Sex in the Temple?

Dan Brown, in The Da Vinci Code, has Robert Langdon telling Sophie Neveu that early Judaism involved ritualistic sex performed in the temple.

“Early Jews believed that the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple housed not only God but also His powerful female equal, Shekinah. Men seeking spiritual wholeness came to the Temple to visit priestesses – or hierodules – with whom they made love and experienced the divine through physical union. The Jewish tetragrammaton YHWH – the sacred name of God – in fact derived from Jehovah, an androgynous physical union between the masculine Jah and the pre-Hebraic name for Eve, Havah.”

Nice bit of fiction. Of course it doesn’t link with the evidence available to us.

1. The early days of Judaism began after the destruction of the temple. Up to that point the followers of YWHW were known as Israelites.
2. The idea of God having a female equal would never have caught on in the strongly monotheistic Judaism.
3. The practice of sex in the temple of YHWH is never described in the Hebrew scriptures.
4. The Hebrew word, שכן.transliterated as ‘Shekinah’, refers to settling, being present. While the word has feminine qualities, there is no sense of it being expressed in a feminine deity.
5. The word ‘Jehovah’ is a European translation of יהוה (YHWH), providing vowels where the Hebrew language did not. It was not used until the fifteenth century BCE.
6. YHWH is more likely to be associated with ‘YH’ (god) and a root referring to being.
7. The practice of visiting hierodules or temple prostitutes is associated with many ancient civilisations, including ancient Greece and Anatolia. It was likely to be common in Canaan and Babylon – a temptation faced by Hebrews living in those places. The prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 43:7-9) condemns the practice.

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