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Ron Beron

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I was thinking the other day about the universal acceptance of the Asherah/asherah concept laid down in the OT throughout the period of the First Temple period in Israel. I have two further questions based on this and bear exclusively to Asherah worship in the post-exilic and into the Hellenistic, Roman, and early Christian centuries.

Shortly before the Babylonian diaspora and upon the Israelites return there seemed to be a shift in understanding of the feminine nature of Israelâ??s deity. Initially mentioned in Psalms and Proverbs the feminine moved from a literal creation to something more ethereal:

"He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion." Jer. 10:12

"O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches." Ps. 104:24
"The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens." Prov. 3:19

In all these scriptures the term wisdom or Hebrew, Hokma, is used. She is mentioned here as the goddess of knowledge finding her comparison In the Greek, Athena.

The earliest known mention is from a series of papyrus from the Jewish colony in Elephantine in Egypt.

â??From heaven the peoples are favored; Wisdom is of the gods. Indeed, she is precious to the gods; her kingdom is eternal She has been established by Shamayn; yes, the Holy Lord has exalted herâ?

From a reading in the Assyrian texts she is connected with their god, Baal Shamayn. In Kottsieperâ??s transaction of the above Wisdom is set as the co-ruler with El,

â??...Among the gods, too, she is honored; she shares with her lord the rulership. In heaven is she established, yea, the lord of the holy ones has exalted her.â? (In Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible)

Both Sumer and Egypt also had their â??wisdomâ?? deities. Sumer had Nisaba and Egypt had Maâ??at. Both of whom could have served as a model for hokma.

She is shown in Hellenistic writings in the Book of Wisdom as an equivalent of Isis and later for the Hellenistic deity, Sophia.

â?? 3 She adds to nobility the splendor of companionship with God; even the LORD of all loved her. 4 For she is instructress in the understanding of God, the selector of his works. 5 And if riches be a desirable possession in life, what is more rich than Wisdom, who produces all things? 6 And if prudence renders service, who in the world is a better craftsman than she?

7 Or if one loves justice, the fruits of her works are virtues; For she teaches moderation and prudence, justice and fortitude, and nothing in life is more useful for men than these. 8 Or again, if one yearns for copious learning, she knows the things of old, and infers those yet to come. She understands the turns of phrases and the solutions of riddles; signs and wonders she knows in advance and the outcome of times and ages. 9 So I determined to take her to live with me, knowing that she would be my counselor while all was well, and my comfort in care and grief.â?

Solomon relates how he takes her as spouse already spouse of God forming a triad.

In Proverbs 1-9 she is discussed more fully as the daughter of God.

In other parts of the Proverbs she is identified with the scribes, guide to kings and state officials, and as teacher of wisdom.

Within Proverbs there are some remarkable accounts of Wisdom being â??begottenâ? by the Father

Proverbs 8:22,23The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. 23 I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.

While it states that the Lord possessed, in reality the word is closer to create.

How this would have taken place is anyoneâ??s case since a mother is not mentioned. Some have suggested that she was born like Athena, from the head of Zeus or directly from Godâ??s mouth

Sirach 24:3 "I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and covered the earth like a mist.

"From eternity, in the beginning, He created me." Sir. 24:9

The interesting aspect of this is that this would make her sister with Yahweh!

Prov. 30:4 Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell?

We also know from these scriptures she was a witness of the Fatherâ??s creations.

Prov. 8:27-30 While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:

28 When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep:

29 When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth:

30 Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;

And having a relationship with humans

vs. 31 Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.

She was later recast as Sophia and given a different persona. According to Neoplatonic literature and specifically Philo of Alexandria she was treated as Godâ??s hypostasis or divine emanation.

"Wisdom is older than the creation...of the whole universe." Philo, On the Virtues 62

"And who is to be considered the daughter of God but Wisdom, who is the firstborn mother of all things." Philo, Questions in Genesis 4:97

Later she was called LOGOS John 1 which brings me to my final question or assertion. Could Asherah/Hokma/Wisdom/Sophia have, in actuality, found her personification in Jesus?

The concept of wisdom is mentioned constantly in NT writings such as

I Cor 1:24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

I Cor 2:7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:

Eph. 1:17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:

Col. 2:3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

In each of these cases wisdom is rendered from the Greek Sophia or Wisdom.

This would seem to give new meaning to the writings of John in the first chapter, â?? IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2 The same was in the beginning with God.â?

Here, word is LOGOS which is synonymous with wisdom or Sophia. So, again, is Jesus the final personification of the Asherah?

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Here, word is LOGOS which is synonymous with wisdom or Sophia. So, again, is Jesus the final personification of the Asherah?

Fascinating theory. I think you have done well here to present your evidence. The only rebuttal I can offer is that clearly Yeshua affiliates himself with the OT Yahweh while Asherah is treated historically as an entirely different entity. There may be examples where the two are blurred or can switch roles, but I am not aware of any. If you know of some, I would be interested in seeing any such role-reversal.

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I think the blurring comes after the return to Israel after the diaspora when there was an outright objection to a literal belief in a Asherah figure. Rather than dismiss her entirely she is given a new role as one of God's emanations in Neoplatonic thought. God being the nous and Jesus and Wisdom as hypostasis of Him. While I don't think Jesus is exactly Wisdom I believe his person was used by many Gnostics as a physical manifestation of Wisdom. I seem to remember the lines between male and female were, indeed, very blurry.

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