Pros: Great articles, pictures, and a strong set of contributors
Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) is the worlds largest paid-circulation archaeology magazine in the world (according to the Biblical Archaeology Societypublishers of BAR).
The magazine was launched in 1975 and is designed to publish articles and essays with a historical look at the stories of the bible, along with critical interpretations of the same. I have found the magazine to have a nice balance on both sides of the issues, as the magazine encourages two sides on interpretations and issues. The authors of the articles are generally the top academics, researchers, and archaeologists that range from Jewish and Christian believers to atheists. The focus, though, is on the historicity of the biblical texts and the archaeology of the biblical lands, not on the religious beliefs of any religion.
The magazine is edited by Hershel Shanks, who is the founder of the Biblical Archaeology Society. His strong editorial voice can be felt in the magazine, but he allows for dissent and opposing positions, which is really nice. Along with his editorial voice, the letters page is always a great read, as it continues debates from prior issues and allows readers to challenge to authors of articles, while giving the author a chance to respond in the same letters page. This allows for great critical debates on articles.
The cover is usually attractive, with a nice easy-to-read large font title. The main articles are listed on the cover in open space around the cover picture, which is evocative of one of the primary articles. The magazine itself is always lavishly filled with great photographs of the maps, locations, artifacts, and people involved in the articles.
The layout of the magazine is easy to follow for most articles, but it suffers from what I dislike in many magazines: articles that are cut and finished at the back of the magazine. Often times it is just a paragraph or two that finds its way to the back. I personally despise flipping back and forth in a magazine, as I like to read cover-to-cover, so I always stop reading at the continued on and catch back up later when I am near the end of the magazine. Except for that, the layout is crisp, easy to read, and is fairly standard and conservative in use of fonts, backgrounds, and layout.
Besides great articles each month about new finds, digs, and discoveries, I have really enjoyed following several debates between scholars. For example, the debate on the authenticity of the James Ossuary has been going back and forth for quite some time, and this is a great way to follow the debate in a public forum. Normally, lay-people dont have much chance to follow the debates of scholars, so I quite enjoy seeing how the scholars, politicians, and especially the Israel Antiquities Authority and others go through this process.
Final Thoughts: For those interested in the biblical lands, history, and archaeology in general, this magazine should not be missed! I read this magazine cover to cover each issue and always look forward to the next issue. I keep the issues for reference and some have helped out in Bible studies. This magazine is highly recommended!
The website is always full of great additions to articles, breaking news, extra articles, and great products for purchase. I recommend the visit!
Title: Biblical Archaeology Magazine
Publisher: Biblical Archaeology Society
Issue Cost: $4.95 US
Subscription: $35.70 per year ($13.97 introductory price)