Hershel Shanks, founder and former editor of the Biblical Archeology Review (BAR), the world's best-selling biblical archaeology magazine, has passed away on Friday at 90 years old. He dedicated himself to building an abundant archive of biblical archaeological discoveries for the public, according to the Biblical Archaeology Society.
After a sabbatical in Israel in 1972, Shanks became enamored with biblical archaeology, and as a result, he founded BAR in 1974, according to Religious News Service (RNS). He served as the editor of the magazine until 2017, and under his leadership, BAR became widespread and was enjoyed by millions.
According to RNS, the most notable contribution of his career may have been a decades-long advocacy for public access to the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered in 1947. Before his advocacy, a group of archaeology experts controlled who had access to the scrolls.
He was particularly interested in the scroll's potential regarding insight into Judaism in the decades before Jesus was born. In 1991, he published 1,787 photographs of scroll fragments that had never before seen outside of research libraries, and in turn, he was sued for breach of copyright, which was a fight he ultimately ended up losing, RNS reported.
Before launching BAR, he practiced law for 25 years as a graduate of Haverford College, Columbia University, and Harvard Law School, and worked for the US Justice Department, according to RNS.