Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel


William G Dever is the author of Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel (2005), as well as, more recently, The Lives of Ordinary People in Ancient Israel: When Archaeology and the Bible Intersect (2012).

In the Old Testament, the goddesses Asherah is quite possibly linked to the "Queen of Heaven" in the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah (circa 628 BC). Dever is not alone in making that connection. In 1967, Raphael Patai was the first historian to mention that the ancient Israelites worshiped both Yahweh and Asherah. The theory has gained new prominence due to the research of Francesca Stavrakopoulou (a senior lecturer in the department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter) - see more at Discovery News.

Dever spoke recently at Emory University, where he is Distinguished Visiting Professor, Lycoming College, and Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies, Arizona State University. He spoke on the topic of his, Did God Have a Wife? Here is a synopsis of the book from Amazon.
Following up on his two recent, widely acclaimed studies of ancient Israelite history and society, William Dever here reconstructs the practice of religion in ancient Israel from the bottom up. Archaeological excavations reveal numerous local and family shrines where sacrifices and other rituals were carried out. Intrigued by this folk religion in all its variety and vitality, Dever writes about ordinary people in ancient Israel and their everyday religious lives. Did God Have a Wife? shines new light on the presence and influence of women's cults in early Israel and their implications for our understanding of Israels official Book religion. Dever pays particular attention to the goddess Asherah, reviled by the authors of the Hebrew Bible as a foreign deity but, in the view of many modern scholars, popularly envisioned in early Israel as the consort of biblical Yahweh. His work also gives new prominence to women as the custodians of Israels folk religion. The first book by an archaeologist on ancient Israelite religion, this fascinating study critically reviews virtually all of the archaeological literature of the past generation, while also bringing fresh evidence to the table. Though Dever digs deep into the past, his discussion is extensively illustrated, unencumbered by footnotes, and vivid with colorful insights. Meant for professional and general audiences alike, Did God Have a Wife? is sure to spur wide and passionate debate.


Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel

Published on Apr 1, 2014


William G. Dever, Distinguished Visiting Professor, Lycoming College, and Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies, Arizona State University, presents the 2014 Tenenbaum Lecture (February 3, 2014). His illustrated lecture showcases recent archaeological evidence that reveals the differences in beliefs and practices of ordinary people in ancient Israel compared to the elitist, idealist portrait in the Bible, particularly the ongoing veneration of the Canaanite Goddess Asherah.

~ The Tenenbaum Family Lectureship in Judaic Studies salutes the family of the late Meyer W. Tenenbaum '31C-'32L of Savannah, Georgia. Past lectures can found here.
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