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When God Had a Wife
The Fall and Rise of the Sacred Feminine in the Judeo-Christian Tradition
Table of Contents
About The Book
Reveals the tradition of goddess worship in early Judaism and how Jesus attempted to restore the feminine side of the faith
• Provides historical and archaeological evidence for an earlier form of Hebrew worship with both male and female gods, including a 20th-century discovery of a Hebrew temple dedicated to both Yahweh and the warrior goddess Anat
• Explores the Hebrew pantheon of goddesses, including Yahweh’s wife, Asherah, goddess of fertility and childbirth
• Shows how both Jesus and his great rival Simon Magus were attempting to restore the ancient, goddess-worshipping religion of the Israelites
Despite what Jews and Christians--and indeed most people--believe, the ancient Israelites venerated several deities besides the Old Testament god Yahweh, including the goddess Asherah, Yahweh’s wife, who was worshipped openly in the Jerusalem Temple. After the reforms of King Josiah and Prophet Jeremiah, the religion recognized Yahweh alone, and history was rewritten to make it appear that it had always been that way. The worship of Asherah and other goddesses was now heresy, and so the status of women was downgraded and they were blamed for God’s wrath.
However, as Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince reveal, the spiritual legacy of the Jewish goddesses and the Sacred Feminine lives on. Drawing on historical research, they examine how goddess worship thrived in early Judaism and included a pantheon of goddesses. They share new evidence for an earlier form of Hebrew worship that prayed to both male and female gods, including a 20th-century archaeological discovery of a Hebrew temple dedicated to both Yahweh and the goddess Anat. Uncovering the Sacred Feminine in early Christianity, the authors show how, in the first century AD, both Jesus and his great rival, Simon Magus, were attempting to restore the goddess-worshipping religion of the Israelites. The authors reveal how both men accorded great honor to the women they adored and who traveled with them as priestesses, Jesus’s Mary Magdalene and Simon’s Helen. But, as had happened centuries before, the Church rewrote history to erase the feminine side of the faith, deliberately ignoring Jesus’s real message and again condemning women to marginalization and worse.
Providing all the necessary evidence to restore the goddess to both Judaism and Christianity, Picknett and Prince expose the disastrous consequences of the suppression of the feminine from these two great religions and reveal how we have been collectively and instinctively craving the return of the Sacred Feminine for millennia.
In 1967 a ground-breaking book by the Hungarian-born American professor of anthropology Raphael Patai was published. The Hebrew Goddess presented landmark evidence for female forms of the divine - what is now known as the sacred feminine - in various Judaic traditions. Soberly, it set out to show that, despite the traditional presentation of the Jewish God as unwaveringly male, the expression of female divinity had always been present in Judaism.
Although concentrating on Judaism from the last centuries BCE to the Middle Ages, Patai’s book opened with the status of goddesses in ancient Israel and the era of the kingdoms - a startling, often even shocking concept in the 60s, and which still has the potential to unsettle even now. Since then, however, many of his conclusions and speculations, based on a close reading of the Hebrew Bible and comparisons to other religions, have been vindicated by archeological and other discoveries. We personally owe him a great debt, for he opened our eyes to what is, of course, to most believers, a complete shake-up of Jewish religious history. Goddesses - in Judaism?
This was obviously potentially explosive stuff, but - as frequently happens with radical challenges to the academic Establishment - at the time it sank almost without trace. Few other biblical scholars or archeologists acknowledged Patai’s prescience. He is rarely mentioned, even today.
Yet, as we hope to prove, not only was Patai spot on about the very existence of a Hebrew goddess, but that she also had a thriving, proud priesthood dedicated solely to her worship…
The Jealous God
In the Hebrew Bible, when discussing the Israelites’ “backsliding” to the worship of other gods, the word asherah occurs some 40 times, sometimes in conjunction with Baal. Clearly this refers to a deity at the center of some highly dubious cult, at least as far as the writers were concerned. A feminine noun, sometimes it appears to refer to an object, often in the plural, asherim, and sometimes seems to be simply a female name, but always it’s intimately associated with devotion, even adoration, of a forbidden sort. It’s not a huge leap to conclude that asherah was a feminine deity, and one who was worshiped by “heretics” in ancient Israel.
Was this Asherah really a Hebrew goddess? Was her cult truly, as the Bible makes out, heretical? Or are the books of the Old Testament really covering up some secret revelations about the Sacred Feminine? And what relationship, if any, did this Asherah have with that most male of gods, Yahweh? Piecing together the evidence, often tiny bit by tiny bit, she emerges as a startlingly important lady…
The first mention of her in the Hebrew Bible is in Exodus, when Yahweh makes his covenant with Moses on Mount Sinai. God commands the Israelites that when he’s driven the Canaanites out of the Promised Land, “You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God).” (2) Cutting down “Asherahs” implies she was symbolized as objects.
Similar injunctions appear in Deuteronomy, the final laying down of the Law, allegedly by Moses, including one not to “plant any tree as an Asherah beside the altar of the LORD that you shall make.”(3) So “an Asherah” is, or can be, a tree. The fact that such a practice had to be prohibited suggests that setting up an Asherah tree next to altars to Yahweh was a popular tradition. Clearly, Asherah, whoever she was, was a threat to the “Yahweh alone” movement - his influential hardcore devotees - as late as King Josiah’s day. As William Dever asks rhetorically, “why would later reforming priests and prophets condemn these things so vociferously unless they remained popular in Israelite religion?”(4)
But why are we only discovering the truth about Asherah worship now? Why has it taken millennia for the Hebrew goddess to be acknowledged?
When the Hebrew Bible was first translated into Greek, Latin and English the meaning of the word asherah was unknown. Because of its association with sacred places and trees, the 2nd-century BCE Greek Septuagint translated asherim as “groves,” which passed into the Latin Vulgate and then into other translations such as the King James Version – and onwards into every Protestant denomination. As far as the average church-goer was concerned, if they even noticed the relevant passages, they shrugged them off. Who cares about some weird tree fixation? And there the matter rested for over 2000 years.
The puzzle was finally solved in 1929, during excavations of the ancient Canaanite city of Ugarit - modern Ras Shamra - on Syria’s Mediterranean coast. In the ruins of the Temples of El and Baal they unearthed hundreds of clay tablets dating from the 14th century BCE that depicted their myths. Naturally many of them referred to the Canaanites’ supreme god, El, but there was something else… A previously unknown goddess appeared alongside the great god El: Asherah, the supreme female deity of all Canaanite deities.
So far from being literally made of leafy stuff, asherah turns out to be that most unexpected of beings, a Canaanite goddess. Her existence certainly explains the Bible’s charges of apostasy back in the old days, while there were pockets of Canaanites still around. And it explains why she was paired with Baal, and why the Hebrew Bible repeatedly warns the Israelites off her worship, just as it did with Baal’s.
- Publisher: Bear & Company (December 10, 2019)
- Length: 336 pages
- ISBN13: 9781591433712
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Raves and Reviews
“A book that blows the lid off one of the most ancient cover-ups in the world--the existence of a feminine deity every bit as important as the masculine Yahweh. This is a book that all should read--it is powerful, thought-provoking, and wonderfully contentious. The scholarship of the writers is evident on every page. So read on and be prepared to be astounded and diverted. Your world may never look the same again.”
– John Matthews, coauthor of Temples of the Grail and The Lost Book of the Grail
“Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince are two of the most important history writers of modern times. They build a compelling case for the veneration of the goddess alongside the religion of Yahweh among the ancient Israelites and how its persistence lingered through to the age of Jesus. A page-turning read from start to finish.”
– Andrew Collins, author of The Cygnus Key and Göbekli Tepe
“Picknett and Prince, long known for profoundly unsettling religious and historical revelations, have excelled themselves with this story of the little-known Israelite goddesses--their rise, fall, and, unexpectedly, their rise again. But now we are also faced with another deeply uncomfortable cover-up--that of the priestesses who celebrated the goddess even from within Christ’s own circle. A major book and a gripping read.”
– Graham Phillips, author of The Virgin Mary Conspiracy
“What I like about this book is the referencing to external scholarship and the clarity of presentation. The finding of an 8th-century-BCE inscription at Kuntillet Ajrud, read as ‘Yahwe (God) and his Ashera,’ supports the authors’ contention that God had a consort.”
– Robert Feather, author of The Secret Initiation of Jesus at Qumran
“Picknett and Prince have put together a tour de force of argument and research in three of the seven chapters for anyone pursuing the truth about the divine feminine in the Judeo-Christian tradition. I would judge When God Had a Wife to be landmark study of the history of religion.”
– Scott S. Smith, author of Extraordinary People: Real Life Lessons on What it Takes to Achieve Succes
"This book is chock full of great history, amazing research, great messages, and intriguing writing. All devotees of religion in modern times ought to read it because of its exemplary research, revelation of ugly, uncomfortable truths we ALL need to accept, and its celebration of the once, present, and future goddesses who history and the patriarchy could not silence , and never will."
– Saoirse, PaganPages.org
"When God had a Wife is a well-researched book, depending almost entirely for its arguments (if not all of its conclusions) on the scholarship of academics."
– Jay Vickers, Fortean Times Magazine
"The emergence of the church as a patriarchal authoritarian and political institution in the fourth century played a critical role, but the orthodox view of Jesus has in my view been overturned by the Gnostic Gospels, from which a new and more balanced picture emerges. I believe that we are now ready as a culture for a fully fledged sacred feminine that embraces all of its aspects. When God Had a Wife is an important contribution to this process."
– David Lorimer, Paradigm Explorer Journal
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