When Washington lawyer Hershel Shanks published his first 16-page issue of the Biblical Archaeology Review eight years ago, a friend told him he would someday be known as a prominent archaeological publisher who also is a lawyer.
Shanks, now 53, laughed at the suggestion. But today his magazine, known as BAR, appears six times a year, and circulation has reached 92,000, almost as much as The New Republic. BAR has a full-time staff of 12 and charges more than $1,000 for a full-page ad, 13 of which appeared in the 80-page July/ August issue.
"It's like asking me to choose between my two daughters," Shanks snaps when asked to compare his two careers. And, no, he won't say how many hours he devotes to each. "I don't even ask the question of myself," he says. "I really have no idea. One does what one enjoys."
Most of BAR's readers are conservative Christians. But says Shanks, "We have no line to sell. We provide facts. The chief reason why people read us is that they want to understand the Bible better, and they want to know what modern archaeology and scholarship can add to the Bible."
Shanks' interest in archaeology began late in life and became a passion during a sabbatical in Israel in 1972.
Through all of this, Shanks has practiced law, handling court cases involving constitutional questions, as well as libel, antitrust and bankruptcy.
As a lawyer he is cautious, conservative, detached. As a writer on archaeology, he is contentious. He once lashed out at Dame Kathleen Kenyon, one of the century's great archeologists, suggesting that her anti-Zionism affected her archaeological conclusions.
Says Shanks, "I just love being a publisher."