What an idea. Who came up with that one? Francesca Stavrakopoulou is a theologian who’s been looking back earlier writings that suggest ancient Israelites had two gods they were worshiping: Yahweh and his wife, Asherah.
Stavrakopoulou bases her theory on ancient texts, amulets and figurines unearthed primarily in the ancient Canaanite coastal city called Ugarit, now modern-day Syria. All of these artifacts reveal that Asherah was a powerful fertility goddess.
Asherah’s connection to Yahweh, according to Stavrakopoulou, is spelled out in both the Bible and an 8th century B.C. inscription on pottery found in the Sinai desert at a site called Kuntillet Ajrud.
“The inscription is a petition for a blessing,” she shares. “Crucially, the inscription asks for a blessing from ‘Yahweh and his Asherah.’ Here was evidence that presented Yahweh and Asherah as a divine pair. And now a handful of similar inscriptions have since been found, all of which help to strengthen the case that the God of the Bible once had a wife.”
I wonder how well that idea’s going over. Rob Bell has been under a lot of flak on account of his new book suggesting hell doesn’t exist, and now there are people saying God not only had a wife but that men tried to erase her influence from history? States Stavrakopoulou,
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.
Later versions hide the goddess aspect of her by changing verses that name Asherah to call her a “Sacred Tree” instead.
“Mentions of the goddess Asherah in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) are rare and have been heavily edited by the ancient authors who gathered the texts together,” Aaron Brody, director of the Bade Museum and an associate professor of Bible and archaeology at the Pacific School of Religion, said.
Asherah as a tree symbol was even said to have been “chopped down and burned outside the Temple in acts of certain rulers who were trying to ‘purify’ the cult, and focus on the worship of a single male god, Yahweh,” he added.
Bastards. Who knows how radically different our world beliefs could have been had that pair of gods been allowed to continue as a faith system. Was monotheism really a better option? Did jealousy or superstition drive this alteration? Will bringing this up now change the way people think about their religion? Will it lead to anyone starting up Asherah cults? Will it be ignored?
Information presented in Stavrakopoulou’s books, lectures and journal papers has become the basis of a three-part documentary series, now airing in Europe, where she discusses the Yahweh-Asherah connection.
It sounds like something I’d like to watch at some point. Hopefully I remember to look for it.