Bible Secrets Re-revealed! Did God Have a Wife?

**Did God have a wife named Asherah? Was she edited out of the Old Testament?**

SERIES INTRO: Have the right narrator and ominous music and anything can sound scandalous.  Recently, I watched several episodes of the History Channel’s Bible Secrets Revealed TV show.  It was amusing but troubling at the same time since these sort of sensationalist shows aren’t about history or education, but preying on people’s lack of knowledge.  The sort of one-sided, half-information thrown around on these TV shows is sure to resurface.  So, here are some quick responses to some questions that might arise from such quality TV programing.

 

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YAHWEH & HIS ASHERAH

The idea that the Jewish God was believed to have a wife as some point in history exists because some inscriptions on archeological artifacts from the Iron Age appear to connect Asherah, an ancient pagan fertility goddess, with the God of Israel, Yahweh.  The inscriptions ask for blessings from “Yahweh and his Asherah” (or “asherah,” since its unclear if the word is a proper name or not).  The artwork may even depict “Yahweh” with Asherah.  Of course, the writers of the Bible never speak of the immaterial, self-sufficient, self-existent, one-and-only God of the Jews as having a wife (and making idols and images of their God was strictly forbidden… and how do you make an image of an immaterial being anyway?) .  But some have even gone so far as to propose that God’s wife had been edited out of the Bible.

GOD’S NAME

In Exodus 3, when Moses asks God for his name, God replies, “I AM WHO I AM” and “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14).  “I AM” in the original Hebrew is “YHWH” or Yahweh.  When you see “LORD” spelled in all capital letters in your Bible, the original Hebrew reads “YHWH,” God’s name as given to Moses.  (God’s “name” is really a description of his eternal, self-sufficient, self-existent nature, but that’s a discussion for another time.)

THE EVIDENCE (OR LACK OF)

Richard S. Hess, professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages at Denver Seminary, in “Did Yahweh Have a Wife?  Iron Age Religion in Israel and Its Neighbors” in the book Come Let Us Reason, examines the archeological evidence concerning Yahweh, Asherah, and other Iron Age deities.  Examining archeology from such a long time ago is difficult because it’s like having few puzzle pieces of a large puzzle.  For this reason alone, the conclusions the scholars jump to in TV shows like Bible Secrets Revealed about Yahweh having a wife are hasty and based on speculation.

Further, no evidence whatsoever — whether early manuscripts or otherwise — supports the idea that the writers of the Bible at one time taught that God had a wife and that this information was later removed.  This is purely unfounded speculation and sensationalism.

Further, Hess says the evidence never describes Yahweh as having offspring or being connected to fertility religions, and “Asherah’s complete absence in all the blessing formulae of letters and all other Judean references to deity” shows she wasn’t a prominent figure.  In fact, she doesn’t even appear to hold any “clear place in the official cult(s)” of the nearby nations.  Further, the evidence shows Yahweh with unique “chief god” status in Israel, much different from neighboring pagan lands, and the worship of Yahweh was “somewhat” exclusive in ancient Israel and “virtually exclusive” in Judah.

Hess also concludes from the evidence that Yahwah was not generally identified with physical objects, animals, or other images and idols, and Yahweh’s very nature was unique among the Iron Age gods.  Thus, the artwork of Yahweh and Asherah — if that’s what, in fact, it is — and the inscriptions are oddities, not the norm.  Just as it happens today, people try to mix all sorts of false beliefs into the true faith of Christianity.  This is one of the reasons it’s so important that we have written Scriptures, unlike most of the ancient pagan religions, so our beliefs are secure and cannot be corrupted.

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WHAT THE BIBLE TELLS US

Thus, the available evidence supports what the Bible writers tell us: Yahweh was the exclusive God of Israel, but sometimes there was syncretism (the mixing of religions) with neighboring pagan lands.  Within the Old Testament, we see constant warnings against Israel mixing with the religions of their pagan neighbors and Israel’s failure to listen.  We also see references to Asherah-related idols, often in the forms of some sort of trees or “poles.”

For instance, Deuteronomy 16:21 commands, “You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah of any kind of tree beside the altar of the Lord your God, which you shall make for yourself.”  In 2 Kings 21, evil King Manasseh practices idolatry, worshipping other deities other than the one true God, and we’re told he “erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah.”  Then, in 2 Kings 23, King Josiah brings the Hebrews back from idolatry to proper worship of Yahweh by ordering the destruction of pagan idols, including Asherah poles.

THE QUEEN OF HEAVEN

Moreover, the references to “the queen of heaven” in Jeremiah 7:18 and 44:19 may be referring to Asherah, but more likely are referring to a similar fertility goddess (Astarte or Ishtar) of Assyria or Babylon, who was the wife of one of their gods (Baal or Molech).  A pagan religion giving a goddess the title “queen of heaven” is nothing unique and doesn’t automatically connect that goddess to the God of Israel in anyway, especially since “heaven” is a general term for an astral, non-physical realm.  Once again, jumping to the conclusion that Yahweh had a wife from this reference of a pagan “queen of heaven” is a rash conclusion to say the least.

As with many of these unorthodox claims, the idea of “God’s wife” is based on little evidence, ignores the Biblical text, and promotes misinformation based on speculation, sensationalism, and canyon-sized jumps of logic.

Main Source:  Richard S. Hess, “Did Yahweh Have a Wife? Iron Age Religion in Israel and Its Neighbors” in Come Let Us Reason, Digital Edition, v.1, ed. Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2012).

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Bible Secrets Re-revealed! Did Constantine Control What Books Went into the Biblical Canon? Why Were Some Books Almost Rejected?

** Did Roman Emperor Constantine compose the New Testament Canon?  Why was the Canon closed?  Why were some New Testament books almost left out? **

SERIES INTRO:

Have the right narrator and ominous music and anything can sound scandalous.  Recently, I watched several episodes of the History Channel’s Bible Secrets Revealed TV show.  It was amusing but troubling at the same time since these sort of sensationalist shows aren’t about history or education, but preying on people’s lack of knowledge.  The sort of one-sided, half-information thrown around on these TV shows is sure to resurface.  So, here are some quick responses to some questions that might arise from such quality TV programing.

 

Constantine

Did Constantine control the decisions about what books were included in the Bible?

So, the popular conspiracy theory goes that Constantine, the first Roman emperor to become Christian, and those at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, decided which books would be included in the Bible.

The Old Testament was set long before Constantine was born.  Moreover, there is plenty of evidence that shows that the books of the New Testament were considered Scripture long before an “official” canon for the New Testament was set.

For example, in 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul gives two quotes and calls them both Scripture.  The first quote is from Deuteronomy 25:4, and the second quotes Jesus from Luke 10:7.  This illustrates that Paul considered the Gospel of Luke — or at least the words of Jesus — as equal in authority to the Jewish Scriptures, the Old Testament.  Then, in 2 Peter 3:15-16, Peter refers to Paul’s writing as Scripture.  This clearly shows that the first generation of Christians already considered certain written works the new, divine written words of God.

Further, in the writings of the early church fathers – including Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp – in the first half of the second century (about 100-150 AD), they quoted extensively from the works of the New Testament, showing that they found them authoritative, even explicitly calling them Scripture at times.

Early challenges to the traditional teachings of Christianity gave the young church good reason to clarify which writings taught proper Christian doctrine.  For instance, a rich, influential man named Marcion, who believed there were two Gods in the Bible (an evil God of the Old Testament and a good God of the New Testament) attempted to rid the church of anything he perceived as “Jewish.”  This included getting rid of the whole Old Testament and putting together his own version of  the “New Testament,” with only the Gospel of Luke and 10 of Paul’s letters, editing out anything he perceived as too Jewish.  His teachings were official rejected by the church in 144 AD.

Also, Gnosticism, a belief that mixed Christian beliefs with the philosophy of Plato, believed the material world was wholly evil and unredeemable, and because of this, Gnostics believed God never became “evil” flesh.  Thus, Jesus Christ only appeared to have a human body.  The Gnostic produced many false “gospels” written in the 2nd Century and after.

Thus, these situations showed the church a need to be clear what written works were truly Christian.  Lists exist from the early church fathers, dated about 200 years before Constantine, listing authoritative Christian writings, including all four Gospels, Acts, and most of Paul’s letters.

The Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, which was arranged at Constantine’s request, is not where the New Testament canon was made “official” as many people wrongly think.  The Council of Nicaea is where the church worked out the proper biblical understanding of the nature of Christ’s divinity in relationship to the Father, as well as some other odds and ends, like how to determine the date of the observance of Easter.  No evidence of any debates or discussions about which books belonged in the Bible exists from the Council of Nicaea.  The “official,” “closed” list of the New Testament Canon occurred not until 367 AD, a whole generation later.  But, as stated above, the books of the New Testament were long established as the scripture of Christianity long before this, as evident by the “Muratori Fragment,” a list which includes nearly of the book of the New Testament dating from the mid-second century in Rome.

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Why was the inclusion of James, 2 Peter, Jude, 2 John and 3 John in the New Testament disputed?

The Book of James has been questioned because the teachings of James appear to contradict the teachings in Paul’s letters.  James teaches that faith needs to be joined with works, meaning that faith needs to be complimented with actions.  James says, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17).  But Paul, in several places in his letters, emphasizes that Christians have salvation only through faith apart from works.  Thus, Christians have salvation through God’s grace alone; only through God’s work, not their own, can sinful man be redeemed.  On a closer reading, we see that James and Paul do compliment each other.  James is stating that works is the outcome of salvation, not the means of salvation – something Paul would agree with.  A person’s actions are the evidence of salvation in that person.

2 Peter is disputed because the written style of 2 Peter is very different than the style of 1 Peter.  Often, ancient letter writers dictated their ideas to scribes, who wrote them down.  We see evidence in Paul’s letters that he used a scribe at times.  It was not uncommon for the scribes to not record the thoughts of the speaker word-for-word, but in their own words.  This means that they recorded the ideas but wrote them out in their own style.  It can be safely assumed the author dictating the ideas would approve of the final product, perhaps signing it or writing some closing sentences in their own hand.  Again, we see evidence of this in Paul’s letters.

Jude, 2 John, and 3 John are so short that some have questioned whether they should be in the New Testament simply because they are so brief.  Can such short letters convey any significant information?  Of course, this comes down to opinion, not factual evidence, and Christians today still find godly wisdom in these three short letters.

Why was Revelation included in the New Testament Canon despite controversy?

Revelation is a notoriously difficult book to understand.  The genre (or style) in which Revelation is written is called apocalyptic literature, which has a lot of strange symbolism depicting spiritual things.  Revelation is unique to other apocalyptic literature because it also includes prophecy and letters to churches.  Despite all of this, the authorship of Revelation by the Apostle John, one of Jesus’ original twelve disciples, is secure, and Revelation meets the requirements for inclusion in the New Testament.

Main Source of information for this post:

Craig L. Blomberg, Can We Still Believe the Bible? (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2014).

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The Trinity Mashup & the Schizophrenic God! “Mother God,” “Christ” Ahnsahnghong, & World Mission Society Church of God – The One True Church or Cult?

**Is “Christ” Ahnsahnghong the Trinitarian God? Does the WMSCOG have a correct understanding of the Trinity?  Do they promote a schizophrenic God?  Where does “Mother God” fit in?**

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(God From the Machine has published a book titled Searching the Bible for Mother God: Examining the Teachings of the World Mission Society Church of God, available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.  Click here to learn more.)

This article continues to look at the World Mission Society Church of God (also simply called the Church of God), but commonly called by those not in the church “the Mother God Cult.”  The Church of God believes the Bible teaches about God the Mother, who is currently alive on earth in South Korea, and the church’s founder, Ahnsahnghong, is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Last article, I gave an overview of their history and beliefs, and I used the Bible to analyze their belief in Ahnsahnghong as the Second Coming of Christ.  (Read that article, titled “World Mission Society Church of God, Mother God & Christ Ahnsahnghong – The One True Church or Cult?” here.)

Also, I do not intend to debate here if the World Mission Society Church of God is a “cult” or not, and I prefer my readers to decide.  (Please feel free to comment, discuss, & debate below!)  Earlier articles I wrote will hopefully be helpful:

Finally, before we begin, let me be clear: I’ve exposed myself to no negative writings, videos, or websites concerning the World Mission Society Church of God at the time of the writing of this article.  I’m responding strictly to their beliefs as explained on their website.  Further, since they use the Bible extensively to attempt to legitimatize their beliefs, I’ll use the Bible to respond to them.

This article will be looking at their beliefs about the Trinity and their founder, Ahnsahnghong, as God in three forms.  Before we look at the Church of God’s teachings, let’s look at the  traditional Christian understanding of the Trinity…

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Ahnsahnghong – Is this man Father, Son & Holy Spirit?

A BIBLICAL UNDERSTANDING OF THE TRINITY

Traditional Christianity believes in the Trinity: one God, three persons – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. This belief is unique to Christianity, and it’s certainly a difficult doctrine to wrap our finite heads around, and, thus, it’s a favorite target of those critical of Christianity (often accusing Christians of polytheism), but it’s biblical. In order to understand it correctly, we need to understand that the three persons are distinct persons, yet of the same nature.

I find thinking about it like a 1st Century Jew helps. Jews in Jesus’ day, unlike the pagan Romans, understood that there was only one God, and everything else is not God. Thus, when Jesus says he’s the Son of God, the Jews don’t understand it as a Roman and think, “Ok, this guy thinks he’s part God,” they understand it correctly as Jesus saying, “I am God.” That’s why they accuse him of blasphemy, a crime worthy of death. Something can’t be part God. Something is either fully God or fully something else.

The Trinitarian nature of God has several implications. In Total Truth, Nancy Pearcey writes of one of them:

“The human race was created in the image of God, who is three Persons so intimately related as to constitute one Godhead… both oneness and threeness are equally real, equally ultimate, equally basic and integral to God’s nature…

“The balance of unity and diversity in the Trinity gives a model for human social life, because it implies that both individuality and relationship exist within the Godhead itself. God is being-in-communion. Humans are made in the image of a God who is a tri-unity—whose very nature consists in reciprocal love and communication among the Persons of the Trinity… the Trinity implies the dignity and uniqueness of individual persons. Over against radical individualism, the Trinity implies that relationships are not created by sheer choice but are built into the very essence of human nature. We are not atomistic individuals but are created for relationships.”

To understand the Trinity, it’s best to state the doctrine in three sentences: (1) God is three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (2) Each person is fully God. (3) There is only one God. Denying or changing any of these three statements wouldn’t accurately illustrate the Christian belief (as supported by the Bible) of the Trinity. All three statements must be accepted as truth for correct understanding of the Trinity. Moreover, I’ve found trying to explain the Trinity in any other manner tends to lead to misrepresentations of the Trinity and basically (to use an out-of-fashion word) heresy. Likewise, any analogy to explain the Trinity often proves misleading or inaccurate.

(Recommended reading: The Forgotten Trinity by James White or see Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology.)

Though no diagram or analogy can properly illustrate the Trinity, this may be helpful.

Though no diagram or analogy can properly illustrate the Trinity, this may be helpful.

 

AN OLD HERESY

Now, let’s look at how the World Mission Society Church of God/Church of God (“COG” from here on out) explains the Trinity on their own website:

“The concept of “Trinity” means that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are not different entities, but are one God. The Trinity—God the Father [Jehovah], God the Son [Jesus], and God the Holy Spirit [Ahnsahnghong]—are one…

“To better understand the Trinity, let’s first consider the transformation of water. Water is a liquid, but when its temperature falls below 0° C, the water will turn into ice, a solid. When the water is boiled, it turns into vapor, a gas. Water, ice, and vapor have different names and different forms, but their substance is the same: H2O.

“It is similar to when an actor in a monodrama plays three different characters—a father, a son, and a grandson—all having different voices. Although there are three different voices and three different roles, there is only one actor.

What the COG states here and elsewhere on their website teaches that Ahnsahnghong is God appearing throughout history in three different forms. (See an overview of their core beliefs here.)  What the COG is teaching is an old heresy called Modalism.

The website carm.org summarizes Modalism succinctly:

“Modalism is probably the most common theological error concerning the nature of God. It is a denial of the Trinity. Modalism states that God is a single person who, throughout biblical history, has revealed Himself in three modes or forms. Thus, God is a single person who first manifested himself in the mode of the Father in Old Testament times. At the incarnation, the mode was the Son; and after Jesus’ ascension, the mode is the Holy Spirit. These modes are consecutive and never simultaneous. In other words, this view states that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit never all exist at the same time–only one after another. Modalism denies the distinctiveness of the three persons in the Trinity even though it retains the divinity of Christ.”

So, according to the COG, Ahnsahnghong is God the Father (Jehovah), God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit (Ahnsahnghong). All of these titles belong to him, and throughout the website he’s called “Christ Ahnsahnghong” and even “God Ahnsahnghong.”

From the COG website:

“God’s name was “Jehovah” when He played the role of the Father, and it was “Jesus” when He worked as the Son. Then, how should we call upon God when He is working as the Holy Spirit? The name of the Holy Spirit is Ahnsahnghong.”

It appears the COG believes the Bible is the Word of God since it uses the Bible extensively to justify their beliefs in “Christ” Ahnsahnghong and “Mother God.” But adopting a Modalist view that the Trinity is the same divine person appearing in 3 different forms at 3 different times, as the COG does, becomes a huge problem if we accept the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. Why? Quite frankly, it makes God look schizophrenic.

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THE SCHIZOPHRENIC GOD

Schizophrenia literally means “split mind.”  If Ahnsahnghong is both God the Father and God the Son/Jesus at different times, then who is Jesus praying to in the Garden of Gethsemane:

Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will”? (Mark 14:36)

In the Garden of Gethsemane, if Ahnsahnghong is Jesus/The Son, how is he praying to The Father? According to the COG’s own theology, when Ahnsahnghong is The Son, then he’s no longer The Father. The Father and The Son did not exist at the same time. When Ahnsahnghong was Jesus 2,000 years ago, he was no longer in the form of God the Father, so who is Jesus praying to throughout the Gospels?

Take, for example, Jesus’ prayer in John 17:

“Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life…

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me…

“O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them…”

So, who is Ahnsahnghong talking to? Himself? Let’s do an experiment: Let’s replace all of the references to God the Son/Jesus, God the Father, and all pronouns for both of them and see how that works out…

“Ahnsahnghong spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Ahnsahnghong, the hour has come; glorify Ahnsahnghong, that Ahnsahnghong may glorify Ahnsahnghong, even as Ahnsahnghong gave Ahnsahnghong authority over all flesh, that to all whom Ahnsahnghong have given Ahnsahnghong, Ahnsahnghong may give eternal life…

“I, Ahnsahnghong, do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Ahnsahnghong through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Ahnsahnghong, are in Ahnsahnghong, and Ahnsahnghong in Ahnsahnghong that they also may be in Us (Ahnsahnghong and Ahnsahnghong), so that the world may believe that Ahnsahnghong sent Ahnsahnghong

“O righteous Ahnsahnghong, although the world has not known Ahnsahnghong, yet Ahnsahnghong has known Ahnsahnghong; and these have known that Ahnsahnghong sent Ahnsahnghong; and Ahnsahnghong has made Ahnsahnghong’s name known to them…”

See what I mean by schizophrenic?

Finally, what does the COG make of Matthew 3:16-17, Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist?

“After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.’”

Here, we clearly see the complete Trinity all acting at the same moment in time: Jesus (God the Son) is being baptized. God the Holy Spirit descends to him. And God the Father speaks from heaven.

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CONCLUSION

If the COG’s explanation of the Trinity (the Modalist view) is correct, then the COG has to give up on the Bible as the inerrant Word of God or accept a schizophrenic view of God.

The Church of God clearly gets it wrong when it comes to the Trinity and all things concerning Ahnsahnghong as divine.

Finally, if God had a plan, according to the COG, to divide history into 3 eras and to appear as a different form of a savior in each era, where does Mother God fit into this picture?  I’d be interested in learning when the COG began teaching that belief in Mother God was needed for salvation.  Was this a “Plan B” to preserve their church after Ahnsahnghong, Christ’s supposed Second Coming, died?  This is all speculation on my part, but I’m interested in learning when the teachings of “Mother God” emerged in the COG, since nothing is even said about her in their history as presented on their website.

Please understand that my effort to expose and discredit the World Mission Society Church of God is not out of malice, spite, or because I have nothing else better to do. I am concerned for those led astray by Ahnsahnghong and “Mother God.” The good news is Jesus Christ, the true Savior, gives new starts and new lives. No one is beyond Jesus Christ’s salvation, even sinners like you and me, who are made in God’s image and have eternal worth to him.

NEXT: Mother God – a closer look.

**God From the Machine has published a book for evangelizing, educating, and refuting the World Mission Society Church of God titled Searching the Bible for Mother God: Examining the Teachings of the World Mission Society Church of God, available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.  Click here to learn more.

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