Thursday, February 09, 2012

Margaret Barker

Did you know that:

— the sign of the cross is a First Temple sign for God?

— that God Most High, The Lord, and El Shaddai (whose name means the God with Breasts) prefigure the Christian Trinity?

— that the Second Temple tried to obliterate the contemplative theology of the First?

— that some of the First Temple people fled to Arabia and that it is likely that Paul visited them there?

— that Jesus and his followers are looking to the First, pre-Mosaic temple, and see themselves as high priests of an internalised temple with the heart as the holy of holies?

— that parts of the Hebrew Scriptures were rewritten so that the Christians could not cite them? We know this in part because of the discoveries at Qumran.

— that some of the traditions of the First Temple endured in Christianity to the fifteenth century?

— that much of John’s apocalypse is about the liturgy of the First Temple?

— that the First Temple had a profound understanding of the conversion of the heart?

These are only a few of the insights presented by Margaret Barker, a highly respected scholar and former president of the prestigious Society for the Study of Old Testament, who has written a dozen or so books that are so illuminative they will change and deepen your understanding of Christianity forever.

She is a meticulous scholar, but she writes in lucid, non-technical prose that everyone can understand. I’m reading two of her books simultaneously: Temple Theology, which is a good place to start, and Temple Mysticism. The next one I’m going to read is Creation: A Biblical Vision for the Environment —which presents a far different vision than we have been led to believe exists in the bible.

The best place to get her books are at or

Her work dovetails almost too neatly with my own and is as important in terms of evidence to my new book, as is McGilchrist’s. To absorb what she is saying is going to put me behind my hoped-for deadline—but it will be a better book as a result.

"Clement of Alexandria is often said to have been adopting contemporary Greek ideas, but he too was writing about temple mysticism. Paul, he taught, clearly revealed that some knowledge was not given to everyone, 'for there were certainly among the Hebrews some things delivered unwritten...' The goal of the Christian was to know these things and to behold them." Temple Mysticism, pp. 37-38.


Anonymous AM said...

I have just read the synopsis of the books she wrote. Mesmerizing in the way she is so 'single-hearted' about the significance of the Temple. I remember the term you use for this singleheartedness - ihidayutha. I'm teaching World Religions this term and yesterday, we discussed Judaism in class and we paralleled the Jewish Synagogue tradition with the development of the Christian churches when the Temple according to Margaret was its primal origin. Now, i have to rethink this. I will definitely follow her in scholarship. Thank you. This is scholarship at its most visionary, revolutionary caliber.

12:43 am, February 10, 2012  
Anonymous AM said...

Not meant to pre-empt your work but the revolutionary "trends" seem forthcoming, or even among us:
-the idea of an exiled, pre-Deuteronomist "polytheistic" ancient religion of Israel, is this tantamount to the centuries of suppression and reppresion of the "deep brain"?
-in one of your writings, you hinted of the necessary movement from Christology to Christophany. This is one of basic presuppositions of Temple Theology according to Barker. Panikkar also highlighted Christophany over the Greek-influenced Christology.
-the idea that the ashes of the Second Temple were the birth ground of the early Christians, way beyond mainstream biblical scholarship has been teaching. Seems with this kind of work, Christianity needs to rise up again from the ashes of Greek philosophy and Enlightenment that have so distorted and twisted the Original Gaze within the First Temple, including what Barker claimed as the very faith liability of "sola scriptura".
-Barker's work definitely will reframe Roman Catholic liturgy if taken seriously, especially its Eucharistic theology.

I am excited to see how far her work weaves with your work and the scientific findings of Dr. Gilchrist. The future looks more promising. I sense the joy of this promise of restoring the Original Gaze. I hope i will do my part, too. Blessings.

3:39 am, February 10, 2012  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

I'm hardly worried about being 'pre-empted'! I'm just grateful there are people who are doing this work and offering the evidence to carry it forward! Thank you for the part you are playing, too!

8:19 am, February 10, 2012  
Blogger Joel said...

Fascinating...and Re-reading your "Adoration" for the first time again (about 10 times now). Bless you. We are no longer in Richmond, but at last at such a place our hearts have always long for I think, The Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. I can only think of Kilmer here, and you. Come visit.

3:11 pm, February 10, 2012  
Blogger Owenvig said...

I agree Mgt barker is fascinating; I have four of her books and once did a deanery chapter quiet day on her. yes she does write in a straightforward manner - but I find that in my advanced years [mid 80s] she writes rather densely so that I cannot digest her message as easily as I would wish. Crucial to understanding her is her tale of her [a methodist] attending an Orthodox eucharist in Greece and realising that 'this is the day of atonement'. she does not like modern 'upper room choreography' - really one goes back to a previous generation with a sanctuary and a screen with the mysteries taking place beyond the congregation rather than a gathering around the table. I think something that she does not spell out but is implicit is that as they used to say "christianity was the most successful version of the Jewish mission to the world" - what it did with its liturgy was to provide a temple and a presence wherever believers gathered so they no longer needed to visit Jerusalem.

3:09 pm, February 14, 2012  
Blogger Owenvig said...

Sorry - my last blog was stimulated by your paras on mgt Barker. I really found your website because i bought 'Ikon of the heart' just before Christmas mpt really knowing what I was gettng [apart from review in the Church Times]Thisis to say that I am about to re read it because I only 'got iinto it' about half way through. But thank you - you are writing about 'stuff' for which there is great hunger but little
provision in parish life. As a thank you I offer the comments I wrote for my christmas card this time.
"And the word was made human and pitched his tent among us"
[John I:14 alternative translation]

When I pitched my tent in the human race
And stirred in my mother's womb
Her soul was roused to prophetic grace
As she warned of impending doom .
When the mighty will lose their seat and power
And the meek and humble joyfully flower.

When the rag tag and bobtail pitched their tents
On St Paul's cathedral's holy gate
To register their discontents
With an un-egalitarian state,
My Clergy seemed somewhat perplexed
To know what ought to happen next
And truth to tell the English nation
Showed both disgust and admiration.

Yet in cathedrals everywhere
There hung on the November air
The echo of My Mother's prayer.
That tells what Heaven thinks is "fair".
Each waft of Choral Evensong
Conveyed God's sense of right and wrong
Who stuffs the hungry with bonus pay
While the rich he is sending empty away.

This, as My Dad confirms to me,
Is what life is like in eternity.
Till then I fear My Mother's vision
Will still be met with indecision.
But those whose banners now display
Had better learn the gospel truth
Which I have practiced since My youth.

"Whatever the questions you may have selected,
My answers will always be quite unexpected".

3:55 pm, February 14, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Maggie,

I've just started "Temple Theology": fascinating stuff! I look forward to reading more.

Best Wishes


5:42 pm, February 14, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie,

Margaret Barker has her own website - there are papers of hers available to read/download.

Best Wishes


6:20 pm, February 14, 2012  
Anonymous Robert Thompson said...

Margaret Barker's latest book is titled "King of the Jews. Temple Theology in John's Gospel" (April 2014). Of similar interest is Keith Akers' books, "The Lost Religion of Jesus: Simple Living and Nonviolence in Early Christianity" (2002) and "Disciples: How Jewish Christianity Shaped Jesus and Shattered the Church" (2013)--books that shed light on the connection with Ebionites and Mandaeans. Samuel Zinner has also done scholarly work in this area. Gabriele Boccaccini's work can be useful to those seeking to understand "Enochic Judaism"--a strand in Hebrew spiritual tradition that is of particular interest to Margaret Barker.

12:21 pm, October 31, 2014  

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