Born in Our Living Room

By Carol and Eric Meyers

We have told this story before, but it bears repeating on this special occasion celebrating Hershel’s long tenure at the helm of Biblical Archaeology Review. Our friendship with Hershel, which goes back to the early 1970s, predates the birth of BAR. And in some small way, we like to think, we had a role in the launch of this important journal. Hershel and his family were visiting us in our Durham, North Carolina, home, and he was describing his vision of a new publication that would connect the general public with the many archaeological discoveries that were relevant to the Bible. He told us that he would call this publication a “newsletter” about archaeology and the Bible. We vigorously objected. That word seemed to denote a much more limited report than he envisioned. Our suggestion—Carol’s, actually—was that it be called a “review”: Biblical Archaeology Review. That title would not only better represent his project, but it would also provide an acronym BAR—that would reflect his day job as an attorney at that time. Thus BAR—or at least its name—was born on our living room couch, and it has grown and prospered ever since.

Hershel’s editorship of BAR all these years has been good for biblical studies and good for archaeology. It is hard to imagine an annual ASOR meeting without Hershel sitting in the first row, getting ready to ask the first question on a controversial topic. It is hard to imagine not having Hershel write an editorial (“First Person”) on a subject about which scholars have diverse opinions. His role in highlighting the creases and divides among scholars has enlivened the field and attracted the attention of scholars as well as the general public. Noteworthy in this respect is the so-called maximalist-minimalist debate, which still has no consensus; it would hardly have been so well known and influential without the provocation and stimulation of Hershel and BAR. We hope that the new materials that emerge from excavations and are featured in BAR articles will keep the discussion going for years to come, enlightening us all in the process.

So we salute Hershel on this milestone and recall with amazement and wonder all that has happened since that day many years ago when BAR was named in our living room. We offer thanks to Hershel for being the provocateur we all need and for his willingness to endure the criticism he elicits along with many accolades, and we wish him the best in his new role as Editor Emeritus at BAR.


Eric Meyers, Carol Meyers, and Hershel Shanks. Photo by Robert Sugar.

Eric Meyers is the Bernice and Morton Lerner Distinguished Emeritus Professor in Judaic Studies at Duke University.

Carol Meyers is Professor Emerita of Religious Studies at Duke University.

The Biblical Archaeology Society remembers the life and achievements of Biblical Archaeology Review’s founder and Editor Emeritus, Hershel Shanks, who passed away February 5, 2021 at the age of 90. Across more than four decades, beginning in 1974 until his retirement in 2017, Hershel transformed BAR from a relatively modest publication reflecting his deep personal interest in the biblical past into the world’s best-selling and most widely read biblical archaeology magazine, enjoyed by millions. 

We have collected reflections on Hershel’s legacy from some of his colleagues and dear friends. Many of these originally appeared in Festschrift: A Celebration of Hershel Shanks, the special double issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, published in 2018. Please enjoy these memories and celebrate Hershel’s contributions to the fields of biblical archaeology and biblical studies.

In Memory of Hershel Shanks Main Page

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