on one of my liberal magazines

I am just about through with my latest issue of Biblical Archaelogical Review. The magazine can’t really be classified as a Christian magazine, though the articles usually relate to Bible topics. The general editor and the vast majority of contributors appear to come from at best a fairly liberal position, which is to say an unbelieving position. The editorial pages are especially galling, and I have to remind myself that I don’t subscribe for the editorials!

The content of the articles is usually a fairly objective discussion of the facts along with argumentation oriented to one archaelogical theory or another. Occasionally there are liberal notions present and the galling dating system BCE/CE. I mostly am looking for background information concerning the biblical record from this magazine and on that score it delivers.

For example, the recent issue has an article on Joseph, asking a question about the passage in Gen 41.14 where Joseph is said to have shaved prior to his first audience with Pharaoh. The auther asks why would Joseph do this? The suggested answer is that the Pharaoh would be considered a god in the Egyptian system and as such could only be attended by people who were ‘clean’. In the Egyptian system, the priests were completely shaven, all bodily hair removed, as a sign of their cleanness entering into the courts of their gods (i.e., the temples, including the palace). The reference in Genesis, one I noticed again just the other day in my regular reading, is fairly obscure and perhaps isn’t intended to convey a lot of meaning. But understanding the context of this ‘by the way’ type of remark might cast some light on the whole story, including the relationship between Pharaoh and Joseph and contributes to a better understanding of why Joseph’s brothers did not recognize him at all. He would have appeared comepletely other-worldly to them, if indeed his hair, beard, etc, were all completely shaved off in his position as second in command to Pharaoh.

The previous issue contained a particularly distressing article on the loss of faith. Four archaeological scholars were interviewed, two who claimed to have lost their faith, two who claimed not. Given BAR‘s slant, it is not surprising that it appears none of these men actually ever have had saving faith. Those who claimed to have lost faith came from fairly conservative evangelical backgrounds, but their current testimonies show they never exercised living faith. Such stories are heartbreaking.

Resources like BAR can be useful, but they must be handled with care. There be dragons [of unbelief] there.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3