First Person: A Magazine, Not a Journal

Our first directive is to report news about archaeology of the lands of the Bible to the general public; we are not a peer-reviewed journal written in academic jargon meant to be read only by scholars. When I was handed the reins as Editor of BAR three years ago, both Hershel Shanks and our publisher, Sue Laden, made one thing abundantly clear: BAR is a popular magazine, not an academic journal.

This means that the mission of BAR differs from peer-reviewed journals in our field. Their mission is to publish original research in the fields of eastern Mediterranean archaeology or biblical studies, and their articles are technical and often include sections written in foreign languages, such as German, French, Hebrew, and even cuneiform languages such as Akkadian. Those journals are, therefore, generally read only by professional scholars. BAR is different. And the reason for this difference is you, the wonderfully diverse readers that comprise BAR’s audience. You have a deep interest in the archaeology of the biblical world. To be sure, some of you are biblical scholars or archaeologists in your own right, while others are highly trained professionals in other fields. Although the majority of our readers are not professors, they are deeply familiar with biblical texts, with or without formal training. Not a few of you study the Bible and its world as a matter of faith. Above all, you expect to be informed, enlightened, and, yes, even entertained. The challenge for BAR’s editorial staff is to uncover sufficient fresh material for each issue to satisfy such a broad assembly of invested readers.

As a magazine with more than 120,000 print subscribers, and a fast-growing number of online subscribers, BAR is a happy anomaly in a magazine industry that has rapidly eroded over the past two digitally driven decades.

BAR’s mission is to bring the latest archaeological discoveries and interpretations to you, our readers, via articles written not by journalists, but by the very scholars and archaeologists making the discoveries. As a popular magazine, we feel obligated to report the claims made by professionals in the field, whether we personally agree with their findings or not. We aim to show all sides of archaeological debates. And we do this with high-resolution color photographs, charts, and diagrams that help illustrate these discoveries—something that many journals cannot do. When you add to the mix the variety of subject matter we strive for in each issue and the fact that we want BAR to be entertaining as well as educational (you’ve all read the letters to the editor, played the trivia games, etc.), readers are reminded that BAR is a popular magazine and not an academic journal. We even put a cartoon and a caption contest on the last page in case there was any doubt.

As a staunch proponent of public scholarship, I feel there has never been a more important time for BAR to be good at what it does—offer a balanced, responsible, reliable review of the latest debates and discoveries in the field of biblical archaeology. The world needs public scholars, and BAR will continue to serve as the leading outlet for scholars to present their archaeological and biblical research to the public.—Bob Cargill, Editor

Previous First Person Columns by Robert Cargill:

First Person: Unprovenanced Antiquities: Learning the Hard Way
First Person: What Does Archaeology Say about Effective Peace Treaties?
First Person: Where Is the Real Biblical Bethsaida?
First Person: Did the Kingdoms of Saul, David and Solomon Actually Exist?
First Person: Introducing the New BAR
First Person: From Shalem to Jerusalem
First Person: Misogyny in the Bible
First Person: The Gender Divide
First Person: Who Owns History?
First Person: A Little Jot on a Jerusalem Column
First Person: The American Bible Society’s Electronic Inquisition
First Person: Festschrift: A Celebration of Hershel Shanks
First Person: A New Chapter

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend