Friday, December 7, 2007

Mormonism and Margaret Barker – Part 2

In this second part in my MMB series, I shall delve into certain ‘negative’ aspects of my “second observation” concerning Barker’s teachings. From Part 1:

Second observation - Barker teaches that Israel’s “First Temple” religion believed in, taught, and worshipped a Mother Goddess.


The vast majority of temple Mormons (all?) believe that they have a literal Mother Goddess in heaven (and some maintain that their heavenly Father has multiple wives, which translates to multiple Goddesses). [For an excellent summation of the LDS doctrine of a Mother in heaven SEE.]

Like God the Father, the Mother in heaven for members of the CoJCoLDS has a body of “flesh and bones”, and their respective genders are to be understood in a literal sense. However, such a doctrine/interpretation is not what Barker has in mind when discussing the religion of the first Temple Israelites. The following quotes from Barker's writings should give the reader some important insights into her understanding on this matter:

The fact that no complete correspondence can be found between the Israelite deity and any other known goddess argues for her being native to Israel rather than an import from Egypt or the imposition of Assyrian overlords. My purpose here, however, is not to study the goddess as such but to show just how many fragments of the older cult survive, and how the ancient goddess was indistinguishable from Yahweh, being simply the female aspect. (The Great Angel, p. 57.)

Wisdom was not forgotten; the female aspect of Yahweh was know to the first Christians. Paul described Jesus as the Power of God and the Wisdom of God, a twofold incarnation (1 Cor. 1.24). (The Great Angel, p. 67.)

Yahweh was known as Yahweh of Hosts, the chief of the heavenly hosts. He was also Yahweh Elohim, which may once have indicated something very similar, viz. Yahweh of the Elohim. In addition there had been a female deity or rather, a female aspect of Yahweh. (The Great Angel, p. 162.)

The Logos was the Wisdom of God, ‘highest and chiefest of his powers’ (Allegorical Interpretation II.86). The initial objection, that the Logos is a male figure and Wisdom a female figure is met by Philo himself, and the change of gender was not thought by him to be significant. Since Wisdom was second after God , he said, it was deemed feminine to express its subordinate place: ‘Let us pay no heed to the discrepancy in the gender of the words, and say that the daughter of God, even Wisdom, is not only masculine but also father, sowing and begetting in souls aptness to learn’ (On Flight 52). Philo’s imagery is consistent with the tradition of the second God’s double gender…(The Great Angel, p. 130.).

Note the second deity has male and female aspects. Below this divinity were two further stages: the androgynous image of the unbegotten First Father had an androgynous son, named Son of Man, and he in turn had a son named Saviour. (The Great Angel, p. 171.)

God was such that the image of God in human terms had to be both male and female. God was not necessarily two, but needed two forms for the divinity to be expressed in human terms. In other words, the divinity was as much female, in so far as no gendered words can ever be appropriate to describe what is beyond the material world of life and death and human reproduction. (The Great High Priest, p. 229.)

The older divinity had been both male and female (I AM being a gender free name in Hebrew), ‘present’ in the anointed ones, and depicted as present in the creation in so far as she was beneath the firmament of heaven. (The Great High Priest, p. 245.)

An anointed guardian angel high priest thrown out in the time of Ezekiel can only have been the Queen of Heaven, Wisdom, especially as the cherub was female. (The Great High Priest, p. 250.)

Barker’s above reflections, especially when combined with her teachings on “The One”, yield a significantly different concept of Israel’s ‘female’ deity, Israel’s ‘second’ God. Not only is the preexistent nature of this second God non-physical/material, the ‘feminine’ nature of this deity is but one of TWO ASPECTS, the other being ‘masculine’. Both aspects of this second divinity are incarnated in Israel’s anointed kings and high priests, and most importantly, in Jesus Christ:

The God of Israel took two forms, male and female, the high priest was the human manifestation of both. Hence Jesus was described as Christ, ‘the Power of God and the Wisdom of God’ (1 Cor. 1:24). (The Great High Priest, p. 94.)

And interestingly enough, Barker believes that the worship of this “Queen of Heaven, Wisdom” (an “aspect” of Israel’s “second” God) was a very important part of the first Temple’s liturgy. However, worship of ‘Mother in Heaven’ is strictly forbidden by the General Authorities of the CoCJoLDS—yet another important contrast IMHO.

Ultimately, my reading of Barker suggests that little commonality exists between the theology of the God/Gods as presented in her books, and the theology of the CoJCoLDS.

Grace and peace,



Christopher Smith said...

Very interesting, David. You're right; this doesn't appear to parallel Mormon doctrine at all.

Anonymous said...

"Not only is the preexistent nature of this second God non-physical/material, the ‘feminine’ nature of this deity is but one of TWO ASPECTS, the other being ‘masculine’."


Well, I don't think that Mormons consider the pre-mortal Jesus Christ to be "physical/material" in the same way that humans are either.

As far as "two aspects" of the same Deity go, the same can be said for us. The concept that male and female are to become "one" (i.e. "one flesh") was rather common in the Biblical context.

So, you can't conclude that Israelites literally thought the God and Goddess were one being.

In the same way, Jesus is reported as saying that his disciples may "be one, even as [Christ] is one with the Father." So, it appears that they can be called "one" without literally being one being. Yet for some strange reason, tradition lends to the idea that the Father and the Son are "two aspects" of the same being. This conclusion is nonsensical if you ask me.