Society of Biblical Literature

2002 Toronto

Psychology and Biblical Studies
Society of Biblical Literature

Annual Meeting, Toronto, Canada
November  2002 ( Toronto)

Biblical Violence and Consolation:
Psychological Perspectives

D. Andrew Kille San Jose, CA Presider

Schuyler Brown, St Michaels College
Jung’s”Answer to Job” Revisited

Jung’s critique of the doctrine of God as “summum bonum” provides a helpful way to address the conflicting themes of violence and consolation in the Bible.

Dan Merkur, University Of Toronto
Therapeutic Change in Job

Many psychological commentators on the Book of Job find the protagonist’s final reconciliation with God an unconvincing, emotionally inauthentic, pious gloss on a theologically disturbing text. Others suggest that the drama portrays a masochistic surrender, or capitulation, to God’s sadism. I argue that Job portrays therapeutic change. When violent deaths and other losses make it impossible for Job to believe in God’s justice and goodness, he enters a negative transference neurosis, analogous to an analysand’s rage at a psychoanalyst’s silence. In cruelly reminding Job of his place in the chain of being, his vision abreacts affects that were unformulated at the time of his traumata, permitting their mastery.

Daniel Terry
With the Jawbone of a Donkey:
Samson and Delilah, and the Psychological Truth About Violence

Drawing on the work of prison psychiatrist James Gilligan, the Biblical story of Samson and Delilah (Judges 14-16) is explored as an archetype of violence rooted in the emotional experience of shame. Mocking and scorn are shown to be the occasion for shame, which results in rage and violence. Violence in the text is used to demonstrate that the method and manner of violent acts can be “read” as symbolic representations of thoughts. All action is psychologically meaningful. Eyes, tongues, and hair are shown to represent the sources of shame and, consequently, to be the focus of revenge in an attempt to “undo” the shame of the offender. Samson’s final act–the destruction of the Philistine temple–serves as reminder of the inevitable rage resulting from the indignity of inhuman treatment. Implications for today are offered, with specific attention given to the prison system.

William S Morrow Queens Theological College
Comfort for Jerusalem. The Second Isaiah as Counselor to Refugees

The psychological framework for this paper is based on G. van der Veer, Counselling and Therapy with Refugees and Victims of Trauma. Psychological Problems of Victims of War, Torture and Repression 2nd ed. (John Wiley & Sons, 1998). Van der Veer distinguishes two aspects of the refugee experience. “Uprooting”refers to the stresses involved in leaving the homeland and adjusting to an alien culture. “Traumatization” refers to the effects of violence that refugees experience. Traumatization involves three-stages: first, victims live in their native land in an environment of rising repression and violence; second, they experience this violence personally; and finally, they must endure life in exile where the effects of trauma may persist. In the third stage, they are often the victims of new forms of oppression and new stresses may arise when, as a result of political changes, returning to the homeland becomes possible. Van der Veer’s categories can be mapped on to the experience of the exiles of Jerusalem with some precision. This paper focuses on the situation addressed by the Second Isaiah. The Babylonian exiles show many of the symptoms of uprooted persons in the third stage of traumatization. By analogy with modern therapeutic intervention, the Second Isaiah can be viewed as attempting to stimulate long term changes in aspects of exiled Israel’s personality and to promote more adequate functioning in the short term. The short term goal is to accept the opportunity to return home in the near future. The longer term personality change involves reappropriating a positive identification with Israel as YHWH’s servant. Both forms of intervention require facing the pain of the past and undoing identification with the Babylonian perpetrator through prolonged captivity (e.g., “learned helplessness”). Support for this thesis comes from a consideration of the forms of the Second Isaiah¹s poetry. Form critical analysis of the oracles of salvation, the disputations, and the servant songs points to the underlying intentions of the Second Isaiah’s appeal to the exiles.

Dereck M Daschke Truman State University, Respondent

Reviews of Two Recent Books

Anthony R De Orio Madonna University Presider

Michael Willett Newheart, Word and Soul (Liturgical Press, 2001)


  • Paul N. Anderson, George Fox College
  • Vincent L. Wimbush, Union Theological Seminary

Response: Michael Willett Newheart, Howard University

W.W. Meissner, The Cultic Origins of Christianity (Liturgical Press 2000)


  • Donald Capps, Princeton Theological Seminary
  • Schuyler Brown, St Michaels College
  • Anthony R De Orio, Madonna University

Response: J. Harold Ellens, Univ Of Michigan


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