Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

In the first of a two-part article, Margaret Barker, an Old Testament scholar and former President of the Society for Old Testament Study, explores the biblical roots of wisdom

The Bible story begins with the creation and then the Garden of Eden. It ends with the vision in the Book of Revelation: the heavenly city of gold, the tree of life, the water of life, and the throne of God and the Lamb. His servants worship him. They have his name on their foreheads, and they see his face. When the story of the Bible is told, the emphasis is almost always on Moses and the Exodus, on entering the promised land, on the exile to Babylon and the return to rebuild Jerusalem. The old covenant, which gives us the name ‘Old Testament’, is said to be the covenant made by Moses at Sinai, and the great narrative of the Bible is presented as the history of the chosen people.

There is, however, another history in the Bible, which begins with the Garden of Eden and ends with the golden city in Revelation. The tree of life from which Adam and Eve were banished is the tree of life that is seen again at the end of the Book of Revelation. This other history is the story of Wisdom: how it was lost and how it was restored. Where is the Wisdom we have lost in Knowledge?1

This is the story of the temple in Jerusalem which was imagined as the Garden of Eden, with Adam and Eve as the original high priest. They made a disastrous choice. The forbidden tree was the tree of knowledge, but the tree intended for their food was the tree of life, the symbol of wisdom. The story of Eden encodes a tradition about the rejected Wisdom of ancient Jerusalem which was entrusted to the high priests of the first temple.

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