The Judeo-Christian God may have been married, according to a British theologian, who says the Almighty, also known as 'Yahweh', had a wife - a goddess named 'Asherah'.
Francesca Stavrakopoulou of the University of Exeter is throwing new light on the theory, suggesting that God had a wife who was edited out of the Bible.
In 1967, historian Raphael Patai mentioned that the ancient Israelites worshiped both Yahweh and Asherah, according to Discovery News.
You might know him as Yahweh, Allah or God. But on this fact, Jews, Muslims and Christians, the people of the great Abrahamic religions, are agreed: There is only one of Him, Stavrakopoulou wrote in a recent article. He is a solitary figure, a single, universal creator, not one God among many … or so we like to believe.
Archaeological evidence as well as details in the Bible, indicate not just that he was one of several worshipped in ancient Israel, but that he was also coupled with a goddess, who was worshipped in his temple in Jerusalem, Stavrakopoulou says.
Stavrakopoulou says the Almighty's wife was presented as a deity in Israel, who sat alongside him.
After years of research specialising in the history and religion of Israel, however, I have come to a colourful and what could seem - to some - uncomfortable conclusion: that God had a wife, Stavrakopoulou says.
She discovered that Yahweh had to see off a number of competitors to achieve his position as the one and only God of the ancient Israelites.
The biblical texts name many of them - El, Baal, Molek, Asherah. Despite Yahweh's assertion in the Ten Commandments that You shall have no other gods before me, it appears these gods were worshipped alongside Him, and the Bible acknowledges this.
The goddess Asherah was worshipped in Yahweh's temple in Jerusalem. In the Book Of Kings, it says that a statue of Asherah was housed in the temple and that female temple personnel wove ritual textiles for her, she says.
What, then, was her relationship to Yahweh? she asks.
Stavrakopoulou says she attempted to track down this divine couple in her new BBC2 documentary series, Bible's Buried Secrets.
Ancient texts, amulets and figurines unearthed here reveal that Asherah was a powerful fertility goddess, Stavrakopoulou says.
Despite numerous references to Asherah worship in the Bible, there wasn't enough evidence to link her explicitly with the high god of ancient Israel, Yahweh. Until, that is, the discovery of a remarkable ceramic inscription in the Sinai desert.
The inscription is a petition for a blessing, Stavrakopoulou says. Crucially, the inscription asks for a blessing from 'Yahweh and his Asherah.' Here was evidence that presented Yahweh and Asherah as a divine pair. And now a handful of similar inscriptions have since been found, all of which help to strengthen the case that the God of the Bible once had a wife.
But perhaps most significant of all, Asherah was also the wife of El, the high god at Ugarit - a god who shares much in common with Yahweh. Given the evidence within the Bible that she was worshipped in the temple in Jerusalem, might she have played the role of a divine wife in ancient Israel too?
Stavrakopoulou also says Eve has been 'unfairly maligned' by ‘middle-aged bearded men’ and should not have been blamed for the Fall of Man. Eve was perhaps not the first woman because the Garden of Eden was not mentioned in the original Old Testament, she says.
J. Edward Wright, president of The Arizona Center for Judaic Studies and The Albright Institute for Archaeological Research, supported Stavrakopoulou's findings, saying several Hebrew inscriptions mention Yahweh and his Asherah.
However, Aaron Brody, director of the Bade Museum and an associate professor of Bible and archaeology at the Pacific School of Religion, says, Mentions of the goddess Asherah in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) are rare and have been heavily edited by the ancient authors who gathered the texts together.
The ancient Israelites were polytheists, Brody told Discovery News.