I finished Tikva Frymer-Kensky’s In the Wake of the Goddesses: Women, Culture, and the Biblical Transformation of Pagan Myth. In my reading today, Frymer-Kensky argued against the notion that the Canaanites and the Israelites had cult prostitutes. She says that Sumerian kings slept with a woman (as representatives of a god) to simulate sex with a fertility goddess, but that was replaced “by placing statues of the god and goddess in a garden for the night” (page 202). Frymer-Kensky denies that the Canaanites and the Israelites had cult prostitutes, and she disputes Herodotus’ view in Histories 1.199 that the Babylonians had them. She states that Herodotus was merely stigmatizing the “barbarians” as sexually licentious. In Babylonian texts, there is no hint that priestesses engaged in ritual sexual activity.
But is not Tamar in Genesis 38 called a harlot and a qedeshah, and qedeshim were cultic functionaries in Ugarit, right? Frymer-Kensky does not think that this means the qedeshah was being equated with a harlot; rather, both had in common their sexual independence and freedom, since they were not part of a family structure. Judah may have thought that Tamar (in disguise) was a cultic functionary because of her sexual independence. Perhaps Frymer-Kensky’s point is that a qedeshah could be a harlot, but wasn’t necessarily.
Frymer-Kensky’s argues in her last chapter that the Greeks brought misogynistic ideas into Judaism, for they viewed sexual attraction by men for women as a weakness.
In concluding, I’d like to quote something Frymer-Kensky says on page 232: “S.N. Kramer concentrates on the strengths of Inanna, but pays very little attention to the bitchiness she is portrayed as having and the negative feelings she often engenders.” I was surprised to see the word “bitchiness” in a scholarly publication. But this is not the first time that I have seen something like this, for Louis Newman, on page 82 of The Sanctity of the Seventh Year, refers to preventing animals “from shitting all over the field.” Those words are now a part of our lingo, I suppose, so even scholars use them in their writings, every now and then.