[b-hebrew] YHWH's attitude towards zonah

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Fri Jul 16 10:34:02 EDT 2004

On 16/07/2004 14:54, Stoney Breyer wrote:

>-----Original Message-----
>Peter Kirk:
>Surely the point is: (v.17, English) No temple prostitution among
>Israelites; (v.18) don't even bring the earnings of prostitutes into the
>temple because that makes them effectively temple prostitutes; because 
>YHWH detests temple prostitution.
>But, Peter, doesn't that paraphrase, like Patrina's explanation, beg the
>question rather than answer it? ... the question being What *is* a
>More narrowly, is the common understanding of qedeshah as "temple
>prostitute" based on any *reliable* evidence that "temple prostitution"
>was actually practiced in Canaan or anywhere else in the ANE? May it not
>equally be the same sort of myth as the Witch Cult of Northern Europe?
Fair enough as a question. I will not attempt to provide any evidence 
from outside the Hebrew Bible and the LXX. But I will look at the 
evidence from within it:

There were people known as qadesh and qadesha, sometimes found within 
Israel (1Ki 14:24, 15:12, 22:46, 2Ki 23:7) but (at least from the 
perspective of the Deuteronomist) incompatible with true Yahwism (Deut 
23:17 and the contexts of the Kings references). They were apparently 
associated with idolatry (1Ki 15:12) and during a period of apostasy 
their houses were in the house of YHWH (2Ki 23:7).

There is a clear association between qadesha and zona, in Hosea 4:14 
where the two words are used in poetic parallelism and in Genesis 38 
where the same woman is referred to as zona and qadesha, as well as in 
Deut 23:17,18 where the context strongly suggests a link, with the 
interpretation I gave above.

The LXX renderings of the Hebrew are clear in Deut 23:17,18: PORNH = 
(female) prostitute and PORNEUWN = (masculine) sexually immoral; also 
Genesis 38:21,22: PORNH three times. This is clear evidence of an 
ancient Jewish understanding of qadesh(a) as referring to prostitution. 
Elsewhere the renderings are more obscure but some suggest a religious 
dimension: SUNDESMOS (1Ki 14:24), TELETH ("mysteries"?) (15:12), 
("initiates"?) (Hos 4:14), AGGELOS (!) (Job 36:14).

All of this strongly suggests that qadesh(a) is in fact a reference to 
prostitution, and a kind of prostitution which had religious links and 
significance. Beyond that, and without extra-biblical evidence, we 
cannot be certain, but "temple prostitute" certainly fits well. There is 
very little evidence for your theory of a religious role not involving 

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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