Despite what most people believe, the ancient Israelites venerated several deities besides the Old Testament god Yahweh, including goddesses such as Asherah, Yahweh's wife. Historical researchers Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince joined Ian Punnett (Twitter) to discuss their investigation into the suppressed spiritual legacy of the Jewish goddess. "There's no debate, no dispute really, that the ancient Israelites... worshipped a goddess alongside their god," Prince said. The ancient Israelites accepted there were many different gods, Picknett added, noting the Israelites eventually chose to worship one god over all of the others.
According to Prince, archeological evidence and textual criticism show the name "El" used for god in the book of Genesis and the title "Yahweh" used for god after Moses and the Exodus refer to two different gods. The creator god El presided over a pantheon of lesser deities, he revealed, noting it was naturally assumed in the time of the Israelites that gods came in pairs and Yahweh had a consort — the goddess Asherah. Picknett pointed out Asherah is widely misinterpreted by contemporary audiences but referred to a goddess the Israelites would have recognized.
The Israelites depicted Yahweh as a standing stone, or pillar, and next to it they would have a tree or stylized tree representing Asherah, Prince continued. Depictions of the Asherah tree were put inside the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, he reported. Judaism eventually codified into a monotheistic religion around 450 B.C. and that is when the goddess was written out of the story, the two explained. "Always she was secretly cherished, if only underground, by someone who knew about her and kept her memory alive," Picknett added.
The first hour of the program was devoted to Open Lines.