MORE than a decade ago, Hershel Shanks, a Washington, D.C., lawyer, decided to take a sabbatical from his active practice. He gathered his wife and two small children and moved to Jerusalem for a year. There he joined a Bible study group, involved himself in archaeology, and wrote a book, ''The City of David: A Guide to Biblical Jerusalem.'' It was an instant success. That was the beginning.
By the time he returned to the United States, Mr. Shajks had decided he enjoyed his new subject so much that he would try to launch a magazine dealing with it. He wrote a prospectus and sent it to a number of businessmen, scholars , philanthropists, and people in publishing.
''I got one response saying it was a good idea,'' he says. ''Then I sent out another 25 memos to the same people thanking them for their heartwarm)ng response and telling them we now had enough money to go ahead with the magaziNe. We went ahead with no capital.''
Thus the Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) was born. The first issue was a 7 -by-10-inch edition of 16 pages. It contained one photograph - in black and white.
This year Biblical Archaeology Review is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Since that humble beginning in 1974 it has won an international audience of 100, 000. Observers of the field say it has filled a niche neglected by the scientific and technical archaeology journals. It does this by offering scholarly and accurate accounts of work in the Mideast in language lay readers can enjoy.
It also prides itself on superb reproduction of color photographs. In addition, it makes a point of highlighting amateur archaeology and carrying information about opportunities for volunteers to participate in digs.