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Margaret Barker


Margaret Barker

Any consideration of the historical origin of the worship of Jesus should not be undertaken in isolation from the other major questions of monotheism, and anthropomorphism in first century Palestine. The enquiry must be limited to evidence that could reasonably have been known and used in first century Palestine and should take into account both the titles given to Jesus, such as Son of God, Messiah and Servant, and the claim that the crucifixion was the great atonement sacrifice. Worship and sacrifice suggest a temple context and the titles suggest the royal high priesthood of the first temple.

Summary of response by James R. Davila:

Barker explains the origins of christology through a reconstruction of the pre-exilic royal cult in which the king functioned as a high priest in the Jerusalem temple and as YHWH's manifestation on earth. Jesus drew on this ancient tradition to explain his own ministry. The respondent finds much of this reconstruction persuasive and agrees that it explains both messianic titles and the claim that Jesus' death was an atoning sacrifice. However, he is not convinced that a full reconstruction of the royal cult is possible with our current evidence and finds some of Barker's readings (e.g., of Deut 32:8-9) to overinterpret the evidence. He is especially sceptical of the idea that Jesus formulated this messianic doctrine himself. Data on better documented messianic figures (e.g., Shabbetai Zvi in the 1660s) show that their teachings and ministries could be seriously distorted by legend almost immediately, and the Gospel of Thomas presents a nonchristological interpretation of Jesus that seems to be as old as the New Testament christologies.

(c) 1998
Reproduction beyond fair use only on permission of the authors.

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The School of Divinity
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