About two months ago, I wrote a post sharing my opinion on a review of Margaret Barker’s The Hidden Tradition of the Kingdom of God (2007), written by Benedict Thomas Viviano, O.P., for SBL’s Review of Biblical Literature (see here). I found Fr. Viviano’s review disappointing, to say the least.  Well, I am happy to now share with you a review of Barker’s slightly more recent work, Temple Themes in Christian Worship, which can be found in the most recent edition of The FARMS Review (Volume 21, Number 1, 2009) – an evaluation of Barker that I can agree with heartily.

The title of the review is “Antecedents of the Restoration in the Ancient Temple”, by Frederick M. Huchel. You may have seen my notes from Huchel’s powerful presentation at the UK Temple Studies Group Symposium  in London, held May 2009 (see my notes here).  Subsequently, he allowed me to post the full text of that presentation, entitled “The Cosmic Ring-Dance of the Angels” (see here).  Huchel is an independent Mormon scholar who has studied Barker’s work for years.  I have known of his interest in her work for some time and so was very pleased to see his review in the FARMS publication.

Although her research has be noticed and mentioned by LDS scholars for some time now, I believe that Huchel’s is the first major review of one of Dr. Barker’s books in the FARMS Review. As such, the reviewer took occasion to introduce Latter-day Saints to Barker and her work, and bring the reader up to speed on her previous books.  Huchel starts with her first published book, The Older Testament, and explains to readers her main hypotheses — one of the most basic and important of which is the idea that much of the religion of ancient Israel — the First Temple theology –was lost (or deliberately suppressed) by the reforms of King Josiah, the Deuteronomists, and others intent on changing the religious beliefs from what they once were. What we have in our Old Testament does not completely and accurately reflect the ancient religion of Israel.  According to Barker, “It is becoming increasingly clear that the Old Testament that should accompany the New Testament is not the one usually included in the Bible”1.  However, many of the so-called apocryphal and pseudepigraphal texts do represent the older beliefs — beliefs that can be found in pre-exilic biblical books, such as Isaiah, Job, some of the Psalms, and also in Ezekiel.  It is from these texts that similarities are to be found with Christianity.

Huchel is able to bring out Barker’s principal theories and main points in a way that is helpful for both those who are still unfamiliar with her writings and those who have read her work but could benefit from a synthesis of her vast corpus of research.  And as is appropriate for a FARMS publication, Huchel does a beautiful job of bringing all these things to bear on the teachings of Joseph Smith. He makes ample mention of how amazingly Barker’s research seems to match, on many points, the revealed Gospel as restored by the Prophet.  For example, he notes that Joseph’s “Article of Faith 8″, “we believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly,” while blasted as blasphemous by many an evangelical, is prophetically proper in light of what we now understand (thanks to Barker and many others) to have occurred under the Deuteronomist and Post-Exilic recomposition of ancient texts and traditions.  In Huchel’s words, “Barker’s work adds a dimension of understanding to the ‘why’ of things Smith taught.”

Huchel goes through basically all of Barker’s publications, highlighting the contents and explaining the significance of each one.  He describes Barker’s methodological approach, which she terms “Temple Theology.” He then goes on to describe in some detail some of the most useful points of her research for LDS readers, including:

  • The “Secret Tradition” of the temple and the true nature of Solomon’s temple that is largely absent from the Old Testament histories
  • The tradition that Israelites would go up to the temple to see the Lord — that it was believed that the Lord could be seen, which was later strongly denied by the Deuteronomists
  • That Jesus was the Jehovah/Yahweh of the Old Testament and that Yahweh was the Son of God Most High — that they were seen as two different Deities
  • The nature of the Melchizedek Priesthood and its importance in the traditions of Ancient Israel, the Davidic Monarchy and to later Christianity
  • The importance of the Tree of Life and other themes in the ancient temple and in Israelite beliefs

Does Huchel agree wholeheartedly with everything Barker says? No, but this is natural, he says, in light of her background and academic training.  Barker, of course, is not LDS, but is trained as a Methodist preacher and has come to her conclusions in biblical studies through her own efforts and research.  But the number of things Huchel finds that he can appreciate, he says, is far more than he finds to quibble with.  Her contribution to biblical studies and, for Latter-day Saints, her significance for our appreciation of the ancient world that Joseph Smith put us in contact with, is unmeasurable.

This review, Huchel informed me in an email, was abridged for the FARMS publication, but the full version is slated to appear in a forthcoming book by Huchel. The book, which will bear the title Temple Theology and the Latter-day Saints, will explore Dr. Barker’s work in the Latter-day Saint context, and explain how Temple Theology elucidates our own theology and doctrine, and gives us keys to better understand some of the heretofore more opaque facets of Joseph Smith’s restoration. Temple Theology, in short, says Huchel, vindicates the Prophet.

Temple Theology and the Latter-day Saints, by Frederick M. Huchel, does not currently have an official release date, but hopefully we’ll hear more about it early next year.  For now, I highly recommend checking out this most recent edition of The FARMS Review for Huchel’s seminal review of Margaret Barker.  Although I have not had occasion to review them, this issue also contains reviews of Margaret Barker’s work by George L. Mitton and John Welch, as well, which I’m sure will likewise be very helpful.

For online access to The FARMS Review, please click on the following link:


  1. M. Barker, The Great High Priest (London: T&T Clark, 2003), xi, as cited in Huchel

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