Margaret Barker

Biblical scholar

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Margaret Barker
Temple Theology
Temple theology traces the roots of Christian theology back into the first Temple, destroyed by the cultural revolution in the time of King Josiah at the end of the seventh century BCE. Refugees from the purges settled in Egypt and Arabia. From widely scattered surviving fragments, it is possible to reconstruct the world view of the first Christians, and to restore to their original setting such key concepts as the Messiah, divine Sonship, covenant, atonement, resurrection, incarnation, the Second Coming and the Kingdom of God.


Temple Theology draws on all available resources:  
  • Hebrew and Greek Scriptures
  • New Testament
  • Jewish and Christian Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha
  • Dead Sea Scrolls
  • Other Ancient Near Eastern texts
  • Gnostic texts
  • Rabbinic and later Jewish writings and traditions
  • Early Christian writings and liturgies
  • Memories that survive in art and architecture 
A complex and sophisticated theology is beginning to re-emerge from the symbols and stories of a pre-philosophical culture


Temple theology reviews and rethinks. It suggests:

  • That the current Old Testament is neither the text nor the ‘canon’ that was known and used by the first Christians. 
  • That the non-canonical writings were preserved by Christians and excluded by Jews because they marked important differences between them. 
  • That Sola Scriptura has hindered rather than helped the understanding of Christianity.
  • That Christianity was heir to the Temple tradition and so was by no means a ‘new’ religion in the first century.

Temple theology is based on the ideas that: 

  • The Temple/Tabernacle was a microcosm of the creation
  • Day One was the Holy of Holies, the Unity beyond time and matter, the world of the angels and the Kingdom of God.
  • The eternal covenant held visible and invisible creation in one system.
  • The fallen angels taught mortals how to abuse knowledge and thus break the bonds of the covenant.
  • The liturgies maintained the creation
  • Atonement was the ritual self offering of the Lord to renew the eternal covenant  and thus heal the creation. This was the covenant renewed at the Last Supper
  • Priests were angels and angels were priests
  • The Lord, the God of Israel, was the Son of God Most High, the Second God
  • Jesus was recognised as the Lord in this sense.
  • The royal High Priest was the Lord with his people
  • Incarnation was symbolised by the vestments
  • The Queen of Heaven, also known as Wisdom, had been part of the original Temple cult as Virgin Mother of the Messiah. 
  • Humans could become angels. This was known as resurrection or theosis
  • The Temple was remembered as Eden.
  • Adam was the original high priest, and leaving Eden was losing the Temple.
  • The New Testament reverses the story of Eden and brings Christians back to the original Temple.
  • Pythagoras knew this system of thought and it appears in Plato’s Timaeus.

Temple theology provides ways of understanding, explaining and linking.

  • A framework for a characteristically Christian creation theology, emphasising the bonds of creation broken by human sin and advocating the stewardship of knowledge.
  • A way to understand how the Old Testament texts were formed and transmitted.
  • A way to recover the original Christian understanding of the Old Testament.
  • A way to recover the original Christian understanding of atonement, incarnation, resurrection.
  • A way to recover the Temple roots of the Eucharist.
  • A way to identify the roots of belief in the Trinity.
  • A setting for Apocalyptic writings.
  • An understanding of the role of angels.
  • A setting for the Wisdom tradition.
  • An explanation for Mary inheriting the symbolism of the Wisdom tradition.
  • An explanation for the ‘Platonic’ elements in early Christian writings.
  • An explanation for the Temple elements in Islam and for references to Christians and the Scriptures in the Koran. 

 And much more...



(c) Margaret Barker 2006.