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Did God Have A Wife? Archaeology And Folk Religion In Ancient Israel Hardcover – June, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0802828521 ISBN-10: 0802828523 Edition: 1St Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; 1St Edition edition (June 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802828523
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802828521
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,194,634 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Susan Ackerman In Did God Have a Wife? Bill Dever presents a multidimensional portrait of ancient Israelite religion with his characteristic eloquence and panache. Most significantly, through his detailed examination of archaeological materials, Dever reveals crucial facets of what he calls "folk religion," or the religion of one of ancient Israel's most neglected communities, the everyday people. Ronald Hendel Dever has done it again. The dean of biblical archaeology presents a wide-ranging and lively treatment of folk religion in ancient Israel, including the possibility of a prominent role for the goddess Asherah. Dever's synthesis of the archaeological evidence is masterful. This is a must-read for students of the Bible. J. Edward Wright Did God Have a Wife? is the book that Bill Dever has been preparing to write for decades. In fact, he is probably the only person prepared and bold enough to attempt it... Dever finds that the only way to uncover the rich diversity of the religious impulse in ancient Israel is for archaeology to work in conversation with texts and iconography... Professionals will know much of the data but will nonetheless be impressed with Dever's synthesis of evidence from diverse sources. Lay readers will appreciate Dever's clear reconstruction and, at the same time, will be challenged by his conclusions. It is fitting that a book focusing on folk religion is written in a style that makes the information readily available to modern audiences. Mark S. Smith A lucid treatment of a most provocative aspect of the Bible, namely, the question of a goddess in ancient Israel who might have been thought of as Yahweh's consort. Dever is one of the leading biblical archaeologists in the world, and he tackles one of the Bible's burning issues in this book. Fresh, clear, accessible, and recommended to anyone interested in the religion of ancient Israel. Ziony Zevit Once again William Dever has written a page-turner for thoughtful individuals interested in the Bible. This time, however, he explores what most biblicists ignore -- the folk religion of ancient Israel, the religion as lived and practiced... Although written for the general public, this is one book that scholars cannot afford to miss... Writing in a personal style sprinkled with anecdotes, Dever has produced a rare work -- a book that may be read and appreciated by all who take the Bible, archaeology, and history seriously. Packed with information, crackling with brilliant observations.

About the Author

William G. Dever is professor emeritus of Near Eastern archaeology and anthropology at the University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona. He is also the author of What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?, What Archaeology Can Tell Us About the Reality of Ancient Israel and Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?

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Customer Reviews

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At that time Patai's book was considered somewhat heretical.
Virgil Brown
Author Dever challenges the idea that the scribes who wrote the Hebrew Bible were giving us an accurate picture of life in early Israel.
Timothy Ward
This is a book more for students or general audiences than for scholars.
FrKurt Messick

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

114 of 119 people found the following review helpful By Max Johnson on June 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Dever, a convert to Judaism and one of America's finest Biblical archaeologists, has written one of his most provocative and acessible pieces of ancient "detective" work to date. In the book he makes a strong argument for making a distinction between "elite," "priestly" Judaism (the source of most of the "Old Testament" writings) and "popular," or "folk" Judaism, and argues further that, while priestly religion may have been more or less "monotheistic" (or "henotheistic"), Israelite folk religion was essentially POLYTHEISTIC, and honored/worshipped Yahweh/El's divine consort, Asherah, IN ADDITION to Yahweh!! This idea is not "new," of course, but rarely has the argument been made by a professional archaeologist of Dever's stature.

These important "fightin' words" contribute to the growing body of ammunition for those Jewish and Christian feminist/goddess theologians arguing for the legitimacy of using FEMININE as well as masculine imagery and language in theological discourse (Muslim feminists might have a harder time, given the Qur'an's insistence that "God has no 'partner'"). Dever himself thinks of the book as a sort of "feminist manifesto by a man."

Dever has written NUMEROUS books and peer-reviewed journal articles AGAINST the anti-semitic "implications" in the archaeological work of others (such as the "Copenhagen School"), and he is well-known in the academy as an outspoken CRITIC of "postmodern" or "deconstructive" thought (he is sometimes unnecessarily and unfairly polemical, in my view), so the other reviewer's comments about Dever being a "postmodern anti-semite" are EXTREMELY bizarre and completely baffling!

In any event, Dever wrote this book for the interested layperson as well as for scholars, so ANYONE interested in ancient Jewish history and theology will find it fascinating reading, whether one accepts his argument or not. (I, for one, WAS convinced. And no, I am NOT a woman. At least I don't think so!)
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45 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Virgil Brown VINE VOICE on August 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the themes of the Deuteronomistic History is that Israel was occasionally guilty of theological infidelity; Yahweh was always the God of Israel and occasionally Israel would chase after "foreign" gods.

This time around Dever writes about what he calls the folk religion of the people and other scholars call popular religion. Folk religion is not the religion of the priests and the prophets who left us their deliberate ideology (Dever's terms) in the Hebrew Scriptures. I hope readers will wade through the first two chapters of the book in which Dever surveys definitions and surveys schools of approach to the Bible. Quite often Dever's critique of his fellow scholars is that "the vast archaeological data and literature are largely invisible." It is in these sources that one finds folk religion.

Dever is a scholar who does find historical value in biblical texts. He is not a revisionist who believes that the Bible was authored in the Persian or Hellenistic Periods. But the biblical texts have limits. One is that the biblical texts, in their present form, were written no earlier than the 8th century and so are distanced by centuries from the events which they portend to portray. Who knows what sources the writers had? The Bible mentions the Book of Jasher and there could have been oral traditions that had been carried down for centuries. A second limitation of the biblical texts is that its writers had to be selective. In a society where literacy was far less common than in our own, writers wrote for the elite. A third limitation of the biblical writers is that they did not maintain any sort of objectivity not did they make any pretense at doing so. Dever calls this "propaganda." I agree with the term, but it is one that is loaded.
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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I have long been a fan of William Dever's scholarship. This is not to say that I agree with all of his interpretations or his conclusions; on the contrary, there is much that I disagree with in regard to this part of his work. However, I never fail to learn something new, and never fail to be presented with new interpretations and possible explanations for the archaeological and historical data being presented. Taken together with other scholarship (Dever would be one of the first to encourage further research and reading beyond his own works), it helps to give insight into possible alternatives, and a fuller sense of the history and society behind the Biblical texts.

In this book, Dever looks more specifically at the phenomenon of folk religion that existed in ancient Israel prior to and during the time of the Hebrew biblical times. In the first few chapters, Dever explores what is meant by the term 'folk religion' and how this fits with more modern ideas of religion and theology. Dever also looks at the issues of historical method and content - this includes an overall assessment of previous scholarship in the field. Dever also looks at the issue of sources - how is it that we know what we know (or what we think we know), and what are the limitations of using these sources? In particular, Dever concentrates on the sources of the Biblical text, the extra-biblical texts that have survived from the same period, and archaeology. Dever highlights the limitations of archaeological method, and decries any attempts at complete objectivity ('not since the death of 19th-century "positivism" have any respectable historians been naïve enough to think that they could be entirely objective'), and any attempts to foist 'objectivity' upon others.
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