Oxford scholar Francesca Stavrakopoulou claims in a new BBC documentary that God had a wife named Asherah, but most references to her have been edited out of the Bible. Stavrakopoulou says:
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 specializing in the history and religion of Israel, however, I have come to a colorful and what could seem, to some, uncomfortable conclusion that God had a wife.
According to Discovery News, Asherah was a fertility goddess who was worshipped along with God by some ancient Israelites. The Bible also mentions her being worshipped at Yahweh's Temple in Jerusalem.
American Biblical scholar J. Edward Wright says he agrees that some Hebrew texts refer to them as a pair, and there are still traces of her in the Bible — though perhaps not in all versions of the book. "Many English translations prefer to translate 'Asherah' as 'Sacred Tree,'" Wright says. "This seems to be in part driven by a modern desire, clearly inspired by the Biblical narratives, to hide Asherah behind a veil once again."
Calling Asherah "God's wife" may be simplifying things a bit too much. Ancient Israelites were polytheists, and as anyone who's watched 15 minutes of The History Channel knows, there are plenty of religious texts from the time that didn't make it into the Bible. But we're always up for a nerdy documentary about women in the ancient world, so when the series inevitably hits American cable channels, we'll set our DVRs.
Image via IngridHS/Shutterstock.