Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Did God Have a Wife: An Exercise in Bad Journalism

In my previous post I highlighted an excellent example of long-form journalism and mused that more of that was needed. Well, here's an example of a brief article that does virtually nothing to educate the reader on the topic presented.

It's ostensibly about early versions of the Bible and how a researcher believes that they told stories of Asherah, God's wife. For those who haven't studied religion or the ancient Middle East, Asherah was a fertility goddess and mother figure. Stories of her and similar goddesses abound in the region from those times. It is quite possible that she was in early versions of the stories that now make up the Torah/Bible.

But other than the fact that this researcher believes Asherah was redacted from the Bible and a very quick primer on who Asherah is, what does this article tell you? It doesn't give any examples of passages from the Torah that the researcher believes point to Asherah's removal. It doesn't give any concrete examples of the "Hebrew inscriptions" that supposedly evince his hypothesis. It gives no historical background for the writing of the Bible other than a brief aside about "heavy-handed male editors" and one sentence about the pivotal destruction of the first Jewish temple in 587/6 BCE. All of this information would have given this article some weight, some merit. As it is, I find it worthless other than giving me the name of this researcher (Francesca Stavrakopoulou) so that I can dig around for some more helpful material on his research.

Religion is hard to write about. I get that. It rarely has a clear narrative. Many adherents and their beliefs are opaque and confusing. But it seems that effort is rarely made to clearly elucidate the subject. Articles like this (and their headlines) seem made to generate controversy and traffic instead of relying on an excellent writing to bring in readers.

The image is a statue of Asherah (from the Wikipedia article). Isn't it great looking? I'd put that on my mantle.

No comments: