The First Couple: Yahweh and Asherah

by VorJack
Marriage in the Bible, Part 1

Whenever the topic of biblical marriage comes up, I always think of the first couple of the bible. That happy loving couple that proceeds all others: YHWH and Asherah.

The Name Game

Pullquote: YHWH originally had a consor — Asherah, a fertility goddess with a sweet tooth.

Yes, YHWH originally had a consort. Exactly how it happened is hard to say (there was alcohol, that trip to Vegas…). The best guess is that we’re seeing a divide between the folk religion and the more rarefied religion of the priests. The early Israelites likely had a popular religion that maintained a lot of the old religions from Canaan and the surrounding regions.

This folk religion seemed to have a place for the gods Baal and El. Baal was the Canaanite god of thunder, lightning and rain. El was the supreme Canaanite deity. But gods are fluid things. Over time, the distinctions between gods can fade. It looks like Baal may have supplanted El, and then YHWH supplanted Baal, as depicted in Judges and Isaiah.

During this process YHWH picked up the characteristics of his two rivals. The word Baal became a title, meaning “lord” or “master.” El became a generic word for God, which shows up even in the name of the nation: Isra-El. YHWH became the supreme deity, and as part of the spoils he gained a consort: Asherah, the wife of the supreme deity.

So who was this “Asherah”? She was probably a mother goddess, with the usual implications of fertility. She was symbolized by a pole, perhaps a stylized tree, that stood beside the alter of Baal or YHWH. While her consort got animal sacrifices, Asherah got offerings of cakes (Jeremiah 7:18). Apparently she had a sweet tooth.

A Messy Break-Up

It’s hard to pin down when all of this happened. It doesn’t help that the names of the gods became generic terms. Even the word Asherah came to mean the sacred groves where the gods were sometimes worshiped. So an 8th century BCE inscription refers to “YHVH of Samaria and his Asherah.” Does this mean that Asherah was still worshiped as YHWH’s consort, or does it somehow refer to the shrine of YHWH?

One thing does seem clear: the fall of Northern Israel to the Assyrians in the 8th century put the fear of some God into the rulers of the comparatively small kingdom of Judah. Seeing your larger, more successful sibling get wiped out will do that to you. In the late 7th century, King Josiah decided that he’d had enough of the polytheism stuff and engages in drastic reforms:

“And he brought out the Ashe’rah from the house of the LORD, outside Jerusalem, to the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and beat it to dust and cast the dust of it upon the graves of the common people.” (2 Kings 23:6)

Josiah cleared out the temple, kicked out the temple prostitutes, destroyed the mountaintop alters outside of Jerusalem, and “rediscovered” the book of monotheistic law that became Deuteronomy. Having finally made Israel right with God, he promptly gets executed by the Egyptians. A generation after his reforms, Judah falls to the Babylonians.

menorahThe survivors are understandably cranky. They give the Prophet Jeremiah a piece of their minds, referring to Asherah as the “Queen of Heaven”:

“As for the word which you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we will not listen to you. But we will do everything that we have vowed, burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out libations to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; for then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no evil. But since we left off burning incense to the queen of heaven and pouring out libations to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.” (Jer. 44:16-18)

Not an auspicious start to biblical relationships. Asherah didn’t completely disappear, however. When Moses is instructed by God to make a menorah to light the temple, it is described as a stylized almond tree (Exodus 25.31-39). The biblical historian Margaret Barker suspects that this sacred tree figure was one of the symbols of Asherah. So the menorah may be one last lingering trace of the bible’s first couple.

Vorjack is a librarian/archivist and a public historian, living with his wife in history-soaked Albany, New York.

  • Confused

    Two questions on an interesting topic:

    1. What’s the evidence? I appreciate that ancient myths and legends have to be painstakingly pieced together and require a good deal of interpretation, but I’m curious where this interpretation comes from, and whether there are any other valid ones…

    2. I guess when you say 8thC you mean 800BCE, rahter than 800CE…

    • cypressgreen

      here’s something…
      Archaeological Evidence

      The following is summarised from The Bible Unearthed by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, and concerns worship of the goddess Asherah:

      Among the many objects discovered at Kuntillet Ajrud were two large, splintered, pithoi or storage jars. Each pithos contained drawings in red and black ink accompanied by religious inscriptions written in Hebrew, which scholars have translated with reasonable consistency.

      Pithos A seems to be a dedicatory inscription and reads, in part: “I bless you by Yahweh, our guardian, and by his Asherah”.
      A second pithos is nearly identical, including: “Amaryau says: Say to my lord X: I bless you by Yahweh (our guardian), and by his Asherah”.
      One of the inscriptions that Dever found on the base wall of a tomb at Makkedah, dated to 750-700 BCE, reads: “May Uriyahu be blessed by Yahweh my guardian and by his Asherah. Save him.”
      Archaeologists have discovered thousands of terra cotta fertility figurines from the pre-Exilic period. They are almost all female and often found in contexts indicating that they were personal items. Their enlarged breasts, exaggerated pubic triangles and pregnant abdomens indicate they may have been cult objects of the “mother goddess”, Asherah.

      Finkelstein and Silberman go on to say that Asherah “must, then, have been a legitimate part of the cult of Yahweh”, since the Bible says that a statue of Asherah stood in the Solomonic temple in Jerusalem for about two-thirds of its existence. They say that, even after the time of Josiah, figurines of a standing woman holding her breasts and generally identified with Asherah continued in abundance in private dwellings.

      • Confused

        Thanks. I guess it’s my scientist training, but I can’t help but feel a little skeptical when I hear a someone present a prehistorical story as “just like this” – I want to see where it came from, what the evidence is. I guess I want to know in case I recite it to someone else and they ask a question about it – I want to know which bits are definite and which bits are interpretation.

        Archaeologists have discovered thousands of terra cotta fertility figurines from the pre-Exilic period.

        I didn’t know that. That’s pretty awesome. :)

  • lurker111

    Here’s a link to an interesting article on the melding of the two aspects of Israelite religion during the Babylonian exile. First few paragraphs are a bit dry; then it gets interesting:

    http://www.georgeleonard.com/yahweh.html

  • ungullible

    PBS had a wonderful 2hr documentary called The Bible’s Buried Secrets that also discussed Yahweh’s wife. The focus of the film is the archeological evidence for the formation of the nation of Israel. It discusses evidence for the evolution of this nation’s religion from polytheism to monotheism. I highly recommend it! You can view it online at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/bible/ or perhaps check it out from your library, netflix, torrents, etc.

    • Logan

      Christianity is still polytheistic. They like to try to rationalize god/jesus/holy spirit into a “tri-unity” or some garbage as if a monotheistic religion is somehow less delusional and offensive than a polytheistic one. The fewer gods, the better? How about none?

      • Chris

        The Trinity idea is much like a masculine form of the Pagan idea of the three aspects of the Goddess being Mother, Maiden, and Crone.

        Just a point to think on

  • Lorette

    I always enjoy your interesting excursions into mythology- the topic has always been utterly fascinating for me, and I always enjoy most the stuff before classical mythology. It is, after all the foundation, and it blows me away how people the world over had similar stories to explain the sky and volcanoes and plagues and birth and death and so on.

    it is a sick and horrible shame that so much evidence or history of our stories has been destroyed. The reason many, many parts of history have been erased is because one religion has destroyed the artifacts and books of another. It is even amazing that stuff like Ovid made it through. The early church fathers made much of their delight and joy that all texts of ‘pagans’ had been destroyed.

    What’s even worse is that the history of civilization, to our knowledge so far, is from Mesopotamia, Sumer, the Middle East, Egypt etc. Iraq and Iran are the cradle of civilization, and here is where archeology could continue to find temples and books and statues and plates that tell us about life before the Old Testament. But both of the main monotheisms have and may destroy new things as they are found, if they infringe on the world’s current understanding of God.

    I am sure you already know Jonathan Kirsch, and readers of this blog may enjoy his work on religion and history, for he takes dense stuff and makes it lively and digestible for the lay reader, assuming our intelligence and need for some humour as well. In God Against the Gods he tells of a recent archeology find at Kuntillat ‘Ajrud. A large ceramic jar from around 900 BCE was found, inscribed “I bless thee by Yawheh and by his Asherah.”

    Asherah was the Hebrew name for the original goddess,possibly from the Iranian asha or ‘universal law.’ In Sumer, she may have been Ashnan. Most OT references refer to her as a ‘grove’ – a reference to the sacred grove of polytheist cultures, the birthplace of all things. In Egypt, Ashesh was the ‘law giving mother’ and yonic shrines in Thebes for Asher represented “The lady of heaven.”

    For a period, Asherah accepted the Semitic God El as her consort. They had twins, the stars of morning and of evening. One of these was Lucifer, another pagan story to be revived and still revered today.

  • cypressgreen

    Anyone – what do the fundamentalist christians say about the archaeological evidence?

    There’s a lot of ‘biblical archaelogy’ going on to try to ‘prove’ the bible…do they just toss out whatever doesn’t agree?

    • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

      To answer your question, no. No one throws out the evidence. The difference would be how it’s interpreted.

      • rodneyAnonymous

        Erm, the answer is “yes, definitely yes”… for instance, the Answers in Genesis “Statement of Faith” says, among other things:

        …no apparent, perceived, or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record.

        • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

          I should have been more clear. Even groups such as this group don’t just throw it out. They explain it away, but they don’t completely ignore it either.

          • rodneyAnonymous

            So they don’t throw it out, they just declare it invalid? I see.

      • andy

        there’s a difference between the descriptive and the prescriptive. i consider myself an evangelical christian, and am quite willing to admit that the israelites did worship Yahweh and at times (or frequently) in history considered Asherah to be his consort. if you look at the scriptural record though, that is always seen as a bad thing, a corruption or straying from the faith.

        in 5,000 years people may find evidence that there was a considerable amount of murder that happened during our days. would they be right to assume that such practice was an acceptable part of society or religion? obviously not! within religions there is always a degree of noncomformity on various issues (sometimes more intentional than others)–but those exceptions should not be used to reconstruct a “reality” of the entire religion.

        if you want to know what the early jews believed, look at the doctrinal professions they made in their most widely-accepted sacred writings, not at what some parts or periods of their culture practiced.

  • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

    Vorjack,

    Would you mind sharing your sources for this?

    • vorjack

      Let’s see, most of this is from memory, but the archeologist William Dever deals with most of it in his work Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel. There’s also a wikipedia page for the book.

      In Harvard professor James Kugel’s How To Read the Bible, chapter 24, deals with the connections between Baal, El and YHWH. Excellent book all around.

      Dr. Bob Price has talked about it several times in his “Bible Geek” podcast. Unfortunately, I can’t find the specific episodes. I’ll keep looking.

      As cypressgreen pointed out, The Bible Unearthed, by Israel Finklestein and Neil Asher Silberman, is also an excellent discussion of Ancient Near East archeology.

      I linked to the presentation by Margaret Barker, “What did King Josiah Reform?”, which she gave at Brigham Young. Apparently, the LDS Church likes some of her thoughts on early Jewish polytheism. Why, I dunno. But she’s got a more general website here.

      • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

        Thanks! I figured you had a good bib of sorts. I’m going to add this to my List of things I want to research someday list.

      • timothy mark

        Thanks for the info Vorjak good stuff.

    • MoonWind Dancer

      Dr. William Dever had a lecture ; “Did God Have A Wife?”

      It’s on U-Tube, a 3-part series…

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0eL8K_PYAk&playnext_from=TL&videos=dDuhUt_-ZMY

      (This is part one)

      • YHWHisPraised

        thank you for the links and info. Last year, through Ruach HaKodesh, Y-h revealed to me His wife. I thought I was being blasphemous because I started asking questions through my bible study. I prayed for forgiveness because of Christian indoctrination. This year I was led by Y-h to his a wife. HALLELUYAH. He is real! Thank you and Y-h bless!!!

  • LRA

    Fascinating stuff! As always, thank you Vorjack!!! :)

    • 2-D Man

      I have to second that. Good job, VorJack!

  • timothy mark

    As always I am intrigued by the manner in which words of the Bible can be interpreted by free thinkers and fundamentalists. Anyone is able to cherry-pick as they please and offer tantalizing conjecture surrounded by enough historical content to bolster positions personally, and presumably in the mind of another.
    There is no specified period when man, (existing in whatever state of evolution), transitioned from pure maminal instinct, (survival of the fittest), mode and began to express awe and wonderment of nature. Was it harsh experience that transformed thoughts, manifested contemplation of good and evil? In a purely terrifying physical sense, what allowed the imagination of supernatural beings capable of manipulation or appeasement through ritual. Or did it come about through some sort of revelation? Simultaneously, assigning occurance of man developing philosphical moral standards,( right and wrong) represents a similiarl difficult proposition. And how were the two morphed together?
    What C.S. Lewis refers to as the “Numinous” experience (awe), and moral experience (ethics) could exist within a pagan civilization and have little to do with each other. ” A stage in religious development arises when men identify the “Power” of the awe to which they feel is made the “Guardian” of the morality to which they feel an obligation”. There existed then as today, moral inhabitants without aid of religion or icons and conquering immoral tribes consumed with religious ritual. But the Hebrew tribe was chosen first, to receive the love, grace and power of a Single God and combine, “awe” of His Omnipotence and the source of “ethics” objective morality into the foundation for a culture of faith.
    Faith has me that revelations occured numerous times through action, miracle, design and prophet regarding God’s potential jealousy, anger and retribution. Given the multitude of pagan beliefs existing within the region, Hebrews were admonished to remain separated and pure less they become tainted and thus condemned. Severe penalty was administered and still they remained defiantly disobediant. Kings succumbed to abominable temptations and false teachings prior to Josiah and sacrificed their own sons by fire to appease false idols..
    It comes as no surprise that a false, mother of heaven pagan symbol should be described in this mix. The retribution that followed was only made necessary by the willfulness of men.

    • Question-I-thority

      As always I am intrigued by the manner in which words of the Bible can be interpreted by free thinkers and fundamentalists.

      I wish you were as intrigued by your own ability to do exactly the same as what you accuse others of doing. In a hugely long paragraph, you make one declaritive statement after another with a single external reference– C.S. Lewis!

      • Roger

        Godbots don’t experience cognitive dissonance–perhaps that’s part of their “intelligent design.”

        • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

          Roger,

          How does name-calling contribute to intelligent discussion?

          • Aor

            How does being the thought police contribute to intelligent discussion?

          • Roger

            Oh, noes! brgulker has issued a statement of concern!

            • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

              I don’t see how condescension and name-calling get us anywhere, that’s all. Nothing more. Nothing less.

            • Roger

              Glad to see that you’re still concerned.

            • Elemenope

              Roger, do you think there is any distinction to be made between concern trolling and simply speaking one’s mind about what someone else says?

      • timothy mark

        Sorry about the structure not sure why it turned out without paragraphs but what’s done is done
        I peruse this site to enrich my faith. I am neither insulted nor dismayed by Vorjack’s examination of Biblical interpretation and reflection on history. I find his submissions thoughtful and challenging. I can enjoy, how he pokes fun, without having a conniption.
        My intention, in referencing Lewis, is the shallowness “of it’s a myth” mirrored across so many comments. It’s seemingly intended to end discussion before it begins. Lewis actually, was extremely fond of myths and thought them to be one of the foremost methods for helping our minds grasp complicated concepts. Reflection on development of the mind of man provides insight to ourselves.
        As to declaritive statements, would that not be my perrogative? If some are found to be refutable I trust there will be no hesitation to offer criticism so no offense taken. I try and make sure of facts when I offer them and give credit for quotes and sources.

        • Francesc

          Well, CSLewis seem to think that it, in fact, existed a revelation and then, that revelation passed from a generation to another in the forms of myths. If you don’t put the conclusion first -that it was a revelation- you can come to the conclusion that Hebrew myths were similar -in his beginnings- to the other myths in the region.

          Then a “King between Gods” arised; and when Hebrews had problems with the neighbours, being a nomade tribe and slavished, they needed to reinforce their own identity by denying the other gods, and by proclaming themselves as the chosen’s ones. Is not a surprise, then, than in their god they put wishes about a future -a promised land- and that they, in fact, were thinking that god was punishing them: a little tribe between the giants of that era always in conflict and with the near menace to disappear definetily.

          What I find most interesting is that developement from a local god, wich was only an hebrew god and didn’t denied the possible existence of other gods, to a universal one. The true and only god.
          And in another hand, that deshumanization from a vindictive, powerfull god in the OT, to the ethereal god of the NT -maybe influences from greek gnosticism?

          • Francesc

            By the way, Timothy, I’m still waiting for a proof to distinguish between a false god and a true god. How is Asherah more false than Yahweh?

            • timothy mark

              What you ask for in proof is not something that I can reveal. Even those who witnessed miracles had difficulty understanding. If you not be searching with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your soul? It’s probably impossible to find.

              I believe that a single, supreme being, with supernatural powers, created our world and universe. Were there two Gods’s, it seems there would be competition and chaos far greater than what man currently and historically creates for himself. If I am going to pick one, I’ll choose the one of whom no craven image is made, who died for my sins.

            • Siberia

              So you admit you can’t prove it. And that it’s unsubstantiated belief alone that makes you pick this particular god over others – the one who sacrificed himself to himself for something he caused in the first place – because you wanted to. Gotcha.

              Methinks the samsara makes more sense. It has less zombies and less magic, granted, but at least it doesn’t imply I’ve to pay for things I didn’t cause at all (such as being unable to believe the raving writings of ancient tribesmen, or being born in the wrong place). You pay for what you do (but not forever and ever and ever) and that’s it. No need to feed the Divine Ego with your fawning adoration. Yup, I like that better. Never liked the histrionics and narcissism, anyway.

              Then again, I don’t believe either.

            • timothy mark

              Well now, as I reflect on the ground rules stipulated in previous encounters. Atheist, web site Atheist rules correct?

              Biblical references are taboo. Especially on this particular subject because we have stretched the conspiracy therory espousing the Judeo Christian God across two millineum.

              But conjecture? Entirely permissable.

              First it was the Levite Tribe in charge of mind control, subverting and manipulating free spirited people from worshiping willy nilly whatever deity suited their fancy. Plus the threat of death for every conceivable transgression kept them in check for a few centuries. After all they wanted their favorite God to be numero uno! Forget about whether there was any real benefit from the actual worship.

              Move 1000 years away from the intelligently conceived BIG BANG!

              When their original imaginative religion lost control of the masses there was a rebellion planned in order to indoctrinate the masses to whole new imagery.Out with the old in with new! With keen fore sight they attempted one of the worlds first mergers, that of conflicting beliefs and dcotrines. This new one had some doozies! Including forgiveness of sin, resurrected bodies with life after death. A promise that suffering in life, a wisp of time compared to the eternity in Heaven, was worth the pain and sacrifice. What a concept ! And we think Madison avenue has it going on.

              Ah but there were slight flaws in all this hastily arranged propaganda, they got their wires crossed and stories mixed up. They had a need for an extraordinary heroic figure! That could…hmm, let’s see, Walk on water!
              But first he needs an auspicious beginning. I’ve got it Virgin Birth! Can you imagine the argument that ensued? “Oh man, that has been used so many times before”! “Not the baby without the Dad thing again!” ” And he heals the sick and raises the dead” You are kidding right? “Because that’s never been done before” ” We put all these stories together about this guy and he doesnt even have to be real?”. “Sure, then we get the sequel started about how his students get wasted for the blasphamy of his teachings, great for the sympathy vote 2000 years from now”.

              It doesnt have to be real and it beats working for a living!

            • Francesc

              “Even those who witnessed miracles had difficulty understanding”
              Provided that someone has witnessed any miracle, of course.

              “If you not be searching with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your soul? It’s probably impossible to find”
              That’s a typicall characteristic for woo

    • claidheamh mor

      @timothy mark As always I am intrigued by the manner in which words of the Bible can be interpreted by free thinkers and fundamentalists.

      As always I am intrigued by the manner in which words of the bible can be interpreted by xians, who are usually not thinkers, but rather programmed knee-jerk reactors.

      @timothy mark It comes as no surprise that a false, mother of heaven pagan symbol should be described in this mix. The retribution that followed was only made necessary by the willfulness of men.

      It probably isn’t a surprise that a bunch of sexist old sheep-doing bastards and churchmen who wanted to keep their power and institution going should force a false violent, hateful male god into the mix, either. And he was certainly chock-full of retribution of every nasty kind imaginable.

    • Siberia

      Or maybe, just maybe; we’re no better than any animal, only evolved differently; maybe our self-awareness and awareness of everything else is a byproduct of intelligence; maybe “awe” is a word for creativity and curiosity (essential things in intelligence) and “faith” a coping mechanism for self-awareness.

      Maybe creativity and fear of things we can’t control (droughts, plagues, floods, conquest by stronger people) combined to make religion – and maybe some prefered one god, maybe others prefered lots of gods, maybe some prefered no god at all (Buddhists come to mind), maybe some relied more in philosophy than religion to explain the universe they could not understand. Maybe what you call retributions is just a consequence of humanity and life itself, explained away as “acts of God” by minds who didn’t know any better. So “why are there plagues and droughts, war and slavery” is explained by “because so God wills”.

      I see no difference between the Hebrews asking God for strength to conquer and survive and the Vikings asking their gods for strength to conquer and survive.

    • Siberia

      Josiah cleared out the temple, kicked out the temple prostitutes, destroyed the mountaintop alters outside of Jerusalem, and “rediscovered” the book of monotheistic law that became Deuteronomy. Having finally made Israel right with God, he promptly gets executed by the Egyptians. A generation after his reforms, Judah falls to the Babylonians.
      So much for the one true god’s protection, eh? Should learn to never piss off a woman… especially a divine one.

      • Siberia

        Ugh, sorry, I accidentaly replied to you twice >.<

    • Michael

      C. S. Lewis did not first popularize the term “Numinous;” Rudolf Otto did. It also isn’t necessarily religious, though it often is. An astronomer may have a similar experience learning about the stars, or a mathematician about fractals.

      Anyway, I much prefer the term mysterium tremendum. It sounds so much more powerful and exciting.

  • MahouSniper

    You know, I started to become a little wary of the claims of monotheism when Christians worship a trinity, but this seems to be pretty conclusive that there is more than one god they believe in. Or goddess as the case may be.

    • rodneyAnonymous

      The original point of the Trinity was to increase Christianity’s appeal to pagans, more than three hundred years after the alleged birth of Christ. It’s not in the Bible. At all.

      • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

        rodney:

        Have you ever done any research on the development of the doctrine of the Trinity? I really don’t have the time to argue this point with you, atm, but if I did, I would challenge your claim and point you to the literature of the early church fathers who preceded the early church councils. If you take the time to read them, you might change your mind.

        • http://iwant2knowyourstory.blogspot.com/ Niva Tuvia

          “Have you ever done any research on the development of the doctrine of the Trinity?”

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TCB5QhHVJA

          Does that count?…

        • rodneyAnonymous

          Might change my mind that it’s not in the Bible? I’m afraid that’s not an opinion.

          Might change my mind about the intent? For one thing, almost nothing is done for only one reason. I’m sure the doctrine stands on “solid” theological ground. For another, that’s not really relevant.

          • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

            rodney:

            First, you’re right insofar as the word “trinity” isn’t in the bible. The term itself is a later invention. However, the doctrine itself is indisputably derived from Scripture, and as Jer noted below, was developed in concert with the very early Christian belief that Jesus is God.

            Were there other influences? I’m sure there were, because I agree with you in that there isn’t just ‘one’ historical influence on any important decision. But, the history of the development of the doctrine is much more akin to what Jer said :

            The doctrine of the Trinity came from various groups staking claims to different philosophical and theological areas and then backing themselves into rhetorical corners while defending those areas, not a calculated marketing campaign on the part of The Church.

            than your claim that it was developed to appeal to pagans. I’m sure there were evangelistic concerns, but appealing to pagans was not the driving factor in the development of the doctrine.

        • Aor

          I think you may want to read Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman. Assuming you really care, that is.

          • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

            Aor, why do you assume that I wouldn’t care?

            • Aor

              Because I don’t believe that you are actually interested in finding out the truth. You want to support your beliefs. When encouraged to read a book that may harm those beliefs, you will likely choose not to because of the possible damage to something that is important to you, a belief system that is critically important to how you view the world. The risk of losing your christianity is likely enough to discourage you from truly exploring these issues. Ehrman isn’t the best author.. there is some repetition in his work, like it has been assembled from class lectures or something, but the man knows his stuff and cites his sources. Some of those sources are likely to be the very early christian writers you mentioned above.

        • Jer

          The original point of the Trinity was to increase Christianity’s appeal to pagans, more than three hundred years after the alleged birth of Christ.

          I don’t think that’s true. IIRC, the point of the Trinity was to preserve the monotheism of the religion while simultaneously being able to say “Jesus is God”. If they’d just wanted to appeal to pagans, it would have been a lot easier to construct a pantheon and make them all gods.

          And it didn’t spring out of nothing 300 years after the foundation of the religion, either. It was apparently more of an organic process of back-and-forth arguments and debates among various factions trying to hammer out differences (or create new differences to set themselves apart from other factions). Some factions of Christians declared that Jesus was a mortal prophet and not divine at all, others that Jesus was never a mortal and was really God the whole time pretending to be mortal, and then you had the Gnostics who seemed to believe a helluva lot of different stuff, most of which centered around them having secret teachings from Jesus that told them they were special people and everyone else was not-special. The doctrine of the Trinity came from various groups staking claims to different philosophical and theological areas and then backing themselves into rhetorical corners while defending those areas, not a calculated marketing campaign on the part of The Church.

          • Francesc

            ” it would have been a lot easier to construct a pantheon and make them all gods”
            How is praying to a Saint XXXX for rain different from what other pagans do?

          • Chris

            The fact is that True Judaism, and in that True Christianity is a pantheistic mystical religion and Judaism became monotheistic at the same time as the Jews were under Persian rule. They were Zoroastrians which was a monotheistic religion borne out of the early Iranian polytheistic religion. It actually states in Genesis that El created the world. There was a Pantheon in early Judaism, the Elohim, which was also the title of the chief God, El. Ba’al means Lord and is just a different regional name for YHWH, and the Israelites didn’t like approve of the ways that others were worshipping THEIR God. Asherah was YHWH’s consort and is the Queen of Heaven.

            The Star of David just happens also to be a pagan symbol as it is two interweaved triangles. one pointing up, the Phallus, representing the Three Masculine Aspects of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and the triangle pointing down, The Chalice, representing the Three Aspects of the Goddess (in Paganism Mother, Maiden, Crone).

            In actual fact, the symbology actually points to the coming together of the God and Goddess.

        • claidheamh mor

          If you take the time to read them, you might change your mind.

          Yours is apparently slammed so far shut you don’t have one to change.

          Yet you keep insisting that others who don’t share your particular mythology should read it and change theirs to believe it.

          • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

            claidheamh mor:

            rodney and I aren’t talking about mythology; we’re talking about history, namely, the development of the doctrine of the Trinity from the early church to the 4th century during the early church councils.

            FWIW, I spent seven years studying religion and earned a BA and Master’s Degree in the process. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I’ve spent a good deal of time studying the development of the major doctrines of the Christian faith, including Trinity. And again, we’re not talking about myth; we’re talking about history. I know that history very well, and I disagreed with rodney when he made a claim that isn’t historically accurate, or at least incomplete.

            Yet you keep insisting that others who don’t share your particular mythology should read it and change theirs to believe it.

            In a way that’s true, I suppose, but again, we’re not talking mythology in this set of comments. We’re talking about history, a history that I’ve studied. And if someone makes a comment that isn’t accurate, how is it out of line for me to point that out? Please note that I’m not responding to Vorjack’s original post, and frankly, I don’t have anything to challenge with that post — It sounds like he’s done his research and is right. What I am taking issue with is a claim by rodney, namely that the doctrine of the Trinity was developed to appeal to pagans. That’s inaccurate, or at least very incomplete.

            Yours is apparently slammed so far shut you don’t have one to change.

            When it comes to the historical development of the doctrine of the Trinity, I would be open to hearing new evidence that contradicts what I’ve studied in the past. But, I don’t think that studying history and coming to a conclusion makes me close-minded. If studying history and coming to a conclusion makes me close-minded, then I suppose I am, as is everyone who reads and posts here.

            • Aor

              I’m assuming your education is from a bible college. Let me pose a hypothetical. Lets assume there was a College of Maya Studies, and a person went there to learn about the Maya religion and the history of Maya lands. This Maya college is for practicers of the Maya religion. They teach the religion is real and true, and they teach the history of their lands as if their religion were true. Would you expect the students to get a complete and accurate picture of the religion of the Maya and also the history of those lands, or would you expect that an education that takes the religion-first perspective would be inherently incomplete and inaccurate? Would you think that a secular education provides a more truthful interpretation of both their history and their religion than an education that assumes the religion were true?

              Given this hypothetical.. do you really think that the version of history you were taught is reliable? Do you wonder if it is incomplete, or was twisted to serve the interests of an religious organization?? Again, this all assumes you had your education in the form of divinity school or the equivalent. Am I wrong in that?

            • timothy mark

              Are you serious? Secularist schools impartial? Restricted to offering facts alone? What world do you live on?.

              Students in universities are compelled to follow indoctrination to all sorts of historical and social theory lest they receive a poor grade. The battle for the minds of our youth is ugly with dishonest ascertions.

              To say that researchers or professors have no axe to grind is to deny the same human nature which atheists claim exists within every single theologian.

              Would you speculate scientists acquire this truth gene after the PHD ceremony or are they blessed upon conception?

            • Aor

              The hypothetical is a simple one, Timothy. You were not the target of the question, but if you want to answer those questions feel free. If you want to claim that only through the belief in the Maya religion can Maya history be understood, then man up and say so. You seem to be taking that position here, but you won’t outright speak the words. You are surely aware of how foolish it would sound, so instead you squirm. You try to cast doubt on rational and scientific approaches to knowledge acquisition without admitting that the alternative doesn’t suit you either unless your religion is somehow given special status in some way.

              Furthermore, Timothy… I said “a more truthful interpretation” not “impartial”. Is this attempt to misdirect an accident or was it a purposeful decision on your part? Have you the guts to admit that you have no truthful response to the hypothetical I presented?

              I’m challenging you Timothy. If you have an answer to this hypothetical that doesn’t make you look like a flaming hypocrite, bring it on. My guess is, if you had one you would have brought it out already. But hey.. I could be wrong.

            • Aor

              In case you lack the guts to answer that Tim, I’ll ask you more questions that you will probably avoid also.

              How do you decide when and where science has gotten it wrong? Given that science has brought us so much advancement, brought us out of the dirt and into concrete buildings with steel reinforcement using silicon chips to communicate with people on the other side of the world, where and when and exactly how do you decide science becomes wrong and your religion becomes right? Is it, conveniently, exactly where your religion has an opinion written down on paper? Do you err on the side of science, or do you err on the side of faith? If your holy book has no official opinion on something, is science then OK? Do you have a system of deciding those things, or is it some global decision.. all confrontations between (your particular) faith and science must be resolved in favor of (your particular) faith? Do you cringe when you see people of other religions doing things like things like that, thinking that way, making those same crazy assumptions except twisted in favor of their particular god?

              You see, I and most rational people can guess your answers. You won’t answer them truthfully because you are ashamed of those answers, but we know that too.

              PS. Your attempts to put words in my mouth is so blatant. Do you tell lies about your mother that way?

            • The Line

              Just a second there Aor. Your abundance of words is covering up the lack of one: faith. There are times that people who are not ‘rational people’ decide to walk towards a light that you and all your ‘rational people’ with a lack of faith that cannot see. Someone who has faith is much like a King or Queen on a chessboard – every move is available to them. It is very foreign to me that you and your ‘rational people’ automatically think a ‘believer’ can only see black and white – or so can so simply be cornered into a check, mate.

              I have answered every one of your ‘hypotheticals’ in one paragraph – and with one word. Despite what follows – it has been done. Keep the faith Timothy and good luck with your studies.

            • Aor

              @The Line

              I see no answer from you. I see an attempt to pretend to have an answer. I see that you lack the intellectual honesty to respond truthfully to the hypothetical, and I see a blindness to the fact that anyone reading your words will notice that you have no actual response… just babbling and misdirections. If you want to claim to answer, lets see it loudly and clearly. Nothing to be afraid of, right? I wonder..has this little hypothetical put you in the position where you are both ashamed to respond truthfully and too ashamed not to respond at all?

              You just feel hurt that you have no real answer to the hypothetical I posed and you can’t accept that. That makes you lie. You prefer lies to admitting a painful truth. Are you seeing a problem with that approach to the world yet?

            • The Line

              Yeah…, about that “I see no answer from you”… I kinda, sorta already handled that in my previous ‘babbling and misdirection’. That would be a painful truth – and not a lie.

              Scared ? Hurt ? That is cute (*smiles*). You remind me of a squirming worm before I put him on a hook. You ‘intellectuals’ aren’t the only ones who know how to use an electric rod to bring them to the top – or make them bleed to attract the fish, the stupid Christians can do it too.

              Good luck getting those answers. I have fish to fry.

            • Aor

              @The Line

              You are a coward.
              You talk big, but when challenged you melt into the woodwork. I like when that happens, because other believers see it and start to wonder just what kind of idiots they are associating with. Each time one like you tries to talk big they walk away with their tail between their legs. Enjoy those little fishes, coward.

            • timothy mark

              Thanks for the link, as I post more frequently if there isn’t a response I let things drop. Our differences will continue subjects will be revisited offering multiple opportunities for exchange.

              You served to illustrate my point with your hypothetical. People or groups with a selected agenda, scientists included, are afforded opportunity to instruct with total disregard for objectivity. If it could happen in Seminary it could very well occur in the setting you describe. What you fail to ackowledge is its potential to occur in the secular scientific arena, which was my point. Can a scientist be prone to lie about his findings. Are these scientific discoveries leaked to the public, sometimes becoming widely accepted prior to peer review . Is it your contention we are always to except everythings as scientific fact until they become disproved? How old is the Big Bang Theory and what did it replace?

              You hold up science as though it is perpetually flawless. Do you propose that all theories are long lived and there has never been attempt to deceive . Anthropologists have offered definitive findings such as Javaman, as proof of man’s evolution through miniscule number of of bone fragments. I accepted and excepted this to be true true did you and do you still? Have all of the relatively small amount of bones attributed to man’s evolution successfully passed peer review?

              We share 98% of the genetic makeup of chimpanzee’s correct? Of the approximately 800 missing 2%, how many represent the capacity to effect man’s physical characteristics?

              Finally psyhcology, the “scientific” study of the mind, how many methods are currently practiced? Any canards contained within such an illustrious field?

              May I, in closing, ask that you take time to review the contents of your posts and perhaps ascertain the proclivity to call people liars and attempt verbal intimidation? I’m sure your arguments are sound and can stand on their own merit, however much may be ignored in the ascerbic nature presented.

            • Aor

              Scientists are NOT allowed to instruct with total disregard for objectivity. Period. Those who do won’t get tenure, or published (publishing is very very very important.) Scientists use peer review, which is part of being objective. When a scientist takes a position, other scientists (even those in the same institution) can and do disagree and publish their own works. So, despite the fact that you want that to be true it simply is not. In fact, I’m pretty sure you have had this point made to you at prior times in your life, and yet because you wish it didn’t apply you disregard it. It is simply unimaginable that you have not heard of the concept of peer review when you mention it in this very post, you know?

              I never claimed science was flawless (straw man argument, you should avoid those). I made a hypothetical, and your response to it was based on straw men. That makes it deceptive. You may not be aware of it, although I would bet otherwise.

              Lets make this clearer, so I can understand exactly what you mean. I’ll make sure these are yes/no questions, so you have less chance to wiggle around and misrepresent my words like you did earlier. It is always nice to get a firm statement out of people, you know? Less room for wiggling after.

              Given the hypothetical above (the Maya University)
              1) Would you expect the students to get a complete and accurate picture of the religion of the Maya and also the history of those lands, or would you expect that an education that takes the religion-first perspective would be inherently incomplete and inaccurate? Yes or no.

              2) Would you think that a secular education provides a more truthful interpretation of both their history and their religion than an education that assumes the religion were true? Yes or no. Read carefully.. notice the word ‘more.’ Also note that you must be able to apply those answers equally across the board to all religions.

              I think we all know that the Maya-religion-is-true University would be a poor way to learn about the Maya. I’d like to see a yes/no response to that too, just to be sure you are on the same page. Given that my hypothetical was posed to a person who spent seven years in what I assume was a bible college I think the meaning of that is clear. At no point did I say humans were infallible, or that any form of education is free from bias. I took a simple position: basing an education on religious assumptions is ludicrous, and to make it clear just how ludicrous I repositioned it as involving a dead religion involving blood sacrifice, so that those who take religious education and believe it to be superior to bible college would realize how silly that position was. They cannot hold that position and yet say that others (the Maya) could not do the same. A belief that the Maya religion was correct is a horrible way to learn about Maya history, and thus a belief in the Christian religion is a horrible way to learn about the history of Christianity.

              All of your talk is an attempt to misrepresent my position because you are aware of how badly you will look if you admit these things. Instead of just answering, you wiggle around and talk about java man.

              I want you to admit that the self correcting scientific approach is a much better way of evaluating knowledge than a belief-first approach. Flawed it may be, but it is vastly less flawed than you claim and vastly less flawed than the alternatives.

            • Aor

              The phrase “so that those who take religious education and believe it to be superior to bible college…” above should read “so that those who take religious education and believe it to be superior to a secular education…”

            • timothy mark

              You go to great lengths to construct a supposedly vexing question and then answer it yourself. With circular reasoning to boot!

              My perception of your conjecture is; Divinity Schools hide issues from their students and in so doing provide a dishonest picture thus an inferior education. I suppose your argument would be similiar to that of a Vegan insisting to be endorsed as an instructor in animal husbandry. Perhaps you should offer yourself as a qualified instructor in basic atheism.

              Historically objective examination of Christian faith in God as been from individuals who considered themselves followers of Christ. Perhaps you have enjoyed Hume or Kant. You insinuate this type of Christian philosophical introspection does not exist as well on a Biblical campus as it might on a secular. Or else you indicate it could only honestly be provided from someone, shall we say not under the influence of faith. I would surmise the quality of a course is determined by the expertise and integrity of individuals sharing the knowledge, the professor, not the institution.

              Whoever said anything about basing an education on religious assumptions? Substituting faith for science? talk about putting words in anothers mouth. Ancient Hebrew scripture and the New Testament allude to the infinite unfathomable complexity of God’s knowledge.(My interpretation) Religious institutions may run from the findings of science however people of faith can afford to embrace truth for it clearly speaks of God’s wisdom. The order in the world science discovers, is intended for us to discover.

              Will you answer a few a my questions?
              What restricts a professor from saying what he wants after he is tenured?
              I would say the effects of man mad global warming have been overstated by some scientists.
              Are the bone fragment purported to be that of prehistoric Javaman actually what they were? As identified and described in school textbooks?
              Did Columbus desimate the indiginous tribes of Hispanola by spreading syphillis?
              Are psychological ailments treated differently depending on the preference of the individual providing care.
              Was Alar a danger to kindergartners?
              Should DDT have been used to eliminate malaria and save millions of lives in the third world?
              Is nuclear energy safe and beneficial for every country but the US

              Can you write a post without insinuating someone is a liar?

            • John C

              Unfortunately, AOR is not a friendly chap, he insists on accusation and slander. I finally had to cease all correspondence…he walks in the dark and is happy to at that, its a shame. I hope he re-considers how he treats people, opens his heart and learns from all this.

            • Aor

              @Timothy Mark

              Whoever said anything about basing an education on religious assumptions?

              Um, that was the entire premise of the hypothetical.

              Historically objective examination of Christian faith in God as been from individuals who considered themselves followers of Christ

              If they assumed Christian teachings were real, then they were not objective. This is a simple point, which you will no doubt try to misrepresent in some way.

              I asked you some yes or no questions, and you ran off in some other direction. Circular reasoning? Point it out. Quote me. I find you to be deceptive, so please understand why I expect you to show your work.

              Religious institutions may run from the findings of science however people of faith can afford to embrace truth for it clearly speaks of God’s wisdom.

              This is my entire point, I am so glad you agree with me. Religious institutions may run from the findings of science, which makes their education inferior to an institution which does not run from the findings of science! You see, we agree but you choose to lie about it when it is pointed out to you. It will be pretty hard for you to take back those words at this point without looking even more deceptive.

              Your questions are actually just an attempt to redirect the conversation into a topic you are more comfortable with. Remember.. I never said a secular education was perfect. Never. Stop taking this straw man position. You know I didn’t say that, so pretending I did makes you appear untrustworthy. Java man? What are you trying to pull with this blatant attempt to change the topic? If you aren’t capable of speaking on this topic honestly, then don’t speak at all. Columbus? Syphilis? DDT? This squirming around is so obvious, why would you do it? Why are you so desperate to change the topic?

              I insinuate you are a liar, Timothy, because of the way you behave. You misrepresent my words, make straw man fallacies and repeat them even after they are pointed out, and then go for the usual change-the-topic-quickly crap. An intellectually honest person would not do any of those things, and here you are doing them all in one comment.

              If you lack the guts to speak honestly, you shouldn’t have spoken at all.

            • Aor

              @John C

              You ceased correspondence? Didn’t you just say something to me a couple days ago?
              Isn’t your comment here actually directed at me, only with a passive agressive approach? Oh, the subtlety.. oh wait, its not subtlety, its childishness and cowardice.
              I’ve probably said this before. If you lack the guts to speak to me, then be consistent. Don’t use these little whines and passive agressive ploys.

            • timothy mark

              I would tend to agree but as I am here to learn feel a respectful reply is useful.

              Thanks for sharing I enoyed your poem yesterday.

    • Logan

      I’ll copy what I posted above, because it’s relevant here too:

      Christianity is still polytheistic. They like to try to rationalize god/jesus/holy spirit into a “tri-unity” or some garbage as if a monotheistic religion is somehow less delusional and offensive than a polytheistic one. The fewer gods, the better? How about none?

  • Jack

    But Who is the Nachash (serpent) – who shows us the Way to knowledge ? Is it really the devil ? I think not. You have the story upside down. Read it again.

    The Nachash is the Hindu/Buddhist Nagas – the “God of resurrection and birth”
    The Genesis story is the story of each person’s “birth” (B’rsht) In the 1st 7 days the zygot is formed and on the 7th day it is lodged. (rests) The serpent is the eastern kundalini, the spark of our soul.

    The yogi RebYH-Sh-WH is correct when he calls himself “I AM”

    Who are you ? DO you know ? Look within – the Kingdom of “God” is within – Luke 17:21

    • Logan

      Are you high?

      • http://wmdkitty.livejournal.com WMDKitty

        Dude, whatever he’s smoking, I want some.

  • claidheamh mor

    Good stuff, VorJack. Interesting, and completely new to me.

  • John C

    The “almond” tree represents the pineal gland in our mind that is to be “illumined”. We (mankind) are the “temple” of God and the tent of Moses/tabernacles being a physical illustration of the human brain.

    • rodneyAnonymous

      And Jesus said unto them, “And whom do you say that I am?”

      They replied, “You are the eschatological manifestation of the
      ground of our being, the ontological foundation of the context of our very self-hood
      revealed.”

      And Jesus replied, “What?”

      • Siberia

        Lol! <3

      • The Line

        He did ? Wow, what a big, dumb animal he must have been.

    • LRA

      JC- You’re joking, right? The pineal gland/mind and soul connection is from DesCartes, and has thoroughly been debunked.

      • Question-I-thority

        LRA, you misunderstand. “Debunking” is about leaving “The Jesus Bed” in the middle of the night–this life. Why wouldn’t you want to slumber in His Arms until Morning breaks? :)

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  • http://theascendancymemoirs.blogspot.com/ wazza

    actually, Wiccans cribbed it from celtic mythology…

    when you see “Pagan” here, chances are it’s referring to ancient paganism. In any case, it’s perfectly valid to say that it’s a Pagan idea, in the same way that I can refer to something from ethics as a philosophical idea. It comes under the category of Pagan, and if it’s from some specific part, that’s probably more information than is needed to make the argument.

    It’s certainly clearer than calling something “Murrayism”, whatever that might be.


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