Hershel enjoyed the rare good fortune of being able to make a career out of doing what he loved. In his case, Hershel’s love was the intersection of the biblical text and the archaeological findings that either confirmed or called into question our modern understanding of that text. Although not himself a scholar (as he frequently reminded us), Hershel’s legal training and communication skills made him especially qualified to tailor the sometimes arcane work of scholars into findings that were accessible to the non-specialist. Watching Hershel at work—questioning and clarifying details—was very much like watching a skilled litigator cross-examining witnesses and preparing a convincing case for the jury. Hershel’s penetrating wit could occasionally prove nettlesome to scholars, although most supported his desire to dissect and evaluate contradictory opinions, and for this Hershel was a hero to his readers.
John Merrill is a retired entrepreneur and a past Chairman of the Biblical Archaeology Society. He has been long engaged in the field of biblical history and archaeology and has sponsored and participated in many archaeology expeditions and research projects. A native of New England, Merrill graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Business School. He is a recognized expert in international finance and economics, he applies the insights gained from doing business and advising governments in some 50 countries to the analysis and reconstruction of Judean history.
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.