Hershel Shanks’s passing and the transition to a new editor is an opportunity for BAR to honor the past while looking forward to new horizons.
Like many of you, we enter this summer season both deeply aware of the incredible pain and loss our global community has suffered during the past year but also hopeful and optimistic for a return to a better and more resilient “normal” that will bring new opportunities and possibilities. This issue of BAR, in many ways, is a reflection of this unprecedented moment.
First and foremost, our Summer 2021 issue commemorates and pays tribute to BAR’s founder and Editor Emeritus, Hershel Shanks, who passed away in early February at the age of 90, having succumbed to a virus that has taken the lives of so many and affected the lives and livelihoods of countless others. Although Hershel of course retired from BAR in 2017, with a special double-issue dedicated to his life and career published the following year, his passing offers an opportunity for family, friends, and BAS colleagues and staff to reflect on just how much he meant to the magazine and the society he helmed for more than four decades. In “Remembering Our Founder,” we pay tribute to the Hershel we knew, the guide, friend, and mentor who taught us so much—about writing, editing, publishing, and simply being intellectually curious—as we worked to make his vision for a truly popular magazine about biblical archaeology a reality.
But just as this issue remembers Hershel, it also marks a transition and new beginnings. In the three years since Hershel’s retirement, BAR was ably guided by Bob Cargill, who continued the magazine’s rich tradition of bringing the latest archaeological discoveries and research to readers, while also featuring new and diverse scholarly voices and updating the organization’s publishing standards. Now, as the new Editor of BAR, I am tremendously excited to receive the editorial torch and steward Hershel’s founding vision for the magazine and the society into the future.
While you can learn more about my career as an archaeologist and previous experience with BAR later in the issue (see 5 Questions), here I briefly mention what a pleasure it is to help edit and produce this magazine that is enjoyed by so many. As BAR’s Editor, I get to read groundbreaking scientific articles and hear thought-provoking lectures that indulge my own lifelong fascination with the archaeology of the lands of the Bible. At the same time, the magazine allows me to fulfill a deep commitment to teaching and sharing knowledge (something I inherited from Hershel), using accessible, nonspecialist language and beautifully presented stories to communicate new finds and discoveries to BAR readers, who are always eager to learn more.
Indeed, in the best traditions of BAR, this summer issue has a little something for everyone. In “New Testament Religious Figures Confirmed,” Lawrence Mykytiuk concludes his popular BAR series identifying biblical personalities known through textual and archaeological evidence outside the Bible. Fittingly, this series was one of Hershel’s favorites and one of the last he solicited before his retirement. In “A Very Brief History of Old Hebrew Script,” Bible scholar Matthieu Richelle discusses the alphabet used in ancient Israel and Judah and how new findings suggest this script may have continued in use well into the Second Temple period and beyond. And in “The Curious Case of Noah’s … Box?” Shelley Wachsmann examines how early translations of the Hebrew word for “ark” may have influenced, in surprising and unexpected ways, ancient depictions of Noah’s fabled seaworthy construction.
I hope this fascinating issue is just the first of many that I will introduce. And, at this moment of reflection, as we pay tribute to Hershel’s legacy but also look forward to new horizons, I am eager to work with BAR’s long-time publisher, Susan Laden, and our extraordinary editorial and production team, to help find and shape the magazine’s future editorial voice. Perhaps somewhat reflective of my own personality, this will likely be a voice concerned less with stirring scholarly controversies and more about establishing guiding principles to ensure that BAR achieves and grows its founding mission to educate the public about archaeology in the lands of the Bible. As always, we hope that you, the loyal and inquisitive readers of BAR, will share your thoughts, ideas, encouragement, and criticisms as we continue on this journey together. Until next time, my friends.
—GLENN J. CORBETT
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