I can’t believe I am actually providing a rebuttal to this atrocious series! But, I was persuaded to do so after looking at the second programme in the BBC2 Series ‘The Bible’s Buried Secrets’ broadcast on 22nd March, 2011 on BBC iPlayer! Frankly, I found it a complete waste of time, because I have read the same kinds of ludicrous, badly-formed hypotheses in other Higher Critical sources. They are just worthless!
Again, I say this because the methods of research used are blatantly anti-God and against scripture, and are not academically sound. For the presenter to foist this on viewers as ‘biblical scholarship’ is not acceptable.
Throughout the programme, she repeated her main thesis, time and again – I have no doubt that the whole programme could have been truncated into just five minutes! The presentation was very clear in its scorning of scripture, by saying – repeatedly - that the Bible is unreliable and tells lies! This is only her opinion, not proven fact! But, she continually says it as if it were fact. Academics do this when they do not have a leg to stand on… but how are viewers supposed to know that?
To give a fully annotated reply would take a long time – the presenter has made her confusion her life’s work, so a quick reply containing all rebuttals is not possible. Even so, we can show just how ridiculous (and unreliable) her comments are with a few examples…
Continually, the presenter, Dr Francesca Stavrakopoupou, says something like “or so the Bible says”. The aim is obvious – to undermine what scripture says, not with facts but with Atheistic opinion.
Also continually, in this programme, she keeps saying “in my view”, but puts it over in such a way as to again undermine scripture; viewers not trained academically will just accept what she says without doubt… and she knows it. I have read this kind of thing over forty years and it is still worthless, no matter how ‘modern’!
She confidently makes assertions when she should be offering propositions or suggestions… but, of course, she has her agenda to stick to! The more reasonable suggestions or hypotheses are replaced by popularised assertions – a definite ‘no-no’ in academic terms! But, the presenter is having a great time, freely sprinkling guesswork over the viewers like confetti, whilst pretending it is fixed and proven.
Bible Says Monotheism – But Omnipotent Francesca Stavrakopoupou Says Polytheism!
Her main thesis this time is that the Bible says there was only one God, but that archaeology says otherwise. Now, a real academic would simply say these are two separate sources and they may not therefore be equal! But no, she goes off at a tangent and claims the superiority of archaeology!
Even though what she holds up as ‘proof’ for polytheism is only in her head, because the finds cannot be defined or fully interpreted – even the programme said that! But, few viewers are able to make the distinction because they are relying on the ‘expert’. Suffice to say that her ‘assertions’ are disputed in academia, and especially by genuine Bible scholars.
Another main feature of this Francesca Stavrakopoupou’s ‘scholarship’ is to keep saying that all her ideas are ‘hidden’ in the Bible. Well, what a big surprise. Isn’t this what all gnostics do? Claim that only they understand truths hidden from everyone else? She claims that the Bible’s ‘hidden agenda distorts the past’… a bit later, she actually tells us the Bible tells lies. Again, there are plenty of genuine scholars who would disagree.
Part-way through, she introduces a Jewish scholar who firmly says Jewish faith is solidly monotheistic… but, given the tenor of the whole programme, the presenter only brings him in to be her scorning-person, ‘proving’ just how right she is. I found that very insulting and offensive. Particularly because she does not make similar snide remarks about Islam, the Koran, or Muslim beliefs.
Constantly, she uses words and phrases to shower doubt upon the Bible, in a remarkably arrogant way, again substituting the usual words of academics (such as ‘in my opinion’, etc) for the popular versions, saying that ‘this is so’. It is up to her to prove her points, not for Christians to defend themselves! Each and every point she makes cannot be sustained academically, only by opinion. By this I mean that every point she makes has an alternative answer!
Instead of being honest, she says “that’s what the Bible says – I disagree”. That’s fine – but not when she implies that she is totally right and the Bible is deceptive, when all she has to go on are her own interpretations and false findings… which she tells us are based on ‘rigorous research’! Many academics use ‘rigorous research’ using wrong sources or interpreting badly. On its own, ‘rigorous research’ is meaningless – show us your sources, young lady! And spell out your methodology!
Francesca Stavrakopoupou Tells the Jews They are Wrong About Their Own Religion!
Again repeatedly, she said that the Jews were not always monotheistic. This is a deliberate twisting of the facts. What we read in scripture is that God (as a trinity, hence ‘in our image’, a phrase she construes as meaning a pantheon of gods!) declared Himself as One (One God, three persons) to Adam. He continued to do so through Adam’s descendants, as the majority of people went their own way.
Very often the Jews reneged on their faith, as do many people today. They dabbled in the occult and in idol worship and had to repent. Idols were sometimes found in their tents and houses, and, at one time, the people even built a golden calf. But, none of this alters the fact that there was, and is, only One God.
Thus, this silly lady deliberately confuses the actions of a people who were sometimes faithless, with the commands and statements of God. Indeed, her general understanding of what scripture says is appalling. But, we can expect this because she loathes the Bible and God (Who she believes does not exist).
Francesca Stavrakopoupou says Baal was an equal competitor of God. Nowhere in scripture do we find this kind of statement. This is because she has made it up, along with many other supposed ‘Bible scholars’ who similarly do not believe what scripture says.
She went on to say she ‘believes’ – another conjecture put over as fact – that the dangers against Baal worship in scripture are ‘wrong’. Oh well, then, she must be right – because she said so! That just about sums up her attitude: she is a scholar and so she must be correct and the Bible is wrong, even though she lives thousands of years after its writing and writes from a skewed perspective.
Ugarit and God’s ‘Wife’
Almost laughable, she offers the archaeological site at Ugarit as ‘the most important site’ for Bible study. Why? Because it supposedly (in her eyes) provides definite proof that God had a wife and thus the Jews were not monotheistic. The site’s finds are said to disprove the Bible’s account of Baal worship.
Again, though using indefinite words like “could be”, she puts it over as definite. Continually she inserts her vengeful idea that the Bible’s own teaching of monotheism is “not so solid after all”. In this way, she cleverly (well, in her own eyes) uses words that appear to be opinion, but then later trounces opinion by phrases of certainty!
What prompts this kind of remark? They have found small figurines that have been interpreted as being proof for polytheism in Judaistic worship. They do this despite the fact that there is no corroborative evidence in writ or any other source, and genuine scholars disagree. In other words, they have made guesses!
‘el in Scripture is NOT the ‘el of the Canaanites!
Then, this remarkably untaught lady tells us that another name for God is ‘el. And so it is, but it is not so much a name as a role! Why should she make so much of this fact? Because she deliberately misinterprets it to be same as the name of a Cannanite god! She says triumphantly “The evidence is there for anyone to see”! No, what she is saying is that she interprets the evidence contrary to what scripture actually says. All Higher critics do this.
In my own studies of ‘el (pronounced as ayle), I can see plainly that the word is used in certain circumstances to refer to the same God – Jehovah or Yahweh. It may indeed have been used by Cannanites to refer to their own gods, but this is not surprising, because ‘el simply refers to one’s activity, not to one’s status as One God. The Canaanites used it to mean a mighty god. The Jews used it to refer to the One God of the Hebrews.
Often, even in the same verse, different names are given for ‘God’. In Exodus 6:7, for example, both ‘elohiym and Jehovah are used... and the root, ‘elowahh can actually refer to a false god. For a scholar, then, this woman is woefully ignorant.
In Psalm 7:11, again a good example, we find ‘God’ is used twice (in the English translation). The first use is ‘elohiym and the second is…’el. Both refer to the same person, but David wishes to make a distinction between the two. ‘el is used to refer to God’s might and power. This is a straightforward fact.
The word ‘elohiym is used to show that God is the divine ruler, and the One True God. But, Francesca Stavrakopoupou attempts to place doubts on the words, and to make them say something else. It does not matter at all that ‘el is also used by the Canannites, any more than it matters that both nations may have referred to a heaven, or to other gods. The meanings she attempts to superimpose are simply not there! They are invented to bolster her Atheistic idea of the Bible.
To sum up – the words we have in English for ‘God’ are not so in Hebrew or Greek. A number of different words are used for ‘God’, and one or two are shared by the countries around Israel at the time. Some of those words are titles or roles, whilst others are personal names. But, what Francesca Stavrakopoupou is doing is to create confusion and doubt over things that are quite normal, so that the Bible appears to be faulty while her own opinions appear to be fact..
Francesca Stavrakopoupou Grabs Bethel Next!
So, where Bethel speaks of the house of ‘el – this is nothing different. The word is a joining of a place (a house), beyth, and ‘el – thus, ‘house of God’. But, Francesca Stavrakopoupou insists this is a reference to the Canaanite god! That a false god is also ‘el proves nothing – it certainly does not prove that the God of scripture is ‘therefore’ the false god!
My first name is the same as that of the president of the USA – Barry (Soetero), but it does not mean that when you see my name, it means I am the president! Get the absurdity of her ‘argument’?
Jacob Wrong, Too?
That Jacob says ‘el was the name of God – again, that is normal. Just remember – different names were used for different reasons. But, our modern scholar, Francesca Stavrakopoupou, cannot comprehend that, because she abhors God and does not want to believe what she reads. After all, she must keep finding mythical interpretations to justify her salary!
Her statement that “God used to be known as ‘el” is too simplistic to be considered, but what she is implying is that the God of the Bible is also the false god of the Canannites. Not so! A Canaanite army had captains. So did the Hebrew army. Does this mean that any reference to captains in the Bible is actually a reference to the Canaanite army? Of course not! Same words do not infer same meanings.
Yet, this young lady brazenly flaunts her ignorance; so besotted with herself, she says “I think” God ‘is a Canaanite god’. Good for her – but she is wrong. She has stuck her mind at the wrong level of understanding, because she is an Atheist. Atheists do not believe God exists, so she automatically rejects anything that says so. That is very poor academic practice. In fact, she says this herself: “people can see in the Bible what they want to see”. Exactly. And that is what she does herself.
She claims it was the norm for the Israelites to believe in many gods. What does she mean by ‘Israelites’, and what period is she referring to? It is clear in scripture that even when the nation fell into idolatry, this was NOT the norm – for God moved a leader to speak against it and bring the people back in repentance.
In some texts we see whole groups put to death for idolatry, and we read of patriarchs searching out idols in tents and houses to destroy them! The ‘norm’ was not polytheism, but monotheism! This woman’s guesswork is useless… it is certainly not academic.
She said there was more than one ‘god’ in the temple – but failed to give us the source of her claim. She misreads and misinterprets many texts. One text she gave was Psalm 82:1 – and what a mess she made of it, despite her knowledge of Hebrew. In other places her Hebrew is tainted by being selective over her choice of interpretation, which is very secular, disregarding the context.
She claimed that the “congregation of the mighty” and the reference to “gods”, is to a Pantheon of lesser gods! Yahweh, she suggests, was the chief god. To do this she must ignore the real Hebrew meanings, which do not support her view that this is a ‘gathering of gods’. The painfully obvious meaning of ‘gods’ is that of human judges, as verse 2 adequately says; verses 3-5 add further proof this is so. Verse 7 says they will “die like men” – because they ARE men, not gods!
So why does the Psalmist and God call them ‘gods’, in verse 6? He used the word ‘elohiym, which, in this text, simply means… human judges or rulers. By making the Psalm mean lesser gods in a Pantheon, FS brings in a totally alien meaning that the text does not allow. But, once again, the general viewer (and even the general Christian) will not know this.
God’s Wife… Another Academic Fable
Francesca Stavrakopoupou talked to Albert Niehr, who wrote a book about searching for the “cult statue” of Yahweh in the First temple, though it was only his guess that one might exist. He is convinced that the Temple representation we have in scripture – the cherubim over the Ark, is wrong.
He claims there was an actual statue (‘In Search of YHWH’s Cult Statue in the First Temple’), and because Francesca Stavrakopoupou is Atheist and wants to believe the idea, she uses it to say there WAS a cult statue in the Temple, though scripture (and other proven facts) would very definitely be against it. There is something VERY odd about someone who hates a book to then try to interpret it. It is not possible for her to be balanced.
The woman cannot comprehend that when scripture refers to other gods, it does NOT mean there WERE any! If such a reference is made it is either rhetorical or scornful. It does not in any way undermine monotheism, as she suggests.
She blatantly, and without foundation, says “The Bible is an unreliable source. It doesn’t tell us the truth.” This is an astounding thing for an academic to say about a ‘book’ spanning many thousands of years and with no way to verify one’s critical analysis! The only way the Bible is ‘unreliable’ is if one twists it to mean something else. Her conclusion is only her opinion, not a proved (or provable) fact.
Then came an amazing claim – that God had a wife. And oh what a muddle she introduces! If you are able to watch this programme please note how she builds one conjecture upon another, whilst misinterpreting texts. It was a masterpiece of mismatched nonsense. Nevertheless, she says God had a wife – Asherah.
You will not find her in the Bible as His wife, or as another god associated with Him. But, of course, her identity as His wife is… guess what – yes, ‘hidden’! Very convenient. Yes, the word asherah is found in scripture – but not as a wife or as a goddess.
And yes, figurines to Asherah are common, because her cult was popular. And yes, she was worshipped at times when the Jews entered into sin. But, this does not mean she was real, was associated with God, or that God saw her as a ‘wife’. Rather, another meaning of ‘asherah’ is a cultic grove!
One meaning - ‘poles’ - is disputed by scholars, but Francesca Stavrakopoupou does not mention groves, or that the term ‘poles’ is disputed. The main reason why there is dispute about this, and about asherah, is not that the Bible is wrong, but that Higher Critics cannot accept scripture as it is written, even though Higher Criticism is a very un-academic way to interpret the Bible.
Though it is true that idolatry was practised throughout the region around Israel, and even by Israel at times of sin, there is no evidence whatever to suggest that this was Israel’s usual way of life. A proper reading of scripture proves this time and again.
Bes Figures Forced to Mean Something Else
Francesca Stavrakopoupou made much of a large storage jar containing the words, “Yahweh… and his asherah”. Now, what the presenter did NOT tell the viewer was that though she, and others, want to interpret the figures on the jar as being those of God and His goddess, later work identified them as Bes figures!! Bes was an Egyptian deity whose influence spread to other parts of the Middle East!
Though this shows a big difference from what the programme tried to assert, some scholars, like William Dever and Judith Hadley, continue to uphold their own personalised interpretations. They just smile grimly and pretend there are no other interpretations!
Thus, on that score, too, Francesca Stavrakopoupou completely misled the viewers. And she has the gall to say the Bible is unreliable! She deliberately withheld the information, so as to put over her own personalised ideas. Her title for the second programme, in fact, comes from the title of a book by Dever: “Did God Have a Wife?” So, the programme idea she claims is her own is not!
Dever – Readable but Incorrect
Professor of Biblical Studies, Shmuel Ahituv, says that whilst Dever’s ideas are ‘readable’ they are ‘historically incomplete’, and that ‘Dever comes to a number of demonstrably incorrect conclusions given his lack of fluency in ancient languages or Hebrew.’ So, what kind of credibility can we give to this woman, Francesca Stavrakopoupou, whose entire programme is based on a book by a scholar whose work is itself called incomplete and inaccurate?
She also fails to speak about scholars (such as Day, Smith and Lemaire) who reject the idea that asherah is a goddess with equal rank to Yahweh, but who say ‘she’ is probably just a tree, or a location of worship (as scripture suggests). One writer says he doubts ANY heavenly association. As for forty references to Asherah in Deuteronomy, this is always in an hostile sense, not in a sense of equality with God. Also note that in Hebrew, asherah can have two meanings – as a cult object and as a divine name. Again, Francesca Stavrakopoupou neglects to mention this, or the often disparate meanings given to the Canaanite ‘el by language experts.
The woman tried to say that asherah was not always an object – but this contradicts the meanings in Hebrew! Instead, she says Asherah was wife to the Canaanite god, ‘el, and that the Cannanite god is the same as the God of scripture. (The first part is correct, but the second part is not). This, however, is just her guess, based on her atheism and bad scholarship.
Furthermore, the many figurines she attributes to Asherah are not so easily defined by the archaeologist she spoke to, who simply said that Asherah AS A GODDESS “is the most logical explanation”! That is – more guesswork and no proofs. It is only the most logical explanation if that is how your mind is working!
Occasionally Francesca Stavrakopoupou gave Bible texts – but each one can be interpreted differently, so her claim is just one of several. Though she interviewed a Rabbi, this was not for genuine reasons; she only wished him to provide fodder for her absurd hypotheses, which I thought was scornful and derogatory.
And why should her interpretation of that pottery jar be better than scripture? There is no reason apart from personal preference. In my own work I never prefer my own ideas to what scripture actually says. If it says something I do not like, then it is scripture that wins the argument! Not so with this woman, whose only wish is to plant her own wrong ideas into a book she does not believe!
“Most Bible Scholars”
Then she had the temerity to say that “most biblical scholars” believe God had a wife. What she really meant is that Atheistic Bible scholars who have no belief and who ridicule the Bible have the same ideas. They are all influenced by Higher Criticism – and I cannot emphasise enough that you ought to discover for yourself just how absurd this method is. (I wrote a summary a while ago).
Francesca Stavrakopoupou repeatedly insisted that God had a wife! No proof, just her opinion. And she even said that the Israelites are a sub-set of the Canaanites! No proof, just her poor understanding, as is her claim that the Bible is a “fictitious account of Israel’s beliefs”. No, HER account is fictitious, specious and delusional!
More Higher Critical Nonsense
Towards the end, the script said that Israel did not become monotheistic until about the first century BC, starting slowly from the exile in Babylon (A wrong claim made by Higher Criticism). Is it not odd that other Bible scholars have not found this to be true? In my own studies I have found a consistent monotheism, except for periods of heresy, which were always condemned by leaders and prophets.
Another odd statement was that the ‘Bible was first written down about that time’ (another symptom of Higher Criticism). Yet, the patriarchs were familiar with writing down and we read this in the earliest days!
I could not believe how repetitive she was! It was almost embarrassing. As I said, the whole thing could have been aired for no longer than five minutes.
She made another huge bloomer concerning the candlesticks (see previous short article, which describes this very silly error), and confused genuine Christianity with Catholicism and the cult of Mary.
I can only suppose that the final programme will be even more laughable (though ‘laughable’ is for charity sake; I find it academically and spiritually offensive). Her scholarship is very poor, and her ideas are flawed beyond reason. I have already shown just one or two errors, so that you can see that behind her confidence is a mass of erroneous scholarship and bad academic enterprise.
But remember – behind all that is the BBC’s hatred for Christianity and God, and a Muslim Head of Religious Broadcasting who has every interest in making the Bible seem fictional, along with Israel’s claim to the land they now live in. Francesca Stavrakopoupou is only the dupe used by the BBC to bring about a pro-Palestinian destruction of Israel, and a ridiculing of the Bible and Christians as a bonus! And all without proof!
© 24 March 2011
Updated: 27 March 2011 ( Psalm 82)
Published on www.christiandoctrine.com
Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH
Do you value the content of the Christian Doctrine website?
Then please 'Make a Donation' to support the work of Bible Theology Ministries