The life and work of Jesus were, and should be, interpreted in the light of something other than Jerusalem Judaism. This other had its roots in the conflicts of the sixth century BC when the traditions of the monarchy were divided as an inheritance amongst several heirs. It would have been lost but for the accidents of archaeological discovery and the evidence of pre-Christian texts preserved and transmitted only by Christian hands.1
Margaret Barker’s seven books of biblical scholarship should be of great interest to Mormon studies. Her own purpose has been to illuminate the origins of Christianity. In that ongoing effort, she has attracted increasing attention and respect for her contributions. Her central theme is the importance of the preexilic traditions of the first temple period for understanding Christianity. She finds evidence for the persistence of the old traditions in recently discovered texts, such as the Book of Enoch, that had been valued by the first generation of Christians but subsequently fell out of favor and were lost. From these kinds of texts and her close readings of the Bible, she begins her reconstruction of the conceptual background of Christianity as something “other” than Jerusalem Judaism. My purpose is to survey the lost and rediscovered other that she has explored and to point out the relevance that her reconstruction has for Mormon scripture and scholarship. Her reference to Jerusalem and the “sixth century BC” as the crucial time and place should attract the attention of Mormons. For us it brings the Book of Mormon into the arena. The thesis of this paper is that the overall picture that she presents—her overall paradigm—has a profound significance for Mormon studies.
- Margaret Barker, The Older Testament: The Survival of Themes from the Ancient Royal Cult in Sectarian Judaism and Early Christianity (London: SPCK, 1987), 6–7, emphasis in original.