The current interest in women in the Bible is partly theological. The wave of feminism has raised fundamental questions about the nature of monotheism, the sexuality of monotheism, and the gender messages it conveys. In the last twenty-five years or so, a new mythology has grown, the mythology of the Goddess, the Great Goddess, who was peaceful, earth-loving, women-loving, everything of perfection that can be imagined, and who was displaced by patriarchy.
This is a myth that is growing into a new religion. It has no relationship to historical fact, but it has become a foundational document and an orientational theology for many women struggling with the issues of how to maintain a religious consciousness when that consciousness has, for so long, been accompanied by cultural messages of unequal gender relationships and male domination in a hierarchy.
When we look at history, we realize that the myth of the Great Goddess is less history than psychology because, to some extent, it represents the wish of all of us to go back to the absolute peace and bliss we felt at our mother's breast and even before that in our mother's womb. The real world is not that peaceful; the real world is certainly not that blissful.
The last hundreed and fifty years have witnessed not only the development of many historical techniques for studying the Bible but also the development of the great disciplines of history and archaeology. We have discovered the ancient civilizations that surrounded and accompanied Israel, sometimes with animosity and sometimes with cultural interchange, on Israel's quest for a religious conception of the world. These are the cultures of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Canaan, the Hittites, the Edomites, the Moabites, and, to a lesser extent, the Greeks.
We know those languages now, more or less—our Edomite is a bit shaky, our Sumerian is still a little primitive—but we have their