Society of Biblical Literature


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Psychological Biblical Criticism is . . .

. . . a way of reading and interpreting biblical texts which is critically attentive to psychological factors involved in their origin, composition, transmission, interpretation, translation, and expression.


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Information added for Boston Meeting

The day and time have been set for the Psychology and Biblical Studies session at the SBL meeting in Boston.  The session, “Celebrating the Past, Embracing the Future,” will be held on Saturday, November 18 from 9:00 – 11:30 AM in Belvidere A. Immediately following the session there will be a business meeting in Vermont on the 5th level, from 11:45 AM – 12:45 PM. More details are available on the 2017 Boston  page.

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Psybibs sessions for Boston meeting

The sessions for the Psychology and Biblical Studies section are taking shape for the 2017 SBL meeting in Boston. Honoring the first 25 years of the group’s work, the conversation will include many scholars who have had a key role in establishing and continuing the discipline of psychological biblical studies. Contributors include Wayne G. Rollins, J. Harold Ellens, D. Andrew Kille, Michael Willett-Newheart, Paul Anderson and Stuart Lasine.

See the latest information on the 2017 Boston page. The page will be updated as more details are announced.


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SBL Renews Psychology and Biblical Studies Unit

The Psychology and Biblical Studies unit came up for renewal this year. The Society of Biblical Literature reviews the activities and direction of its program units every six years, and following the process, Psybibs was renewed as a Program Unit. However, the nature of the group was changed from a Section to a Seminar. What does this mean?

According to the SBL guidelines, a Section:

…offers presenters most access for unsolicited papers; required to have at least one open session each year; session types include paper readings, panel discussions, and workshops that involve practical, hands-on, learning opportunities related to teaching and/or research applications.

A Seminar involves:

long-range collaborative research topics/papers that require active participation and well-defined research topics or projects; unit chairs collect papers before meeting and distribute to participant group; papers are summarized and discussed, not read, at meetings.
As we celebrate 25 years of work at the intersections of psychology and biblical studies, we look forward to continuing our work in a more focused and collegial form as we move into the future.

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Psybibs Sessions for San Antonio SBL updated

The Psychology and Biblical Studies Section sessions at the SBL Annual Meeting have now been updated with meeting room information. The sessions will include:

  • DMT and the Soul of Prophecy Review Session
  • Neighbors, Strangers, and Enemies: Loving the Other in the Bible
  • Cris de Coeur: Despair in the Bible

For fuller listings of sessions, with participants, times, and locations, see the 2016 San Antonio page.


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‘For She Has Heard’

For She Has Heard‘For She Has Heard’: The Standing Stone in Joshua 24 and the Development of a Covenant Symbol

Elizabeth Berne DeGear

[from the publisher’s description]

In this unusual and fascinating study, Elizabeth Berne DeGear draws on both biblical studies and psychoanalytic theory to interpret the role of the standing stone erected by Joshua in the sanctuary at Shechem.

The presence of a listening stone in the sanctuary distinguishes the ritual space in Joshua 24, yet this religious symbol has received little scholarly attention. DeGear begins with the question: What is this numinous feminine presence serving as witness to the people’s covenantal relationship with their God? Comparing this stone’s function with the function of other covenant stones in the Hebrew Bible and throughout the ancient Near East, DeGear illuminates both the power of the symbol and its dynamics in the people’s religious development.

In psychoanalytic mode, DeGear goes on to show how humans create and use symbols differently at various positions along the path to maturity. Her study presents a new perspective on how covenant symbols in the Hebrew Bible function in the development of the communities using them.

The present analysis of this one biblical symbol offers scholars and students of biblical and religious studies the tools to engage in psychologically informed consideration of covenant. With its focus on sanctuary, symbol and psyche, DeGear’s exploration of the stone extends from the world of ancient Israel to today’s worship communities, where the Bible itself is used as a covenant symbol. What emerges is a picture of how the standing stone and other mediating symbols function in the religion of communities in the Bible and beyond.

Elizabeth Berne DeGear is an interdisciplinary scholar teaching in the fields of biblical studies and depth psychology. She is a chaplain for the Center for Urban Community Services in New York City. She presented at the Psychology and Biblical Studies Section sessions in Atlanta in 2010 and San Francisco in 2011.


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Psybibs sessions for SBL Annual Meeting 2016

The Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting this year will be held in San Antonio, Texas, November 19-22, 2016.

Psychology and Biblical Studies Section sessions will include:

  • DMT and the Soul of Prophecy Review Session
  • Neighbors, Strangers, and Enemies: Loving the Other in the Bible
  • Cris de Coeur: Despair in the Bible

For fuller listings of sessions, with participants, times, and locations, see the 2016 San Antonio page. Links to paper drafts will be added as they become available.

For more information about the SBL Annual meeting, including registration, see the SBL website.

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Call for Papers: SBL Annual Meeting, November 2016

Psychology and Biblical Studies Section

Society of Biblical Literature
2016 Annual Meeting
November 19 – 22, 2016
San Antonio, TX

Call For Papers Closes: March 2, 2016

Call For Papers: We always welcome proposals for papers that address Biblical texts, themes, figures and/or readers using the concepts and interpretive tools of any field of psychology. We urge the use of the original Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic, especially when the argument of your paper rests on the meanings of specific words or phrases.

We also welcome any papers that highlight methods, models, and approaches in the interface between psychology and Biblical studies, including from the emerging fields of neurotheology, brain physiology and religious experience, and evolutionary psychology.

This year, we are calling for papers on the theme of “Neighbors, Strangers, and Enemies: Loving the Other in the Bible.” Jesus called Leviticus 19:18’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself” the greatest commandment, along with loving God. Freud called it impossible to fulfill. Leviticus also commands the Jews to love “the stranger” as yourself (Lev 19:34), and Jesus entreats his followers to “love your enemies and do good to them that hate you” (Matt 5:44). Today, the prospect of loving the stranger and the enemy may seem even more psychologically impossible than the neighbor, yet in many ways these three commands make up the core of the Bible’s moral calling. We invite papers that examine the psychological functions and conflicts that arise out of these commands to love the Others in our midst.

Program Unit Chairs

Barbara Mei Leung Lai
Dereck M. Daschke

For full information or to propose a paper for the Program Unit, go to the Society of Biblical Literature site.