Society of Biblical Literature


Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

Jay Harold Ellens

Jay Harold EllensWe are sorry to share the news that Jay Harold Ellens, one of the founding members and a significant presence in psychological biblical studies has passed away.

Jay Harold Ellens was born on July 16, 1932 in McBain, Michigan, a rural agricultural community not far from Cadillac. He passed away peacefully on April 13, 2018. He was at home in Novi, Michigan surrounded by his family when he passed. He is survived by Mary Jo (Lewis) Ellens, his spouse of 63 years, two sisters, one brother, seven children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Harold received a Bachelor’s degree from Calvin College; Master’s degrees from Calvin Theological Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the University of Michigan; Doctoral degrees from Wayne State University and the University of Michigan.  He was a US Army Chaplain from 1953 until he retired with the rank of Colonel in 1992, after serving for many years both on active duty and on reserve duty. Harold served six Christian Reformed Church congregations during his first 25 years as a civilian pastor, followed by nine Presbyterian Church congregations during the next 31 years.  He was known well as a pastoral counselor in his parishes and in the general community; and he was a scholar who notably explored the relationship between spirituality and human health.

Harold was the Founding Editor in Chief of the Journal of Psychology and Christianity.  He served for 15 years as Executive Director for the Christian Association of Psychological Studies International. At the time of his death he was a Professor of Biblical Studies and Spirituality at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary of Detroit, after having taught part-time throughout his life at Oakland University, Calvin Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, the University of Michigan and Oakland Community College.

During his lifetime Harold was author, co-author or editor of 178 books and 167 professional journal articles. He was a known lecturer on many topics and was knighted for his contributions by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands in 1974.  He was founder and director of the Lyceum in Farmington Hills, Michigan, which met monthly for more than 20 years, providing a presentation and discussion venue for a diverse range of speakers and musical performers on topics that spanned the humanities and science. The Lyceum met in Harold’s expansive library, which housed a wide-ranging collection and included sub-collections that addressed his specific scholarly interests.

More than anything else, throughout his entire life, Harold was a mentor. He encouraged individuals to reach for their next level of potential. He believed in the unlimited potential and goodness of every individual. He was often able to help those individuals, who sought him out, to break what had seemed to be impossible barriers.

In spite of his many accomplishments, Harold always remembered his humble beginnings as a Depression-era farm child. He was friends with people of all backgrounds and all walks of life. Harold’s final wish was that we do not take his passing as a goodbye, but as something akin to a good night because he believed that we will meet on the “other side,” when the sun again rises.

Memorial Service:

Time:                    Saturday, June 9, 2018 at 1:00 PM

Location:             First Presbyterian Church of Farmington
26165 Farmington Road
Farmington Hills, MI 48334


Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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.


1 Comment

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.

Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

‘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.


Leave a comment

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.