Thompson, John S. “The Lady at the Horizon: Egyptian Tree Goddess Iconography and Sacred Trees in the Israelite Scripture and Temple Theology.” In Ancient Temple Worship: Proceedings of The Expound Symposium 14 May 2011, edited by Matthew B. Brown, Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Stephen D. Ricks, and John S. Thompson, 217-41. Temple on Mount Zion Series 1. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: Interpreter Foundation/Eborn Books, 2014. [Egypt/Tree of Life/Symbolism/Theology]
Recent scholarship has identified manifestations of female sacred tree motifs in extra-biblical texts of ancient Israel and surrounding nations which raise questions about the nature of early Israelite religion. Similar motifs connecting sacred trees with female figures are also present in the Book of Mormon. This paper explores those images in Egypt during the time of the Israelite kingdom and the same concepts in Israelite religion.
Thompson identifies four specific similarities in ancient Egyptian iconographic scenes related to female divine trees. They are:
- They appear in places of transition such as at the horizon or entrances to the temple courtyards.
- They frequently appear as sources of water for drinking and as sources of fruit.
- These trees often appear labeled as mothers.
- They can appear in connection with concepts of cleansing or purifying.
A significant portion of the paper reproduces and describes Egyptian iconographic images of sacred trees and tree goddesses which illustrate these four concepts. The following section discusses these concepts as found in Israelite sources (primarily texts). For some reason this section does not follow the same order as the list or of his Egyptian treatment which does follow the list. In this part Thompson also writes briefly about how each concept is found in the Book of Mormon.
The conclusions are in perhaps the most interesting part of the essay because Thompson introduces new information with interesting insights into half a dozen New Testament pericopes. They include:
- Jesus interpretation of the two messengers in Mal. 3:4 as John, the Aaronic messenger in the courtyard, and Jesus himself as the Melchizedek priest and messenger of the higher covenant.
- Jesus’ discussion with the woman at the well wherein he reverses their rolls and he speaks of himself in feminine terms as providing the waters of everlasting life. This is consistent with his earlier mention of being like a hen gathering her chicks. I think this is a good corrective to Margaret Barker’s view of the divine feminine.
- A consideration of Jesus teaching about being “born again” twice, suggesting partaking of the tree of life twice–the first anticipatory of the final one.
- Women associated with important events in the life and death of Christ.
- Viewing Jesus death as a birth scene.
- Two parts of the path, entered by two gates, to eternal life.