Religion of Wednesday, 6 April 2011
Source: Dean Praetorius
This might not exactly be the version of the Bible you remember from Sunday school.
Early versions of the Bible apparently featured a fertility godess, Asherah, who may have been God's wife, at least according to one British theologian. Back in 1967, historian Raphael Patai mentioned ancient Israelites worshiped both Yahweh and Asherah, according to Discovery.
Francesca Stavrakopoulou, who began her work at Oxford and is now a senior lecturer in the department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter, is shedding new light on the theory. However, even if she's right, the Bible's editors may very well have wiped her almost clean from the document, reports TIME.
What remains of God's purported other half are clues in ancient texts, amulets and figurines unearthed primarily in an ancient Canaanite coastal city, now in modern-day Syria. Inscriptions on pottery found in the Sinai desert also show Yahweh and Asherah were worshipped as a pair, and a passage in the Book of Kings mentions the goddess as being housed in the temple of Yahweh. J. Edward Wright, president of The Arizona Center for Judaic Studies and The Albright Institute for Archaeological Research, backs Stavrakopoulou's findings, saying several Hebrew inscriptions mention "Yahweh and his Asherah." It's all a bit Dan Brown-ish, but apparently there are still a few signs of her in the Bible.
Also significant, Stavrakopoulou believes, "is the Bible's admission that the goddess Asherah was worshiped in Yahweh's Temple in Jerusalem. In the Book of Kings, we're told that a statue of Asherah was housed in the temple and that female temple personnel wove ritual textiles for her."
Whether the goddess was actually edited out of the document is debatable, but Aaron Brody, director of the Bade Museum and an associate professor of Bible and archaeology at the Pacific School of Religion, told TIME the ancient Isrealites were, in fact, polytheists.
Stavrakopoulou's books and papers have become the basis for a documentary series in Europe where she discusses the Yahweh-Asherah connection.