Sunday, May 07, 2006

Ancient religious debates come back to life

Sometimes it seems that nothing ever really goes away.

Explorator 9.2 is out today with its usual goodies. Two things really caught my eye today.

The first was a review in the progressive Jewish newspaper Forward of two books on the role of female deities in ancient Hebrew religion. The more interesting is William G. Dever's Did God Have a Wife?, a survey of the archaeological evidence that Hebrew religion before the Exile to Babylon was not exclusively focused on a single male God, and an argument that such veneration wasn't a foreign element in Hebraic religion, but indigenous.

The paper gives a hint as to the contemporary relevance of such debates when it notes that the reviewer, Jay Michaelson, " will be leading the Nehirim spiritual retreat for GLBT Jews this month."

The illustration above, by the way, is a sculpture by California artist S.R. Kelley, who draws inspiration from Neolithic and Bronze Age art of Europe and the Middle East. It's called Ashera, which is the name of both a mother goddess and a kind of shrine known in Biblical times.

The second Explorator item on the theme of "it just keeps coming back" is from the Guardian, and concerns a court ruling in Greece. On the petition of modern Greek pagans, an Athens court has lifted the ban on the worship of the ancient Greek gods. How long has this ban been in place, you have to wonder? Ever since Theodosius criminalized paganism in the 380s?

Or is this a more modern ban?

Is this the beginning of a new (or old?) era in Greek religion? More from the Guardian:

Vasillis Tsantilas told the Guardian,. "We will petition the Greek parliament, and the EU if that fails, for access to worship in places like the Acropolis, for permission to have our own cemeteries and, where necessary, to re-bury the [ancient] bones of the dead."
Stay tuned.


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