Biblical Archaeology Review Magazine

30 Sep

Recently, I had a friend and brother in Christ as me my opinion regarding Biblical Archaeology Review Magazine.  I have been a subscriber to this magazine for several years, and he asked if he thought it would be worth subscribing to.  My response required me to pause and think about my response, and in so doing, I would like to include my response to you.

The Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS) was founded in 1974 as a nonprofit, nondenominational, educational organization dedicated to the dissemination of information about archaeology in the Bible lands.  BAS seeks to educate the public about archaeology and the Bible through its bi-monthly magazine, Biblical Archaeology Review, an award-winning web site, books and multimedia products (DVDs, CD-ROMs and videos), tours and seminars. BAS works to present the latest scholarship has to offer in what BAS views as a fair and accessible manner. [SOURCE] {edited by John Calvin Hall}

Now, it is important to note several things.  First off, BAS is non-denominational.  What this usually means is that they will not take theological sides with anyone.  BAS is not designed to be a theological magazine but an Archaeological Magazine that focuses on the era relating to the Bible.  The focus of BAS is to provide as unbiased and as accurate data as possible.  The problem is that it is impossible to be completely vacant of theology.  It’s like saying, “My article on ____ will be completely unbiased.”  We know that this is impossible because everyone is biased one way or another, and to claim to be unbiased only shows you are fooling yourself.

The second issue we need to face is that BAS seeks to be scholarly.  This means that the articles printed in Biblical Archaeology Review and other materials by BAS are focused toward the scholars.  For these scholars to accept the material, it needs to be submittable to what is referred to as Peer Review.

Peer review is a generic term that is used to describe a process of self-regulation by a profession or a process of evaluation involving qualified individuals with the related field. Peer review methods are employed to maintain standards, improve performance, and provide credibility. [SOURCE]

Sad to say most scholars, especially in the area of Biblical Archaeology and Biblical Theology are quite liberal.  Bear in mind, just because someone claims to be a Bible Scholar or a Biblical Archaeology Scholar does not mean they are saved, let a lone Biblical.

And these two matters are the reasons why I paused to provide a response.

God’s Word teaches us that we need to be discerners of the Truth.

Colossians 2:8
8  Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Ephesians 5:6
6  Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
Hebrews 13:9
9  Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.
Romans 1:21-22
21  Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
1 Corinthians 3:18-19
18  Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.
19  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.

Now, your next question might be, “why do you then subscribe to it if it is full of liberal and vain teachings?”  My reply is that much of the material that is in fact objective is good material.  Allow me to illustrate.  In my library, I own thousands of books, journals and theological magazines.  Among these books are Greek lexicons.  These are dictionaries that go into detail on Greek words.  Yet, these lexicons were compiled by some of the most liberal Bible Scholars that I know of.  Why use them?  because the raw data is good.  I praise God for the liberal scholars.  They are wired to seek after peer acceptance, and how they receive their peer acceptance is by providing demonstrably accurate raw data.

As a theologian/ scholar/ teacher, it is my responsibility to draw from the resources such as Biblical Archaeology Review and glean from this material profitable goods.  Here is another example of what I mean.

In the July/ August 2010 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, they had an article on the ruins of Jezreel.  The author (David Ussishkin) did an excellent job, laying out the story of Ahab and Jezebel, tying it all in with the report on what was found at the site.  Yet, in the September/ October 2010 issue another author wrote an article that I would view as being borderline blasphemous.   Michael M. Homan wrote an article entitled, “Did the Ancient Israelites Drink Beer.”  He opens the article with the following statement, “Ancient Israelites, with the possible exception of a few teatotaling Nazirites and their moms, proudly drank beer – and lots of it.”  Immediately I ask the following questions:

  • How is it that Homan knows that they PROUDLY drank beer?
  • How does he know they drank LOTS of beer?  How much is “lots”?
  • And how does Homan know that the only “teatotalers” were a few Nazarites and their moms?

Later on in the article, Homan borders on the blasphemy by insinuating that God Himself consumed a “six-pack” a day as per Numbers 28[1].  Do you see my point.  Rather than putting forth a scholarly article, Michael M. Homan winds up being nothing more than a P.T. Barnum putting on a dog and pony show.  Why?  I can’t say what this individual’s intentions are, but to me it came across as a lame attempt to draw interest in a half-baked article.

So, how do I answer my friend?  Do I recommend Biblical Archaeology Review or not?  My answer is both yes, and no.  I would not recommend the magazine to a new believer, or one who is not grounded in the faith.  I would recommend it to individuals who I thought might profit from the articles and had the spiritual maturity to separate the profit from the dung.  Many people write in letters to the editor promising to revoke their subscription because of these bad articles.  This is because they didn’t know what they were getting into, and they assumed that everything would be biblical just because they claim to be writing about Biblical Archaeology.  If you know what you are getting into, and the work that is required to draw out the good material, then go for it.  Biblical Archaeology Review is a great magazine.  If you are looking for a periodical that is biblically sound, then pass by this rag.

[1]  Numbers 28:7 mentions where strong wine (or beer) is part of the offering to God.  He falsely relates the Levitical offering system to the neighboring pagan offerings where the worshipers thought they were “feeding” their gods.  Just because strong wine or beer is part of the Levitical offering, doesn’t mean that God is consuming such.  God’s Word repeatedly condemns the consumption of liquor due to its effects on man.  I would strongly recommend that Michael M. Homan go back to repeat some of his basic Bible classes.


Posted by on 30-September-2010 in Uncategorized


4 responses to “Biblical Archaeology Review Magazine

  1. Doug

    5-October-2010 at 8:00 PM

    Thanks for the post. It is fascinating how one scholar can do an excellent and factual job then turn around and draw some wild conclusions in other areas that can only seem to be tied to personal prejudice and self interest.

  2. Nuke

    12-October-2010 at 10:33 AM

    I absolutely agree with everything you said regarding BAR. I was a subscriber for a few years and witnessed the same issues. Eventually I found that I spent more time down rabbit holes to uncover the profitable content within the articles than it was worth.

  3. Arthur Chrysler

    24-November-2010 at 9:23 PM

    Hi John,
    I enjoyed reading your mixed review and agree with your recommendations. BAR Magazine ran an article back in 1983 in which Dr. Yigal Shiloh, of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, asked for volunteers for the upcoming excavations in the City of David. I was one of the lucky students to go and the experience changed my life. My subscription remains intact and I look forward to each new issue (pooper scooper in hand).

  4. Alan Kmiecik

    29-January-2011 at 6:28 AM

    Can’t say thanks enough for your thoughts, especially the part on being unbiased. Given what you mentioned about peer review, I would venture to guess they use the BCE dung. That simply drive me nuts (yea, personal issues I guess).

    I found this article via search engine for the very reason you wrote it, to help people decide. Think I’ll pass.


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