Union University
Union University Dept of Language

Evangelogia



Biblical Scholar Forgets Wedding Garment for Marriage Supper of the Lamb

by JUSTIN D. BARNARD
Director of the Institute for Intellectual Discipleship

March 22, 2011 - In order to become a prominent biblical scholar in historical-critical methods, one must spend years learning how to ignore rather straightforward patterns of rational inference in order to inhabit the un-reality that is the “scholar’s cast of mind.” Consider, for example, recent claims by Dr. Francesca Stavrakopoulou, to the effect that “God [i.e., ancient Israel’s Yahweh] had a wife.”

A recent article summarizes her work. “Stavrakopoulou bases her theory on ancient texts, amulets and figurines unearthed primarily in the ancient Canaanite coastal city called Ugarit, now modern-day Syria. All of these artifacts reveal that Asherah was a powerful fertility goddess.”

The article continues, “Asherah's connection to Yahweh, according to Stavrakopoulou, is spelled out in both the Bible and an 8th century B.C. inscription on pottery found in the Sinai desert at a site called Kuntillet Ajrud.”

"The inscription is a petition for a blessing," Stavrakopoulou shares. "Crucially, the inscription asks for a blessing from 'Yahweh and his Asherah.' Here was evidence that presented Yahweh and Asherah as a divine pair. And now a handful of similar inscriptions have since been found, all of which help to strengthen the case that the God of the Bible once had a wife."

Unlike such highly sophisticated biblical scholars who have spent “years of research specializing in the history and religion of Israel,” those who have actually read the Bible would not view such archeological finds as the least bit groundbreaking. After all, given Israel’s own recorded history (see esp., the book of Kings), a history that Stavrakopoulou acknowledges, biblical archeologists should expect to unearth evidence of Asherah worship – even in cultic (i.e., temple) settings. Unless one is trying to get tenure by concocting a hypothesis that only the fabled Emperor with “new clothes” would believe, ancient Israel’s struggle with idolatry is old news.

To be clear, what is irksome about this kind of nonsense is neither the research itself nor the reasonable conclusions one might draw from such research. Thus, in the present case, the weight of historical evidence might warrant the conclusion that many (perhaps at times, a majority of) ancient Israelites sincerely believed in the reality of Asherah as Yahweh’s consort. But unless one is watching the “Neighborhood of Make Believe” with Mister Rogers, the claim that God, in fact (i.e., in reality), had a wife doesn’t follow from this.

In its blurb for the documentary “The Bible’s Buried Secrets,” the BBC explains, “Dr Stavrakopoulou subjects the Bible to radical, rigorous analysis, looking at it not as holy scripture to be taken at face value, but as fictitious religious literature with an agenda to cover up inconvenient truths.” The disclosure of method is astonishingly honest here. Start by assuming that the Bible is not merely false, but maliciously false. That is, start by imagining the Bible to be however you’d like. Then subject your imaginary world to “radical, rigorous analysis.” End result? The Neighborhood of Make Believe (a.k.a. internet news).

N.B. This is not an attack on fiction. As their penchant for C.S. Lewis makes obvious, Christians love imaginary worlds as much as their pagan neighbors. But the use of fiction (esp., the kind of fiction that inhabits the irrational space in one scholar’s head) in service of “strengthening the case” for “inconvenient truths” is pure balderdash.