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The Older Testament: The Survival of Themes from the Ancient Royal Cult in Sectarian Judaism and Early Christianity
Margaret Barker
Publication Date
June 2005


The Older Testament is a radically new approach to many problems of both Old and New Testaments. It takes as a basis the theology of the book of Enoch, lost to Western Christendom for many centuries but here recognized as providing the most consistent set of clues to the nature of Israel’s preexilic religion. Reformers and editors of the Second Temple period sought to remove from the biblical texts all traces of the older ways, which now survive only in the apparently bizarre themes and imagery of certain pseudepigraphal works.

Margaret Barker traces some of the ways in which the Deuteronomic standpoint came to dominate future readings of the Hebrew Bible as well as scholarly conceptions of Israel’s religious development. Her reconstruction of the pre-Deuteronomic religion throws a startling light on much of the imagery of the New Testament and shows how closely the earlier Christian expectations were based upon the ancient royal cult in Jerusalem.

This book represents an important and original contribution to our understanding of Judaism and early Christianity.

“The scope of this book is vast … nothing less than a total theory of the history of Israelite religion and of the formation of the Old Testament, and once one has assimilated it, almost nothing will look the same again.”
—John Barton, New Blackfriars

“One of those rare achievements that are capable of pushing biblical studies out of a well worn rut.”
—John Ashton, The Month

Margaret Barker, a former President of the Society for Old Testament Study, is a prolific author specializing in reconstructing the background of New Testament thought in the Hebrew Bible and early Judaism.

The SBL is the North American distributor for Sheffield Phoenix Press. Customers outside of North America can purchase this book directly from Sheffield Phoenix by clicking here.