The Lost Lady of the Jerusalem Temple
Dr Margaret Barker
14 June 2016
(A review by John Davies)
Was there a huge coverup and/or re-writing of Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures to exclude an original worship of the female principle – the Lady, Queen of Heaven – from the Jewish religion of
Dr Margaret Barker, a distinguished independent scholar, thought there was. Her examination of Hebrew texts led her to believe that small changes with huge effects had been made. She traced a now-suppressed cult within Israel’s first worship (that before the Babylonian Exile) which she thinks was nevertheless preserved and which is found in the female figure of Wisdom in Proverbs 1 and 8, in the Queen of Heaven denounced by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 44) and, in Christian literature, in Revelation 12, the woman clothed the sun and with familiar elements of the Nativity story in Luke and Matthew. (The association of the Sun with the Lady Dr Barker establishes from various texts and inscriptions. The lecturer considers that her thesis is supported by correctly read or reconstructed Scriptures, and by archaeological evidence.)
It was a very interesting and challenging evening. Was the Lady an intruder into Israel’s strict monotheism, as Jeremiah seems to have thought? Or was she a Person or hypostasis in the Godhead, the Holy Spirit in fact, recognised in the worship of the first temple, that of Solomon?
Was our very learned lecturer proposing a rediscovery or a heresy? And if there were among the audience (many of them clergy) those who can read Hebrew, why did no-one challenge Dr Barker’s findings?
Why are the great churches of eastern Christianity, including one in the Kremlin and the great basilica of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople/Istanbul, dedicated to the Holy Wisdom?
What is the relationship between the Holy Wisdom, present at the creation, and Mary Theotokos, the mother of Jesus?
Whose voice, from within the Trinity so to speak, is heard at the baptism and transfiguration of Jesus? Is it the Father’s or the (feminine) Holy Spirit?
I found myself baffled at the evening’s end. The lecture had been stimulating, challenging – but I was in no position to judge the evidence or the use to which the lecturer put it. Perhaps I should
read one or more of Dr Barker’s 17 books. Her interpretation of imagery has apparently cast enormous light on liturgical symbolism and practice, on the weekly placing of the Communion as not quite the new Passover but something else. I have long loved the (female) figure of Wisdom in Proverbs and at the lecture personally enjoyed the picture of Wisdom and Mary as weavers, or makers of textiles who appear in texts, the woven witness to creation as weaving. But the opposition of Jeremiah to the Queen of Heaven troubles me.
Could the prophet have got it so wrong or has his text been edited – I am tempted to say monkeyed with too?