Looking Beyond the Mark: Insights from Margaret Barker

In his 2004 essay The Deuteronomist De-Christianizing of the Old Testament, Kevin Christensen pulls together various sources in order to demonstrate that the Deuteronomic reforms essentially “de-Christianized” Israelite theology. The entire essay is great, but I wanted to share this little gem for those who haven’t yet read it:

Intriguingly, Lehi must have witnessed the beginnings of the revisionist effort during Josiah’s reform. Lehi himself begins his own ministry in Jerusalem by prophesying of “a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world” (1 Nephi 1:19). This clearly points to the anointed and to the Day of Atonement and puts Lehi in direct opposition to the reformers. Later, Lehi’s son Jacob describes Jews at Jerusalem who “look[ed] beyond the mark,” and “despised the words of plainness” (Jacob 4:14). The mark in question must be the same as that referred to by Ezekiel, another temple priest and an exact contemporary. Barker explains what Ezekiel saw in a vision of the angels of destruction summoned to the temple:

An angel was sent to mark the faithful: “Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark upon the foreheads of the men who groan and sigh over all the abominations that are committed in it” (Ezek. 9.4). The Lord then spoke to the other six angels: “pass through the city after him and smite . . . but touch no one upon whom is the mark . . .” (Ezek. 9.5–6). The mark on the forehead was protection against the wrath.
“Mark,” however conceals what that mark was. The Hebrew says that the angel marked the foreheads with the letter tau, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In the ancient Hebrew script that Ezekiel would have used, this letter was a diagonal cross, and the significance of this becomes apparent from the much later tradition about the high priests. The rabbis remembered that the oil for anointing the high priest had been lost when the first temple was destroyed and that the high priests of the second temple were only “priests of many garments,” a reference to the eight garments worn on the Day of Atonement. The rabbis also remember that the anointed high priests of the first temple had been anointed on the forehead with the sign of a diagonal cross. This diagonal cross was the sign of the Name on their foreheads, the mark which Ezekiel described as the letter tau.

This must be the meaning of Jacob’s mark; therefore, it quite literally meant for Book of Mormon peoples to take upon themselves the name of Christ that is, the name of the anointed.

Emphasis mine.

For more information about Margaret Barker and her work check out Kevin Christensen’s related essays here. Perhaps Christensen’s most important work on Margaret Barker is Paradigms Regained. Margaret Barker’s website is here.  

David Larson has a fantastic blog in which he has been providing insights from Barker’s work as well. You can find his blog called “Heavenly Ascents” over on the right side of this page in my list of links.

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13 comments on “Looking Beyond the Mark: Insights from Margaret Barker

  1. David Larsen says:

    Great post, James. It’s good to see more and more LDS thinkers looking at Margaret Barker’s research.

  2. Hans says:

    Great post. I was unaware that Tav in ancient Hebrew was written like a diagonal cross. When I get home I want to see if Skousen has anything on the word “mark” in the textual variations of the BoM for the verse.

    I think that I am going to have to start reading some Barker but with the new Nibley and Madsen books out, it’s tough to find time. So many books, so little time. I wish we had something like the Matrix where you can learn a book like one can learn Kung Fu in a few seconds!

  3. This is fascinating material. Thank you for sharing it! Indeed, I may expand on this concept on my blog.

  4. Rebecca says:

    Barker’s book “Temple Theology” is a wonderful summary of most of her work. Based on 4 talks, it is only about 100 pgs long so you could fit it in. She’s worth it.

  5. James says:

    Thanks Rebecca. I am actually already reading it! One of the perks of attending a big university is I have access to Inter-Library Loan Service. I recieved a copy of Temple Theology last week that was shipped from Iowa!

  6. […] few days ago I read a post by James over at the superb blog, Lehi’s Library, entitled, “Looking Beyond the Mark: Insights from Margaret Barker.”  In it, James refers to an excellent article by Kevin Christensen who talks about the […]

  7. […] to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!A few days ago I wrote about a post I read over at Lehi’s Library which quoted a paper by Kevin Christensen in which he referenced Margaret Barker.  The subject was […]

  8. Ric P. says:

    I also cross-reference 2 Nephi 9:18-19 to Jacob 4 and Ezekiel 9. The themes are almost overlapping. Kevin is on to something very powerful. The test is to forsake the natural world.

  9. http://www.youtube.com/user/JustinMartyrJr

    Temple evidences in early Christian art. Also see the documentary, in the works, on Christmas legends, traditions, etc., going back into early Christian beliefs that Christ went to other nations around the world.

    Answers to early anti-Christians, as given by early Christian Apologists are interesting cause of how they use the doctrines of: Christ’s world trek, pre-existence, the preaching of the gospel to the spirit prisoners, & deification (becoming like Christ, or gods), as foundational responses to early anti-Christians’ charges that Christ was neglectful of other far away lands & pre-Christian time peoples.

  10. Kerry Shirts says:

    Hey great post! I enjoy your blog very much.

  11. James says:

    Thanks Lord Kerry!

  12. Sharman Wilson says:

    I devoured Barker’s Temple Theology (a great intro to her work–very accessible), and then went on to The Great High Priest–fascinating stuff!

  13. Jr says:

    What I find disturbing concerning Margaret Barker is people of other religions are wary to read her works and research because one, she has spoken to LDS audiences and she has cooperated with LDS scholars, and two, LDS have taken to her work.
    Very juvenile way of thinking. Goes to show that LDS look for truth everywhere and people of other faiths are scared of what they will find.

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