Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Margaret Barker's Website

Margaret Barker is a non-traditional scholar of the Old Testament and ancient Judaism who has stirred a lot of interest among some Latter-day Saint scholars. She now has a Website, MargaretBarker.com. You can get a taste of why she has generated interest in LDS circles by looking at her list of publications. For example, note the overview of her 1992 book, The Great Angel, where she offers views similar to the LDS concept that Christ existed and acted as the second member of the Godhead prior to His incarnation (in fact, we believe that before the foundation of the world, He was chosen as the Son of God and promised Messiah to be slain for all our sins).
In The Great Angel. A Study of Israel's Second God (London: SPCK, 1992) she tested the hypothesis that when the early Christians read the Old Testament as an account of the pre-incarnate Christ, they were reading in a traditional way and were not innovators. She proposed that pre-Christian Judaism was not monotheistic in the generally accepted sense of that word. From a comparison of ancient versions of the OT she proposed that Israel had known a High God and a second, national God, known as the Son of God Most High. Since crucial textual variants arose relatively late, as can be seen from the Qumran evidence, the second God remained a living issue during the second temple period. The hypothesis was tested in Philo, early rabbininc texts (building on the work of A Segal Two Powers in Heaven Leiden: Brill, 1978, but reaching very different conclusions), in Gnostic texts and, with unexpected success, in the Christian writings of the first three centuries. Finally she tested the hypothesis in the New Testament where the results convinced her that this was the key to understanding Christian origins. She concluded that when the Christians declared "‘Jesus is the Lord" they were affirming that Jesus was the final manifestation of Yahweh, the national God of Israel in the Old Testament. Thus the origins of Trinitarian belief are pre-Christian, and the heir to temple tradition is Christianity. The sensitive nature of these results made further study imperative, but nothing she has discovered since has in any way altered these conclusions. The Lord of the Old Testament as the Lord of the New Testament was fundamental to all her subsequent work. This book caught the attention of Mormon scholars [Latter-day Saints] who now take a great interest in Margaret Barker's work.
I think you'll also see some strong LDS themes in her 2003 book, The Great High Priest. Interesting!

A valuable LDS resource dealing with some of Barker's ideas is Kevin Christensen's work, Paradigms Regained: A Survey of Margaret Barker's Scholarship and Its Significance for Mormon Studies, FARMS Occasional Papers (Provo: FARMS, 2001).


Anonymous said...

With all due respect to Margaret; who is she? Meaning, is she qualified to make such statements? If you tell me that Gordon B. said "xyz" I would have some faith in the meaning of "xyz". If you say Margaret said "xyz", this means almost nothing to me.

Anonymous said...

'Anonymous' makes a rather weak statement. Margaret Barker is a well-known scholar who has done extensive research into the Old Testament. Since, the Lord enjoins us to study and learn, I would recommend that you look at more than just live in an insular LDS world and do both.

Anonymous said...

A comment to First Anonymous: If you continue on what this article is about and go to her website, it shows perfectly well that she is most definitely qualified to make the statements that she does about religion. Looking at it in an LDS standpoint, you realize that she is incredibly different than any other biblical scholar of our time in what she is finding out and what she is teaching. Who else is proving to the world that the early Christian theology has deep roots in what they learned at and about the temple? Who else is proving that Jesus is and was Yahweh, Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament? One of my favorite lines from her: "New Testament scholars agonize over why the first Christians applied Yahweh texts to Jesus. And how, they ask, could all of the early Christian teachers have found Jesus in the Old Testament? When I wrote a book setting out all this rather obvious evidence, it was regarded as strange and hopelessly radical"(The Worlds of Joseph Smith, BYU Press, p. 79). She is incredible, and any serious student of Mormon theology should be reading her books and hearing what she has to say.