There is an interesting post at The T&T Clark Blog with a transcription of an address that BYU’s John Welch gave on March 5th in London at a conference about Margaret Barker’s latest book, Temple Themes in Christian Worship, and her scholarly work on temple subjects in ancient Christianity and Judaism. FARMS lists Welch as serving on the executive committee of the Biblical Law Section of the SBL, but in this review he also mentions that he has been selected as one of the organizers of a new section on Temple Studies in the SBL. I am not very familiar with the SBL, but this sounds like a fantastic leap forward in temple studies among biblical scholars.
Some highlights from this address are:
Jesus’s world was a world in which temples were pervasive, dominant, identity-forming and community-shaping institutions. We haven’t understood well enough that temples were of the essence in all ancient religions, but a recent burst of books about temple studies shows that people are finally seeing this more clearly. . . .
Certainly Peter spoke of the church as a nation of priests, and early Christians saw themselves in terms of that temple-centric world, and even envied the temple. Margaret builds on solid ground in highlighting the Liturgy of James, in which “all Christians gave thanks that they could enter the holy of holies, ‘being counted worthy to enter . . . within the veil’” and cast themselves before God’s goodness (226). . . .
In historical Jesus studies, more attention now needs to be given to Jesus and the Temple, for it dominated every landscape in Jerusalem in Jesus’s day. Whenever we see Jesus in Jerusalem, we see him in or in the vicinity of the Temple. Too rarely have we noticed how many of his teachings, conversations, and actions are reported in a temple setting. By my count, some 12% of the words in all 4 gospels are set in the Temple or its confines. After Margaret’s work, everything in the New Testament needs to be reconsidered in terms of temple themes. . . .
As a Latter-day Saint, I have a deep love for and interest in the Temple, a place that Jesus loved, wept over, and revered as his Father’s house. Striving to be saints or holy ones, Latter-day Saints have built temples in many countries around the world. They offer working examples of Christian temples in operation. Their practices tap into much of the earliest temple strata of Christianity. In LDS temples, the faithful are given a new name, a white robe, washed and anointed, instructed through a ritual drama of God the Father’s plan of salvation, and prayers are offered for the healing of the sick and the afflicted. . . .
By reconnecting the ordinary Christian’s worship with its sustaining temple roots, Margaret takes biblical studies out of the sterile confines of arcane academic arenas (where biblical studies usually languish) and reveals what difference these purposefully obscure, guardedly veiled, and now long-forgotten mysteries can make today in breathing new life into the minds and hearts of faithful sons and daughters of God. Imagine actually enriching every Christian’s baptismal experience with the twelve powerful steps of initiation found in the Testament of Levi, reflecting temple traditions older than the Temple of Herod. . . .
While Margaret is appropriately cautious about such matters (105), it is abundantly clear that some things that were perfectly plain and precious in early Christianity have gone missing. . . .
I thought that was interesting that Welch mentioned the Testament of Levi that I just recently wrote about. He also gives interesting commentary on Barker’s temple connections to the Sermon on the Mount, which Welch has written about before. Take a look at the address.
Great find, Bryce! I’m glad Margaret Barker’s wonderful research is receiving some much-deserved attention. The book that Welch is quoting from is “Temple Themes in Christian Worship,” Barker’s most recent book (2007). It is a great book, as are all her others. BYU has been so impressed with Margaret Barker that they have asked her to speak at a number of conferences, including the 2007 SBL session on Mormons and the Bible, where she spoke on Melchizedek.
Thanks David! I’ve updated the post with the information about the book. I’m so behind on my reading. There just isn’t enough time in the day!
Are the SBL session talks available anyplace, such as the one Barker gave on Melchizedek?
Welch’s comments were given on Mar 5 in London at a conference about Margaret Barker’s new book, Temple Themes. It was not an SBL session. SBL is the Society of Biblical Literature–the flagship scholarly organization for the study of the Bible.
Thank you for the clarification Dr. Hamblin! I have updated the post to reflect that.
If you are interested in reading some of Margaret Barker’s papers before purchasing her books, there are a significant number of them published on her website, margaretbarker.com. They will be found under the tab ‘papers.’ I highly recommend the 1994 paper, “Atonement: the Rite of Healing” and “Belonging in the Temple” from 2007. I have not found a published copy of her presentation on Melchizedek, and would appreciate any leads. I have read all of her recent books and some of her older ones. Each book, by her own admission, builds on the previous ones. I agree with the comment following your “Modern Temple…Old Testament” article that The Hidden Tradition of the Kingdom of God is one of her best books. Also, at 130 pages, it is one of the most concise. Bookfinder.com lists several places where it may be purchased online for about $25.
I never answered your question about Margaret Barker’s SBL presentation on Melchizedek. I am planning to put my notes from it on my blog sometime soon, but I’m still looking to see if a full copy is available anywhere. The many BYU professors that were there would probably know better about the availability of the papers that were read at that session. Dr. Jared Ludlow was the moderator for the session, so you may want to contact him. Also, you may be able to contact Margaret Barker herself about it through her website http://www.margaretbarker.com.
I can’t imagine that the SBL doesn’t publish these somewhere… There are several talks from that session that would be interesting to read. See here.