of the Holy Land;1 the photo was taken in 1972.) A trip through the tunnel—from […]

Spotlight on Scroll Scholars: Dissecting the Qumran-Essene Hypothesis

Dead Sea Scroll scholars have sometimes ended up badly— as drunkards or in asylums. There is no denying that Dead Sea Scroll research is a stormy and dramatic field, an uncommon mix of great scholarship and crackpot ideas, of collusion and scandal, of passion and intrigue. For six decades, this highly potent mix has […]

Rescue Squad Organizer Falls 30 Feet into Sinkhole

It was near dawn on the day before Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, in 2003, when I decided to measure one of the recent sinkholes on the shore of the Dead Sea. Before taking the rescue jeep, however, I had to clear it with Noam, who was in charge that day of the Ein […]

The Messiah Son of Joseph
“Gabriel’s Revelation” and the birth of a new messianic model By Israel Knohl

A new inscription, recently published in BAR for the first time in English,a may hold the key to unlocking a new understanding of some of the history of Christian and Jewish messianism. Written on a stone 3 feet tall, the new text has many of the characteristics of a fragmentary Dead Sea Scroll, including […]

Saving the Dead Sea—Red, Med or the Jordan River?

The Dead Sea is falling about 3 feet per year. Wide swaths of beach and plant growth occupy what used to be filled with Dead Sea brine. Hotels and spas have seemingly retreated from the shores that once provided nearby access to guests wanting to float in the sea or smear themselves with its therapeutic mud.

The Nea Church
Were the Temple Treasures Hidden Here?

At first, it may seem like the fertile imagination of a novelist—that the Temple treasures were hidden in a church. And I can’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they were. But the suggestion has plausibility, buttressed by some fascinating history and impressive archaeological remains. I start with Procopius, the court historian of the […]

In Praise of Indiana Jones!

I went to see the newest Indiana Jones filma with two of my sons, and, to tell you the truth, I really had a good time! What can I say? Spielberg, Lucas and Ford still have it in them to put together a very enjoyable and stimulating film. And needless to say, as an […]

A Piecemeal Discovery

Although the huge barrel-vaulted halls supporting the Nea had been discovered by Charles Warren in the late 19th century, the long-buried remains of the church itself were first revealed to modern eyes by excavations of Israeli archaeologists in the 1970s. While excavating in the Jewish Quarter, the late Nahman Avigad found the northern apse […]

A New Dead Sea Scroll in Stone?
Bible-like Prophecy Was Mounted in a Wall 2,000 Years Ago By Ada Yardeni

IF it were written on leather (and smaller) I would say it was another Dead Sea Scroll fragment—but it isn’t. It is written on gray-colored stone! And it is 3 feet high and 1 foot wide! Otherwise, it strongly resembles in many respects what we have come to expect from fragmentary Dead Sea Scrolls. […]

English Translation

(Semitic sounds in caps andor italics) Column A

Hebrew Text

(Doubtful readings appear in thin letters)

Ancient Biblical Interpreters vs. Archaeology & Modern Scholars

Around 25 years ago, Jim Kugel and I confided to each other that we each wanted to write a book for the general public. We both believed it important to make scholarship accessible to all. As it turned out, we each wrote several such books. His newest is How to Read the Bible. It […]

Past Perfect
Two Camels for a Life

John Lewis Burckhardt (1784–1817), born in Switzerland and raised in Germany, was an extraordinary traveler and Orientalist. In the summer of 1806, he traveled to England, where, for two years, he wandered the streets of London in search of employment. He was ultimately hired by the African Association, which was seeking explorers to investigate […]

Rhodes, Greece


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Krister Stendahl (1921–2008)
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