Monday, 21 March 2011

Monotheism and Judeo-Christianity

Monotheism, and the idea of a celibate God the Father,  lies at the heart of Judeo-Christian religion, however, news reports this weekend quote Francesca Stavrakopoulou, of the University of Exeter, and an atheist, who says “God, also known as 'Yahweh', had a partner called 'Asherah' who was worshipped.”
She says God's wife was presented as a deity in Israel, who sat alongside him.
Stavrakopoulou, who has a doctorate in theology from the University of Oxford, has confirmed she does not believe in God.
She says archaeological evidence, including inscriptions, figurines, ancient texts as well as the Bible, indicate that God was also coupled with a goddess. She was worshipped alongside him in his temple in Jerusalem, she says.
She discovered that Yahweh 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. It appears the other gods were worshipped alongside Yahweh.
The goddess Asherah was worshipped in Yahweh's temple in Jerusalem. In the Book Of Kings, it says that a statue of Asherah was housed in the temple and that female temple personnel wove ritual textiles for her, she says.
'What, then, was her relationship to Yahweh?' she asks.
'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.' 
In the article in Discovery News,  Dr Stavrakopoulou says further:
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.
Lord George Gordon Byron 1788-1824, in his poem: The Destruction of Sennacherib, ends with the words:

And the widows of Asher were loud in their wail, And the idols were broke in the temple of Baal; For the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword, Lay melted like snow in the glance of the Lord.
Referring to the idols that were present in the Temples of the Canaanites:
Jeremiah 7:18 says:
The children gather wood and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.
Jeremiah 44:17 says:
But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth to burn incense unto the queen of heaven…18 But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her…
Astarte, Asherah, or Athirat is was a goddess in the Urgaritic pantheon called “the creatrix of the gods (Elohim).” And in the Amarna letters   an Amorite king is referred to as the “servant of Asherah.”
Deuteronomy 16:21-22 says:
Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of the Lord...22 Neither shalt thou set up any image which the Lord...hateth.
Referring to the Asherah “poles,” in II Kings 23:6-8: 
And he brought out the grove from the house of the Lord, ...and burned it… and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people. 7 And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the Lord, where the women wove hangings for the grove. 8 And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense…
Thus even the Bible reports that the early Canaanites were not monotheists and that they worshipped not only Baal, but also Asherah who was the wife of the Elohim, the name that the early Hebrews used to name their own god, the one that evolved into JHWH, the father of Jesus. 
Strict monotheism was only devised in the era of the exile in Babylon and the subsequent rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem in the middle of the first millennium BCE. Thus we can see, the idea of the Creator God and a youth earth with a people who worshipped this single god for 3000 or 4000 years before the birth of Jesus, is simply incorrect.