Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel

Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel

Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel

Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel

Excerpt

This is a book about ordinary people in ancient Israel and their everyday religious lives, not about the extraordinary few who wrote and edited the Hebrew Bible. It is also a book for ordinary people today who know instinctively that "religion" is about experience, not about the doctrines of scholars, theologians, and clerics who study religion dispassionately and claim authority. My concern in this book is popular religion, or, better, "folk religion" in all its variety and vitality.

This is a book that, although it hopes to be true to the facts we know, does not attempt objectivity; for that is impossible and perhaps even undesirable. One can understand religion only from within, or at least from a sympathetic viewpoint. As an archaeologist, I shall try to describe the religions of ancient Israel — not theoretically, from the top down, as it were, but practically, "from the bottom up," from the evidence on the ground.

This is a book mostly about the practice of religion, not about belief, much less theology. It is concerned with what religion actually does, not with what religionists past or present think that it should do. Beliefs matter, for they are the wellspring of action; and theological formulations may be helpful or even necessary for some. But archaeologists are more at home with the things that past peoples made, used, and discarded or reused, and what these artifacts reveal about their behavior, than they are with speculations about what these people thought that they were doing. As Lewis Binford reminds us, "archaeologists are poorly equipped to be paleo-psychologists. . . ."

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