Margaret Barker (born 1944), a Methodist preacher, studied theology at the University of Cambridge, after which she has devoted her life to research in ancient Christianity. She has developed an approach to biblical studies known as Temple Theology. She was president of the Society for Old Testament Study in 1998, and in July 2008 she was awarded the degree of Doctor of Divinity by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Temple Theology is an approach to biblical studies developed by Margaret Barker in her books starting from The Great High Priest (2003) and Temple Theology (2004). This approach identifies some elements of the theology and worship of the Jewish First Temple that endured beyond Josiah's reform and survived in both early Christian theology and liturgy and in gnosticism. According to this view Temple Theology has been influential in molding the roots of Christianity as well as, or even more than, Hellenistic or synagogue culture.
According to Barker, the main ideas of Temple Theology are the following:
- understanding the First Temple as the figure of the whole universe: the inner court (the sea) to be the figure of the pagans, the Holy (the earth) to be the figure of the Jewish people and the Holy of Holies (the heaven) to be the figure of the Garden of Eden;
- entering the Holy of the Holies is a mystical experience that transforms man into an angel (theosis), thus entering the Garden of Eden and giving knowledge to understand creation. This idea is related to the Resurrection;
- the main aim of the liturgy, and in particular of the Day of Atonement, was to maintain the Creation.
- The Lord (Yahweh), the God of Israel, was the Son of God Most High. Jesus, from the very beginning, was recognized as the Lord in this sense.
- The early Christian liturgy incorporated many elements of the First Temple Liturgy: the liturgy of the bread of the Eucharist traces its roots in the Saturday offering of the bread (Leviticus 24:5-9) and the liturgy of the wine in the Day of Atonement.
Margaret Barker works from all the available sources (the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint, the Dead Sea scrolls, the New Testament, the Jewish and Christian Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, Gnostic texts, and other early writings and artwork). According to her, Sola Scriptura - the doctrine that the Bible is the supreme authority in all matters of doctrine and practice - has hindered rather than helped the understanding of Christianity.
- The Older Testament: The Survival of Themes from the Ancient Royal Cult in Sectarian Judaism and Early Christianity. London: SPCK, 1987. New edition Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2005 (ISBN 190504819X)
- The Lost Prophet: The Book of Enoch and Its Influence on Christianity. London: SPCK, 1988. New edition Sheffield Phoenix Press 2005 (ISBN 1905048181)
- The Great Angel: A Study of Israel's Second God. London: SPCK, 1992 (ISBN 0281045925)
- The Risen Lord: The Jesus of History as the Christ of Faith. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996 (ISBN 0567085376)
- The Revelation of Jesus Christ. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000 (ISBN 0567087166)
- The Great High Priest. The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy. London and New York: T&T Clark/Continuum, 2003 (ISBN 0567089428)
- Temple Theology, London: SPCK 2004 (ISBN 028105634X)
- The Hidden Tradition of the Kingdom of God, London: SPCK 2007 (ISBN 0281058466)
- Temple Themes in Christian Worship, London: T&T Clark 2008 (ISBN 0567032760)
- Christmas The Original Story, London SPCK, 2008 (ISBN 0281060509)
- Creation: a Biblical Vision for the Environment, London: T&T Clark 2010 (ISBN 9780567015471)
- Temple Mysticism: An Introduction, London: SPCK 2011 (ISBN 9780281064830)
- "Margaret Barker (b. 1944), scholar". 4 Enoch. Retrieved 25 Nov 09. Check date values in:
- "Margaret Barker receives Doctorate from Lambeth Palace". T&T Clark, Publishers.
- "Lambeth Degrees". Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
- Dizdar, Drasko (2008). Sheer Grace. New York: Paulist Press. pp. 195–8. ISBN 978-0-8091-4517-1.