Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | February 17, 2021

Remembering Hershel Shanks

(2 Minute Read. 17Feb2021)

Hershel Shanks

Hershel Shanks (1930-2021), the founder and long-time editor of Biblical Archaeology Review, died earlier this month on February 5 at age 90.

Shanks is best known for his pioneering role in communicating Biblical archaeology to laymen. He started the quarterly magazine Biblical Archaeology Review in 1975. He continued as editor-in-chief for 43 years through 2017.

Shanks graduated from Harvard Law School and worked as a lawyer for three decades, including arguing a case before the US Supreme Court. The magazine he founded was appropriately known as BAR in light of its initials and his legal background.

BAR is a colorful bi-monthly magazine that explains scholarly Biblical archaeological research in everyday language for a popular audience. Within ten years of its birth, the magazine had 110,000 paid subscribers. By the early 2000s, it numbered 250,000 subscribers.

Here is Shanks’ own account of the start of the magazine: How BAR Was Born.
A brief overview of BAR’s history by one of its early staffers and eventual publisher is here: Raising the BAR.

Free the Scrolls

Using BAR, Shanks initiated a public campaign to “free the Dead Sea Scrolls” starting in 1985. The scrolls had been discovered beginning in 1947 in caves near Qumran on the west side of the Dead Sea. But a small group of scholars had custody of them for study and had kept them secreted. After more than 40 years, only a few of more than 900 scrolls had been published.

The monopoly over the scrolls was broken in 1991 when scholars began publishing pictures of the scrolls and Shanks published two volumes of scroll photos. It made the scrolls available to scholars worldwide.

Freeing the Dead Sea Scrolls is Hershel Shanks’ own account of his crusade to open up the Dead Sea Scrolls to scholars worldwide. It tells of his adventures and conflicts with governments, relics hunters, and dealers as he fought to free the scrolls.

BAR: An Outstanding Publication

I have enjoyed BAR articles for many years as it covers archaeological discoveries with clear explanations, helpful diagrams, and full-color pictures. BAR delights both the mind and the eye.

Even though BAR does not take a “This is God’s Word” approach to the Bible, it does value and respect the Bible as a reliable historical source. BAR makes Biblical archaeology appealing and meaningful to the interested Bible reader as it supplements understanding of Bible times.

Questions to Ponder

1. What part of the Bible makes you curious about archaeological findings?
2. Do you have a “pet project” that could be applied to benefit Jesus’ followers?

Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.

For Christ and His Kingdom. Soli Deo Gloria. Alere Flammam Veritatis.

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Wednesday February 17, 2021 A.D.

The sum of Thy word is truth, and every one of Thy righteous ordinances is everlasting. (Psalms 119:160)

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