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on December 20, 2005
This book gets four stars because Margaret Barker manages to provide, in one place, some illuminating material related to the first (the Solomonic) temple, its ritual worship, and the theology informing it. We should be grateful to her for her hard work in seeking out and publishing this material!

However, although I agree with much (not all) of what she writes, and though she retrieves some things that are far more than helpful to have retrieved, she makes first-temple high-priestly rituals (or rather, her attempted _reconstruction_ of them - that's the key) absolute, and she interrogates the Deuteronomic redaction from that absolute, along with everything else that comes after the Babylonian Exile in the history of Jewish/Christian thought. Everything else that follows in history after the first temple is merely, to Barker, a crater from its impact on the minds of the ancient Israelites.

OVERALL, IN SUM it is as if both the present form of the Christian and Jewish liturgies and the traditions (spiritually and historically) of each are treated as both derivative and void of value (or at least interest) if they do not consciously lay hold of, and allow themselves to be informed by, Barker's retrieval. I felt dislodged from authentic time as a result. One must live in the present, with the existential options available now. Margaret Barker does not do this.

However, she must be read, because despite her errors, she does pave the way for Hebrew Bible/Old Testament scholarship to really retrieve what was going on in the temple (it was not really magic, and it was not appeasing an angry God), because temple worship is where almost _all_ HB/OT theology emerges from -- maybe all of it (if you disagree, read Fletcher-Louis' article, below, first). I would read at least three essays to help move past this book.

First, I would read another article by Barker (available online) called "Atonement: the Rite of Healing." It's much better than this book. You can find it for free on the internet. I read this article before this book, and it's why I bought the book to begin with. The book may be lacking, but the article is quite good, even if it could be summarized in 5 or 6 pages.

Second, an _amazing_ text, a scriptural analysis of these themes, available for free on the internet, is provided by Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis (from the University of Nottingham) in an article called "The Cosmology of P and Theological Anthropology in the Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sira," where he goes through Genesis 1-3 and Exodus 25-40, as well as Proverbs and Job, and shows how they're all related to the worship of Israel in the temple rites. This is the best article in biblical studies that I've read in years, and it might be the _best_ place to start. (In connection to Fletcher-Louis' work, I would strongly recommend reading at least the appendices to Alexander Schmemann's work, "For the Life of the World," which deal with liturgical worship and the epiphanic nature of symbols.) The section in Fletcher-Louis where he mentions the temple's theophanic cloud of incense is wonderful, and reading Schmemann's comments about symbols and sacraments in connection to this and many other points of temple practice (and others, such as the sprinkling of the blood/life of the lamb as the giving of YHWH's blood/life because of the Tetragrammation placed on the goat, which Barker brings up -- see Lev.17:11) is very helpful.

Third, I would read Jon Levenson's book "Sinai and Zion," and if you have the time, his book "Creation and the Persistence of Evil."

After tackling these, the reader can begin to cover early liturgical texts and better place them in context.

A FINAL NOTE, lest these "correctives" give the impression that Barker is not worth reading -- there are less than ten authors whom I have been so impressed by on the first read that afterwards, I went out and bought almost everything they wrote in English. Margaret Barker is one of them, and she is worthy of a good stretch of my bookshelves, and more.
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VINE VOICEon February 11, 2009
This reviewer comes to Margaret Barker's "Temple Theology" after nearly a decade of reading her great corpus of Biblical studies, including The Gate of Heaven: The History and Symbolism of the Temple in Jerusalem,The Older Testament: The Survival of Themes from the Ancient Royal Cult in Sectarian Judaism and Early Christianity,The Lost Prophet: The Book of Enoch and Its influence on Christianity,The Great Angel: A Study of Israel's Second God,The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy and The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy. This vast and prodigious output is unparalleled in the field of Biblical criticism of the past century. However, it will be admitted that much of her work is so dense in its scholarship and explication, that it becomes exceedingly difficult to the specialist, let alone the lay person.

Now we come to the present work, "Temple Theology," which is no more nor less than the reprint of a series of lectures given by Barker at the University of London in 2003, and reprinted in book form by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in 2004. This plainly written text with a minimum of footnotes provides an excellent introduction to and a summary of the Barker corpus of scholarship.

As is shown by the attacks made in companion reviews on this site, Barker's honest and courageous reexamination and reworking of centuries of Biblical scholarship--mostly German and chiefly Protestant--is not an easy task. Barker's chief thesis is as deeply disconcerting to the traditional Biblical scholar as it is to the devoted Evangelical worshipper. Her central thesis--that Jesus Christ was essentially a restorer of a lost hierocentric religion rather than an inventor of something new--has successfully shaken the very foundations of Old Testament and early Christian scholarship.

Barker is much like the lone voice crying in the wilderness, facing an army of dead and living German Protestant scholars whose researches laid the foundation for a century and more of intertestamental scholarship, and whose life labors are now called into serious question by Barker's stunning and groundbreaking labors. She also faces a vast multitude of Christians of every possible denomination who have been taught to believe in a strict trinitarian monothesism--a tenet which Barker devastatingly shows is inconsistent with both ancient Jewish religion centered on the First Temple and the Temple-centered religion which Jesus restored and revitalized. Nevertheless, Barker is not entirely alone in the wilderness. Her work is now admiringly and diligently studied by courageous Catholics, German scholars of the Protestant tradition, Russian Orthodox, Mormons and others. More than sixty careful reviews of Barker's work have been published, including a lead review in the Times Literary Supplement in 2003.

That being said, Western academia is not yet sold on Barker, with complaints that while her work is remarkably convincing, it leaves too many unanswered questions. To this reviewer, that is to be expected in the groundbreaking work of any pioneer scholar--as the circle of knowledge grows, so does its outside edge of ignorance.
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on January 18, 2012
There are a few books one picks up that one finds difficult to put down and fewer of them are non fiction. In this little gem one finds a glimpse into a distant past which any reader of Old or New Testament would find familiar, but not so clearly revealed. New documents of the last century but more recently come to light again reveal to us a view of this sacred place and its theology. Professor Barker has done a masterful work of bringing these works together to paint us a picture of Solomonic temple worship and its impact upon Christianity. I just finished reading this little book and have begun to read another of her wonderful works on the ancient temple and its symbolism.

In this book Professor Barker shows to us that the Gospel of the New Testament and indeed its theology and rites have roots in the distant past and that Christianity was not a radical departure from, but a logical outgrowth from and fulfillment of Judaism. The rites of the first temple are clearly shown to us and, as pointed out clearly, since they were given to Israel as a means to bring them into the presence of God by Yahweh, who is shown to us by the good professor to be none other than Christ himself, (not in the trinitarian sense) a means to bring them to their Messiah, even Christ the Lord. Also that Jesus was the son of the ineffable God is also demonstrated, a clear representation of the distinctness of their persons.

It would appear from this treatise that not only Judaism, but also Christianity may morn the loss of the temple in their worship, a means to bring them closer yet to God and give them a more clear and beautiful picture of that God they worship. Temple worship is much to be desired, not the sacrifice of animals, which was done away in Christ, but those things which bring one into the presence of God while yet on earth.

To anyone desiring to understand the continuity of God's work and word from beginning to end, this work will go a long way toward fulfilling that desire.
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on May 23, 2014
This is the second work of Margaret Barker that I’ve read. At 93 pages of text, it truly is an introduction, and as such it’s a breeze to get through. As with the Great Angel, the last book of hers that I read, the subject is the First Temple but her sources range far and wide. The topics covered are intriguing but very broad. The most interesting parts pertain to the symbolism and beliefs surrounding the holy of holies and Day One of creation, the curtain, the priests’ vestments, and the mercy seat. The idea of the eternal covenant is also novel.

Something else of particular interest to me is the conception of the “hwq” and “surot,” or “engraved things” that bind, precede, or exist above the visible creation. Here Barker finds a later analogy in Islam to illustrate what she argues is an Israelite idea, but she need not stray so far from Judaism/Christianity—a similar concept exists in the writings of Maximos the Confessor (6th-7th CE), who writes of the logoi (lowercase, plural) which are brought about by the Logos and which order and guide creation from before time. (See On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ.) Barker’s evidence for an early Israelite equivalent of this idea would challenge the traditional attribution of such ideas to strictly Neoplatonic/Greek developments within Christianity.

Even in such a short work, it is difficult not to find at least a few problems. Unfortunately, there are several grammatical errors throughout the book, as well as mistakes that should have warranted another read-through by the editor (such as referring to the second temple in one instance where the first was clearly implied). The book ends abruptly; there is no conclusion. Also, regarding her introduction (i.e., her introduction to this Introduction, pgs. 1-11), while this chapter does lay out some of the framework for what is to follow, it reads as very rambling and it is not particularly focused. These pages are not well cited, and they reference very late and tangential documents in support for her arguments. Luckily, she recovers over the course of the following chapters, which are again up to her usual standard; there her points are well cited and decently argued.

In both of her works that I’ve read, I see that Barker has prefaced her research with the caveat that it is still “tentative” and “speculative.” This is true of all scholarship to some extent, but Barker’s tendency to feature this description of her work so prominently causes me some concern. She certainly sounds persuasive, but just how much of this is the result of long and tedious research, and how much of it is her just muddling her way through? This is never clear. To illustrate this, let’s consider the symbolism of the menorah, which was one of the objects inside the First Temple. In the final chapter of this work, the chapter on Wisdom, Barker identifies the menorah as being a symbol of the feminine goddess, relating it to the Asherah and tree/bush imagery. However, I recall specifically from her other book, the Great Angel, that she explained the menorah as representing the manifold (angelic) aspects of the second deity, Yahweh. Which is it? Both? Just this later interpretation? Has she changed her position on this or else has she forgotten her previous commentary? Barker has a frenetic mind, which is part of what makes her work appealing. The reader, however, may desire from her some reconciliation of these often jumbled and interconnected ideas.

Overall, I would still recommend this. I know that I will return again and explore more of her works on this subject.
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on November 20, 2012
For the LDS reader, Margaret Barker's writings chime like Nibley and Nephi with an understanding of the context of the Old and New Testaments, the Godhead, and the temple. After learning about Barker's theories of Jesus as Melchizedek in Melchizedek's Seal & Scroll (a rich LDS book), I turned to the source. This book is Margaret Barker at her best, condensed into 93 pages.

Barkers radial thesis (from page 11) "It is beyond doubt that the faith of the temple became Christianity. Images and practices that most Christians take for granted such as priesthood, the shape of a traditional church building, or the imagery of sacrifice and atonement are all obviously derived from the temple..."
and later: "The gospel as it was first preached by Jesus, and as it was developed and lived by the early Church, concerned the restoration of the true temple."

Temple Theology explains how the first Christians were looking back to the First Temple theology for a Messiah who was Melchizedek and who would restore the ancient temple rites. She then proceeds through the chapters devoted to Creation, Covenant, Atonement, and Wisdom. Together with Mitchell's Melchizedek Scroll, we come to understand the centrality of the Messiah/Melchizedek in ancient and modern temple worship.
Beware that not all of Barker's ideas mesh with present LDS Theology, (e.g. wisdom goddess, angel Melchizedek) but she may be dead right in the end.
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on November 26, 2009
I am not much of a reviewer of books. My reviews can be summed up basically with the line, "It was good!", or, "It wasn't good!" Margaret Barker was an unfamiliar author before I decided to pick this small introduction up. From the first lines to the last, she captivated me. I don't know too much about Old Testament or Judaical Temple Theology, so when I say I learned a lot, keep that in context. This book made me want more on the subject and more from the author. Quite a fun experience reading this and getting my feet wet with this side of Judaism and Christian background.
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on September 29, 2014
I read a book The Return of the Kosher Pig which was much better. This book is good if you hadn't read the other one first. Like seeing a movie in 3D done well, then seeing it on your 2" phone. Not as good.
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on February 10, 2016
The first six pages make this very hard to take seriously, but it is "truth in advertising".

Barker's thesis is that the canonical Old Testament [whether LXX or Masoretic] is put together by "the bad guys".

So, in short, it posits a Neo-Marcionite position [within the Old Testament itself, no less], whereby she is constantly setting "the religion of Abraham" against "the religion of Moses", or setting "Deuteronomy" [Fifth Book of the Torah of Moses] against other books or parts of "The Law".

Barker holds out numerous heroes of the Old Testament Jewish religion, represented in the texts of Moses, Kings, Chronicles, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and so forth, as texts that, for her, merely enshrine the "lamentable" victory of what she asserts [contrary to Judaism and Christianity, and even Islam] to be "the bad guys".

A great disappointment for any traditional person who views the Old Testament text with respect.
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on August 19, 2013
The writing is a little intense, and for me requires deep concentration when reading it. My personal worship of God has been enhanced by this book, as I find that the author really knows her subject matter, has done her homework, so to speak. I am studying other works by this author, and I find that she is knowledgeable about what she writes here. I recommend this book to those who would wand to know more about christian worship, or just worshiping altogether. Mili McQuivey
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on December 21, 2013
This was the first of Barker's I read. If her thesis is right, we've gotta rethink everything. If her thesis is not right, well then with all she has provided for thought, we've gotta rethink everything. I read it in ine sitting.... Couldn't put it down.
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