I’ve been toiling on a book review of Did God Have a Wife?, a ridiculously fascinating book on archaeology and Israelite religion by William Devers. I suck at the write, so my review probably won’t see the light of day. But a major focus of the book is Asherah, a Canaanite/Israelite goddess who was a consort to El to the Canaanites. Devers explores the possibility that Asherah was seen by the Israelites as a consort to their god, Yahweh.
Now I’m happy to see that an openly atheist scholar is getting media attention for popularising this very topic:
A leading academic has claimed that God has a wife who was edited out of the Bible.
Atheist Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou says that the Almighty, known as Yahweh, had a partner called Asherah who was worshipped.
The scholar’s controversial claims are being explored in BBC2 series The Bible’s Buried Secrets.
His wife was presented as a deity in Israel and someone who sat alongside him, according to journal articles and books by the scholar.
I excerpt the Daily Mail only because it’s how I discovered this, via a tweet from Roger Ebert. Yes, it’s a bit sensationalistic with the “OMG ATHEIST” angle, but I’m frankly pleased that an atheist “biblical scholar” is getting press. However, the article gives you the impression that Dr. Stavrakopoulout formed this theory about Asherah herself. Actually, this is not breaking news. Dever’s book contains a review of the recent work on the subject, and she is really just joining in what seems to be a growing consensus.
The “inscription” Dr. Stavrakopoulout is holding is an increasingly-famous artifact from Khirbet el-Kom (in the desert south of Israel), a vase which depicts a pair of humans locking arms, with the words “Yahweh and his Asherah” in Hebrew. Apparently proper nouns don’t usually take the possessive, so there is some debate about this, but Devers convinced me that this is probably referring to Asherah herself, not her tree/pole symbol prevalent in the Bible.
I have no idea when this will be legally available outside of the BBC broadcast region, but I will update this post.
A couple years ago there was a NOVA documentary also titled The Bible’s Buried Secrets, which this production is unrelated to. You should probably see both!