The Bible’s Buried Secrets [BBC] Episode 2 – “Did God have a Wife?”

Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou asks whether the ancient Israelites believed in one God as the Bible claims.

She puts the Bible text under the microscope, examining what the original Hebrew said, and explores archaeological sites in Syria and the Sinai, which are shedding new light on the beliefs of the people of the Bible.

Was the God of Abraham unique? Were the ancient Israelites polytheists? And is it at all possible, that God had another half?


part 3 coming next week

11 thoughts on “The Bible’s Buried Secrets [BBC] Episode 2 – “Did God have a Wife?”

  1. so what if she is an atheist? only the daily fail would try make this into a news story i am also an atheist everything she said is backed up by Israeli Archeological research:

    “The original god of Israel was El.” (Smith, 2002, p. 32)

    “The original Israelites were mostly Canaanites … and the original God of Israel was El, as the name Israel indicates. El was a high god of the Canaanite pantheon; Asherah was his consort.” (Doorly, 1997, p. 28)

    “But surely Israel was characterized by a distinct religion, long before the monarchy – think of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, much less Moses. For decades the idea of religious distinctiveness in early Israel has steadily eroded. Yahweh, it seems, is not the original God of Israel, but a latecomer, arriving from, of all places, Edom, and generally identified with the south: not only Edom but Midian, Paran, Seir, and Sinai (Judges 5:4; Habakkuk 3:3; Psalm 68:8, 17). The original God of Israel was El, not Yahweh, as is evident in the patriarchal narratives: the name Isra-el means “El rules,” not “Yahweh rules” – that would be Isra-yahu.” (Bellah, 2011, p. 287)

    “In the earliest phase of Israelite religion it would seem that religion was predominantly a matter of the family or the clan. The settlers of the central hill country lived in self-contained and largely self-sufficient communities … Family religion was focused on the god of the settlement. This god was the patron of the leading family and, by extension, of the local clan and the settlement. Allegiance to the clan god was concomitant with membership of the clan. The clan god was commonly a god of the Canaanite pantheon, El and Baal being the most commonly worshipped.” (van der Toorn, 1996, p. 254)

    “The shape of this religious spectrum in early Israel changed, due in large measure to two major developments; the first was convergence, and the second was differentiation. Convergence involved the coalescence of various deities and/or some of their features into the figure of Yahweh. This development began in the period of the Judges and continued during the first half of the monarchy. At this point, El and Yahweh were identified, and perhaps Asherah no longer continued as an identifiably separate deity. Features belonging to deities such as El, Asherah, and Baal were absorbed into the Yahwistic religion of Israel.

    … The second major process involved the differentiation of Israelite cult from its “Canaanite” heritage. Numerous features of early Israelite were later rejected as “Canaanite” and non-Yahwistic. This development apparently began first with the rejection of Baal worship in the ninth century, continued in the eighth to sixth centuries with legal and prophetic condemnations of Baal worship, the Asherah, solar worship, the high places, practices pertaining to the dead, and other religious features. The two major developments of convergence and differentiation shaped the contours of the distinct monotheism that Israel practiced and defined in the Exile (ca. 587-538) following the days of the Judean monarchy.” (Smith, 2002, pp. 7-9)

    Doorly, W. J. (1997). The religion of Israel: a short history. Mahwah: Paulist Press.

    Smith, M. S. (2002). The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

    Bellah, R. N. (2011). Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

    van der Toorn, K. (1996). Family Religion in Babylonia, Syria and Israel: Continuity and Change in the Forms of Religious Life. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers.

  2. Standard evangelical response: Essentially, this is nothing new nor was Asherah or other pagan deities a buried secret. I would also not trust an atheist to be non-biased about religion. Archaeology is an interpretative science, a soft science like sociology and psychology. It is not a hard science like math or engineering. For every atheistic interpretation of the archaeology there is a religious rebuttal and vice versa.

  3. that evangelical response failed to mention that the Israelites are Canaanites. Israelite culture develop among the Canaanites. Archeology is based on facts and evidence which involves field work. it is hard to be religious when you surrounded by evidence which disprove the bible

    • I think “failed” is a loaded word in this context. If the Hebrew culture developed from the Caananites, why does the Bible speak against many of their practices? Archaeology may be based on facts but the interpretation of said facts is what is of importance. The presenter makes claims which are simply false. The bible speaks about Asherah and condemns it, it does not hide it. The Bible unlike many religious books repeatedly condemns the paganism of the Jews and repeatedly shames the Hebrews (mentions cannibalism, homosexuality, child sacrifice). The presenter’s tone was condescending to the Jewish lecturer and she did not interview any conservative Christian scholars which to me is her attempt at stacking her ‘evidence’ while discarding dissenting opinion. Her use of a supposedly removed deity (Asherah) causing societal female subjugation is absurd. To take a name “El” and say that it means El Shaddai and is found in IsraEL is like making the claim that Jesus of Nazareth’s tomb was found because a tomb with said name was found and not understanding that Jesus was a common name at that time. She speaks in absolutes which for scholar is a big no no and it takes less than 30 seconds into the presentation for her to make statements of errors. This is a classic pro-atheistic BBC anti-Christian hatchet job. If you have to show a religion’s error, you have to do so scholarly, not using selected scholars and ridiculing tones. The general lack of evangelical scholarly response on this topic is testament to the flatness of her arguments.

  4. The Yawists based in Jerusalem see the Assyrian Invasion and the lost of the northern kingdom of Israel as divine punishment for worshiping other gods. in the bible Israel is treated as evil and bad while Judah is always treated as the better kingdom. I already placed the 4 part documentary series the bible unearthed with the same few weeks back which already explain all of that. you didn’t bother to go back and watch the documentaries. like the typical religious you only read the bible and christian interpretation of it, and get upset when you see something that disagree with your religion and attack a woman who happens to be an atheists who presented the evidence. so what if the lady is an atheist? get over it.

    part 4 of the Bible Unearthed show the Canaanites becoming Israelites

    the rest of the documentary can be found here

    • You are simply not listening to anything I stated. Most documentaries are of poor scholarship. The presenter is a theologian yet wants to interpret archaeology which she is not qualified to do. Yet you willingly believe her assertions which are laughable in most religious circles. She is simply using a gnostic filter to smear Christianity and Judaism. That said, Judah was issued judgment just like Israel (Isa 3, 2 Chr 24) for violating God’s divine laws. There is thus no need for me to look at any other documentary. I am also not religious but apply a strict pragmatic science (engineering) methodology to all truth claims. Archaeology as a soft science (just like theology) is interpretative, the facts are given meaning. Thus to have a theologian assert that archaeology backs up her novel idea (which is clearly not novel) is subject to skepticism. Rather you give her a free pass without any analysis of other views. When will you post rebuttal videos in proper scholarship style?

      I don’t simply believe for the sake of being religious, few people I know actually do this. Perhaps that is applicable to your country but you should not make assertions about those you are unfamiliar with. There are many interpretations of the Bible from Judeo-Christian, non-Judeo-Christian and and non-religious. For an atheist to assert that the bible is covering up a female deity and then have the evidence say otherwise is clear proof that the atheist presenter is a narcissist looking for promotion rather than scholarship and truth. I am over that she is an atheist, she could be a frog for all I care. My issue is her level of scholarship which is more a shame for atheism than anything else. You are the one hooked on side issues like my supposed fascination with her atheism and the supposed Canaanite origin of Israel. I made 4 statements which you could rebut but rather you insist that I am wrong because I did not watch documentary part 4!

      • Have you even read the second link? Do you even understand how theology works? I doubt you have a hard science background since you enjoy validating your opinions on super soft evidence.

  5. ethnic muse you are the one that posted a daily fail article focusing on her atheism a and constantly attacking her and the BBC over this so called atheism because she presented a documentary which does not agree with you and your so-called beliefs now you go on to complain about her scholarship and again complaining about atheism. your second link is a religious christian website i am not interested in bias christian writings dismissing stuff that don’t agree with them and their interpretation of the bible. this documentary HAVE NOTHING to do with atheism. and since all you do is whining and complaining about atheism and the doc and not interested in learning anything which does not agree with your religion i will disable the comments for this article. so don’t bother replying

  6. Pingback: Censorship and the lack of scholarship « Ethnic Muse

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