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ANAHITA  July 1997

ANAHITA July 1997

Subject:

Re: Asherah: was: Male/female cult/society

From:

Tilde Binger <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Women and Gender in the Ancient World <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 11 Jul 1997 03:53:15 -0400

Content-Type:

Text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

Text/plain (171 lines)

Dear Susan

Yes, I am referring to both the Kuntillet Ajrud and the Khirbet
el-Qom inscriptions, as well as to the pictures on one of the Pithoi
from Kuntillet Ajrud.
As far as I remember, it is Silvia Schroer who has argued that the
Bes figures are indeed of Yahweh and Asherah. When one looks closely
at the two (!) Bes figures, it becomes evident that one is depicted
as male, with a penis and a beard, but that the other has breasts and
no beard and is thus depicted as female.
Had we been dealing with any divinity BUT the one known from the Old
Testament, the case would have been seen as clear.
Had the text read "Ba'al and his Asherah", no-one would be in any
doubt, either about the relationship between the divinities or the
close connection between the pictures and the text, and any number of
explanations would be found in order to deal with the un-typical
iconography.
But we ARE dealing with Yahweh, and the number of articles trying to
argue that Asherah is not a goddess in these inscriptions and that
the pictures have nothing whatsoever to do with the text, are too
numerous to mention here. That the argument is forwarded, and the
discussion as heated as it is, is naturally due to the fact, that we
"know" that Yahweh was the only god, and that his cult was an-iconic.

> Of course I did not mean to deny that Yahweh and Asherah are paired in
> inscriptions; but I am unaware of any pictures that one can unambiguously
> identify as Y. I would argue for not going beyond evidence. Sometimes the
> best reading is "One can't tell."
This is where I beg to differ. I one tries (!!!) to approach the
"ancient Israel" material in the same way one would approach eg. the
Greek or Ugaritic material, the picture drawn of Iron-age religion in
Israel/Palestine would be vastly different.
We can know that we are dealing with Yahweh, with the same certainty
that we can identify Baal from Ugarit as Baal, or Athena from Hellas
as Athena (on un-inscribed representations).

To non-Hebrew-readers, I apologize for the following.
> And are you referring to the inscription at Khirbet el-Qom? I'm aware of the
> pairing of Y. with Asherah in that and other inscriptions, although I'm
> always glad to learn more. And that strange morphology, Asheratw..."his
> Asherah"--is the pair always named in those terms?
No.
> I am under the impression
> that that construction sounds as problematic to the experts as it does to me.
It is. But the point of interest here is, that a final hei (the
spelling is Asheratwh) is known to be added to divine names. To name
one: Yahweh, where the older spelling is YHW not YHWH.
There are a number of possible solutions to the problem. One is that
the grammar of 8th c. BCE Palestine was not what we think it was. It
was after all a living language then. Another possibility is, as is
the case with construct-relationships, that one cannot suffix a
proper noun, apart from the cases where it happens.
A third possible solution (which is the one I am in favour of, and
argue in my forthcoming book) is, that Asherah is not a name, but a
title. All extant evidence seems to fit with this, and it would
explain a number of problems concerning the various west-semitic
Asherah's, including the one(s) in the OT.

> I'd also be interested to know how many such inscriptions have been found and
> their approximate geographic and chronological distribution;
Hebrew inscriptions ? (Davies: "Hebrew Inscriptions", he has them
all up to the late 1980'es)
Texts/inscriptions mentioning Asherah ? (I have most of them in the
book, which should be out any day now, according to the publisher)
Texts/inscriptions mentioning Yahweh ? (Apart from the ones in
Davies, Stephanie Dalley has an article on Yahweh in Hamath in Vetus
Testamentum no. 40/1990.)

> The main things I have read so far are several extremely informative articles
> by William Dever. I would be interested in any other references you suggest.
Well ... (I am sorry about this, it must sound very ... forward, to
use a Jane Austen expression). I have this great book coming out ... :-)

> I read some place that Athirat Yam(mi) (?) had to do with a Phoenician view
> of Asherah as "treading" on the sea serpent, but I have been told that is
> wrong. Do you happen to know of any literature about that term and a better
> understanding of it?
The title is Ugaritic, and builds on Albright's theory, where he
translates "Atrt ym" as "she who treads (on) the sea (dragon)", but
as Emerton points out, "Atrt srm" does not mean "she who treads on
Tyrus".
Albrights theory is to a good extent built on presupposed
"knowledge", not on a reading of the Ugaritic texts themselves. The
title as it occurs in Ugaritic texts themselves might - with better
cause -  be translated "Lady Day", since "ym" might read either
"yam", sea, or "yom" day.

> Of course, your info on Asherah in the Temple is from texts--biblical and
> Greek--and were the Greeks who said there was a statue of y. in the temple
> eyewitnesses? how did they know? I suppose there is no archaeological
> evidence of either statue...
As far as I know, there is !!!
Both Christoph Uehlinger and Herbert Niehr argues in a forthcoming
volume (proceedings of some kind of symposium in the Netherlands),
that we do have evidence FOR a statue in the temple, at the very
least in the Iron-age. Another argument can be found in "The Triumph
of Elohim" (ed. Diane Edelman, her own article and that of Tom Bolin
in particular) from Sheffield.

> If the Greek gentlemen were conveying hearsay, I
> don't see how their testimony is any more helpful than the biblical redactors
> or any other person who wasn't there. I don't have a stake either way (an
> image or no image), but would like to know the credentials of the people
> we're relying on and how they got their information, whatever it is.
Well. It depends on how you evaluate it. We tend to believe these
Greek and Latin gentlemen, wholesale, apart from this one little
place where we disregard everything they say, since they are clearly
wrong. (I am slightly tounge in cheek here.)

> About the inscription describing Y. and Asherah and "from the same find, the
> picture of the two together...." 1. what is the "find"? Do you have a
> citation? I would like to read about it.

Kuntillet Ajrud.

> 2. how do we know we are looking at
> those two (Y. and Asherah) together? In fact, how can we tell that a
> representation of a male god is Yahweh and not El?

We cannot. But El is not mentioned in the inscription, Yahweh is. If
we had been dealing with any other god than he of the OT .... (blah,
blah, blah. You have read it so often now, that you should be
heartily sick of hearing me repeat myself)

> Or are you claiming they are one and the same?
No. El and Yahweh are - to some extent - identified with each other
in the OT, and they could be the same, just as they could be
different. El after all, means "God". If we only deal with the OT
material, we can see any number of male as well as female divinities
sticking their heads out, the major, but not the only, one being
"Yahweh". Eg. the classic quote from  Deuteronomy 32:8, where Elyon
("the most high", a title of Baal in Ugarit) seperates the "sons of
man" according to the number of the sons of god/s (following the
Greek translation and the Dead Sea Scroll-evidence), and  where
Yahweh is just one among a vast number.

> Again, thank you for your attention to my question and for your help.
Not at all. Anyone willing to listen to me beating my favourinte
hobby-horse is welcome to ask away, and though the list in general
might not thank you, I do.
> I am new to this list
So am I.

Best wishes.

Tilde

Tilde Binger
University of Copenhagen
Dptm.of Biblical Studies
Kcbmagergade 44-46
DK-1150 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone +45 35 32 36 58
Fax   +45 35 32 36 52
e-mail [log in to unmask]

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