All the great religions of the world share the belief that there is but one solitary creator of the universe. But they could be mistaken, says Britain-based theologian Francesca Stavrakopoulou. "I have come to a colorful and what could seem, to some, uncomfortable conclusion that God had a wife," she says. Who is God's companion and where has she been hiding all these years? Here, an instant guide:
Who is God's wife?
Our creator's better half is a powerful fertility goddess named Asherah, says Stavrakopoulou. She was once worshipped as the companion of Yahweh, the name of God in the Hebrew bible.
What's the evidence for this?
The existence of an ancient goddess named Asherah has been acknowledged for some time, but Stavrakopoulou has unearthed fragments of ancient pottery in Syria that date back to around 800 B.C. that refer to "Yahweh and his Asherah" — implying that the two were a "divine pair." There are also lines in the Bible that refer to worship of the goddess in Yahweh's temple in Jerusalem. "In the Book of Kings," says the theologian, "we're told that a statue of Asherah was housed in the temple and that female temple personnel wove ritual textiles for her."
If she's really God's wife, why isn't she in the Bible more?
It sounds a bit "Dan Brown-ish," says The Huffington Post, but "the Bible's editors may very well have wiped her almost clean from the document." Several Old Testament experts say the ancient authors who collated the texts either cut out references to Asherah, or translated her name as "Sacred Tree."
Why would she have been cut out of the Bible?
After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 586 B.C., Israelite leaders emphasized strict monotheism in order to unite their different tribes. The idea, says theologian Aaron Brody, was that there's "one god not only for Judah, but for all the nations." Before that, polytheism — or the worship of a number of gods — was quite common. Several of the ancient Israelite gods, such as El, Baal, and Molek, were similarly cast aside in favor of Yahweh.
Should we be sceptical of Stavrakopoulou's claims?
The devout may wish to know that the theologian is an atheist who says her research is a "branch of history like any other." She has also said that Eve should not be blamed for the Fall of Man, as she had been "very unfairly maligned as the troublesome wife."
Sources: Discovery, Huffington Post, TIME, Daily Mail