Temple Theology and the Christ

As I was travelling about a couple of weeks ago, while looking for something else, I came across a very promising podcast entitled Our Great High Priest: The Church is the New Temple, and began to listen to it.  It was an address delivered by Dr Margaret Barker at St Vladimir's Seminary, about the Temple in Jerusalem and the Messianic fulfilment in the Person of the Saviour and lived in the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church.  Unfortunately, I was on the train and my phone's battery was low, so I stopped only a few minutes into the talk.  I then proceeded to forget all about it until last night, when I listened to it in its entirety.

It can be heard here and a transcript may be read here.

I found this absolutely fascinating, both for some of the facts that had previously been unknown to me and also for the affirmation of the Christ as the fulfilment of th Law and the Prophets, and the actualisation of our faith in this in Orthodox worship.

I strongly recommend listening to or reading it.  So much of what we see and do in church finds its meaning in what Dr Barker has discovered that her work certainly serves as a channel for us to deepen our understanding and appreciation of what we are as the people of God.

Has anybody else encountered Dr Barker's work?  What of her books?

7 responses:

Ian said...

Thank you for the recommendation, Michael; I shall listen to it as soon as I can.

Michael Astley said...

Ian, you're back around! Excellent!

Thank you for commenting. Yes, I have found her fascinating and, on recommendation from a trusted reader, have invested in a couple of her books, and have also availed myself of a friend's offer of, "I'd really like to get you something - what would you like?" to acquire two more. They are on their way and there may be a review at some point.

FatherAugustine Fetter said...

Some years ago, I believe I read either the Great High Priest, or another book. I got the feelings that she thought devotion to the Theotokos was somehow a legitimate outgrowth of OT temple goddess worship.

Michael Astley said...

Thank you, Father Augustine. Yes, as I was looking through her titles online, I saw The Mother of the Lord, which seems to expound on that idea.

It did cause a raised eyebrow but I wouldn't dismiss it in its entirety before reading it. Certainly, from a sociological perspective, religion, rightly or wrongly, can be tribal. If a people has a has a memory of devotion to a female figure as part of its heritage and culture, then I can see how that might make it easy for people from that culture to embrace Christianity and internalise it as their own faith.

I know that this is different from saying that the place of the Mother of God in the Christian faith is a direct development from temple goddess worship, but I am curious to read what Dr Barker has written, bearing in mind that her research, however well founded, is done in.isolation from a personal grounding in a tradition where the theological and practical expressions of love for the Mother of God regularly reinforce its proper place and context in the corporate and individual faith of Christian people.

All of that said, I am of the "types and shadows" school of thought, which sees elements of pre-Christian faiths that bear some resemblance to Christianity (such as devotion to the queenly mother figure of a male god) not as threats to the uniqueness of the Truth revealed in Christ but rather as specks of that truth, which become as nothing when that truth was revealed in its fulness. To my mind, this emphasises Christ as the Omega, as the fulfilmentbof all things.

I was taught that this is the point that St John is making in the prologue to his Gospel, where he refers to the Logos of Greek philosophical thought, and shows that this is the very God Who Is before the ages, even if the philosophers of pre-Christian times did not express it clearly or entirely accurately, living as they did before the Incarnation.

Huw Raphael said...

I read an introduction to her work (along w/ the podcast and the lecture) and while I am interested to the point of reading a second book of hers, I am concerned as well. Her assumptions seem to tend almost to "occult" or even "new age" mysticism. I'm not quite convinced that's a good thing (mostly because of my background in that field).

Mark Rowland said...

I've been intrigued by her for a while, since an Anglican priest friend of mine asked me if I was aware of her work. I've been meaning to get some of her writing and read it but it's not quite happened. I'm intrigued not least because she's a Methodist Local Preacher...

Michael Astley said...

I'm about a third of the way through Temple Theology: An Introduction - not yet far enough to form any firm opinions but enough to find her fascinating and informative.

Initial impressions are that there seems to be much in what she says and she has shed light, without explicitly mentioning it, on why certain psalm verses are used at certain times in Byzantine worship. However, she does seem to state conclusions without joining up the dots. At first I thought it was because I wasn't clever enough and had missed something but, having gone back and re-read the relevant paragraphs, I saw that I hadn't missed anything that was said. This may simply be because this is a layman's introduction and not one of her academic works in which I suspect a much fuller background may give a clearer picture. At the moment, there's a little too much of "Solomon built the temple and it contained the Ark. Therefore the doors must have been painted green".

I'll report back when i have read more. I also have her Christmas book.

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