Why the BBC's New Face of Religion Believes God Had a WIFE

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), March 6, 2011 | Go to article overview

Why the BBC's New Face of Religion Believes God Had a WIFE


Byline: Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou

You might know him as Yahweh, Allah or God. But on this fact, Jews, Muslims and Christians, the people of the great Abrahamic religions, are agreed: there is only one of Him. He is a solitary figure, a single, universal creator, not one God among many

Or so we like to believe. After years of research specialising in the history and religion of Israel, however, I have come to a colourful and what could seem - to some - uncomfortable conclusion: that God had a wife.

Archaeological evidence including inscriptions, figurines and ancient texts as well as details in the Bible, indicate not just that he was one of several worshipped in ancient Israel, but that he was also coupled with a goddess. She was worshipped alongside him in his temple in Jerusalem. My interest in the Bible sprang from my fascination with my Greek heritage. Even though I was brought up in a secular household in London, religion was everywhere at home: storybooks retelling myths about the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus sat alongside Greek Orthodox icons of the Virgin Mary.

I pursued it at Oxford, where I spent several years specialising in the cultural and social contexts of the Bible. I discovered that Yahweh, the God we have come to know, had to see off a number of competitors to achieve his position as the one and only god of the ancient Israelites.

The biblical texts name many of them: El, Baal, Molek, Asherah. Despite Yahweh's assertion in the Ten Commandments that 'You shall have no other gods before me', it appears these gods were worshipped alongside Him, and the Bible acknowledges this.

Far more significant is the Bible's admission that the goddess Asherah was worshipped 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.

In fact, although the Bible condemns all of these practices, the biblical texts suggest that goddess worship was a thriving feature of high-status religion in Jerusalem. What, then, was her relationship to Yahweh? I attempted to track down this divine couple in my new BBC2 documentary series, Bible's Buried Secrets. Until the discovery in the early 20th Century of an ancient Canaanite coastal city called Ugarit in what is now modern-day Syria, very little was known about the goddess Asherah. But ancient texts, amulets and figurines unearthed here reveal that she was a powerful fertility goddess.

But perhaps most significant of all, Asherah was also the wife of El, the high god at Ugarit - a god who shares much in common with Yahweh. Given the evidence within the Bible that she was worshipped in the temple in Jerusalem, might she have played the role of a divine wife in ancient Israel too?

Strikingly, Yahweh is often called 'El' in the Bible and he performs many of the same roles. Despite numerous references to Asherah worship in the Bible, there wasn't enough evidence to link her explicitly with the high god of ancient Israel, Yahweh. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Why the BBC's New Face of Religion Believes God Had a WIFE
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.