Society of Biblical Literature

2003 Atlanta

Psychology and Biblical Studies Section
Society of Biblical Literature

Annual Meeting, Atlanta
November 22-25, 2003

The Bible and Human Transformation

D. Andrew Kille (San Jose) Presider

Lyn M. Bechtel Drew Theological School
Transformation Offered, But Ignored (Genesis 4)

According to Carl Jung, any confining pattern of existence or state of mind that is too immature, fixed, or final disclose a need for mental transformation. When the Cain and Abel story is read as part of the Genesis 2-3 maturation myth, the story presents the major problem of adult maturation — overcoming immature, confining self-centeredness and its consequent threatened egotistic responses. YHWH presents the potential for transformation by Cain lifting up his face out of self-centeredness. Lifting the face upward and outward symbolizes the psychological balance of the self, so that a person can see beyond limited self-interests and can discerned reality without it being colored by excessive ego needs. However, Cain ignores the potential transformation, which requires a symbolic death to his old way of thinking. Finally, the deuteronomic theology assumption of an all-controlling God of reward and punishment needs transformation. Instead of punishing Cain, YHWH protects him with a sign.

Walter Wink Auburn Theological Seminary
Transformation: Method and Meaning

A thirty year retrospective on Bible study methods that engage the exegete personally and socially, using Jungian and other psychological modalities to change the way we encounter Scripture. In short, Bible study that transforms us, and transforming the way we do Bible study.

Wayne G. Rollins Hartford Seminary
Back to the Future: Walter Wink’s The Bible in Human Transformation
After Thirty Years, 1973-2003

The year 2003 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of Walter Wink’s landmark volume, The Bible in Human Transformation. Twelve volumes later, we have a virtual sequel in Wink’s 2002 Fortress Press publication, The Human Being: Jesus and the Enigma of the Son of the Man. The purpose of this paper is to illustrate how this 2002 volume provides an exemplification of the paradigm sketched out in 1973, demonstrating an approach to texts, to authors, to biblical readers and biblical scholars and to the process of biblical “inspiration,” composition, transmission, interpretation, and effect (Wirkungsgeschichte) from the perspective of psychological realism. A fundamental tenet of Wink’s book is that historical realism is incomplete and inadequate if it does not include a consideration of psycho-spiritual factors at work both in the viewer and the viewed, individually and socio-culturally. Such an approach in fact advances “a new paradigm” for biblical studies.

D. Andrew Kille San Jose Respondent

Methods and Explorations in Psychological Criticism

J Harold Ellens, Presider

Ilona N. Rashkow SUNY Stony Brook

The Rape(s) of Dinah: False Religion and Excess in Revenge?

Genesis 34 is about the rape of a virgin, Dinah, and its consequences. Certainly, it is a complicated and disturbing narrative. First, the rape of Dinah. Next, the actions of Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s two brothers, who make a false pact with the Shechemites and then murder all of the men, plunder their belongings, and “take” their women and children – all committed in the name of religion. Third, and most disturbing, is that their actions receive no words of reproof from Jacob, the biblical narrator, or the deity. This text leaves me with questions, judgments, and/or accusations concerning the characters and the dilemma of right and wrong as well as issues of leadership, social justice, and violence within the community of YHWH. My concerns are three-fold. First, of course, I am disturbed by the physical rape of Dinah and her lack of voice in the narrative. Second, I am troubled by Jacob’s lack of reaction to his daughter’s rape. While Shechem may have raped Dinah physically, Jacob’s silence is, in effect, a psychological rape. My third concern is the actions of Simeon and Levi. The brothers insist that intermarriage with the “uncircumcised” cannot be tolerated, yet we are told that, in their revenge against Shechem’s rape of their sister, the sons of Jacob think nothing of capturing the women and children of Shechem as their booty – under the guise of religiosity. How does religion “transform” right and wrong? What is it that causes human transformation?

David G. Garber, Jr. Emory University

Traumatizing Ezekiel:
An Evaluation of Psychoanalytic Approaches to Ezekiel and a New Proposal

Since the advent of modern psychology, biblical scholars have attempted to explain the strange and disturbing aspects of the book of Ezekiel—and the prophet the book portrays—in terms of medical diagnoses. This paper surveys and critiques several of these models. Drawing upon insights from literary trauma theory, a new model for viewing the strange aspects of the book will be proposed. Rather than offering medical diagnoses for a prophet who has been dead for over2,500 years, the new model investigates the production and preservation of the text of Ezekiel as a literature of survival for a traumatized community after the devastating events of the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile.

Neil Douglas-Klotz Edinburgh Institute for Advanced Learning
Reading Wisdom with Reich:
Proverbs 8-9 Seen Through the Psychology of Wilhelm Reich

The psychology of Wilhelm Reich suggests a hermeneutic that can illuminate the concepts of Hokhmah or Holy Wisdom as presented in the Hebrew of Proverbs 8-9. Reich’s psychology departed from that of his mentor Freud in its presentation of a living system that included “body” as well as “psyche” and “mind.” Reich proposed to proceed beyond psychoanalysis to a “biogenesis” that included both individual and societal somatic therapy and education (Reich 1942,1948). In this sense, Reich’s work in character analysis provides a suitable lens through which to view Hebrew concepts such as nephesh, hayah and ruach, which cut across Greek language-based psycho-physical boundaries. Reich’s theories and practice also provide a suitable parallel to the Hebrew functional idea of flesh (basar), which differs from the Western formal notion of body (a distinction noted by Boman, 1960). In Proverbs 8, the function of Hokhmah can be seen to emulate that of the Reich’s “orgnotic sixth sense,” which organizes an awareness of self or “I-ness” from a multiplicity of sense impressions and “voices.” Breakdown in this orgonotic (or energy-based) sense leads to a spitting of the self in various forms of schizophrenic symptoms. Understanding arrives when various aspects of the self are reunited in a healthy approach to love, work and knowledge. The indeterminacy of certain aspects of this interpretation (that is, whether the psychology applies to the individual or the social arena) also suggests a bridge to the Hebrew interpretive tradition of midrash, which allows for a diversity of interpretations that can only be fixed for a certain situation and reader/hearer.

Daniel B. Mathewson Emory University
Symbolic Systems, Death, and Desymbolization
in the Writings of Robert Jay Lifton and in the Prologue to the Book of Job

In this paper I propose to examine the issues raised in the prologue to the Book of Job alongside Robert Jay Lifton’s theories about the human psyche. I will juxtapose Lifton’s writings about symbolic systems, life, and death with the depiction of piety, blessing, and death in the prologue to Job. Lifton agrees with Freud that humans are incapable of envisioning their own deaths, but he also argues that humans do anticipate their own deaths and have ways of representing and interpreting them. This structured anticipation of death, what Lifton calls a “symbolization of death” or a “system of symbolic immortality,” enables humans to comprehend “my death” in the context of “death in general” and connects “my life and death” with the lives and deaths of those who came before me and with those who will come after me. In situations of mass death or dislocation, however, a person’s symbolization of death can collapse, a process Lifton calls “desymbolization.” The introduction to the prologue to Job (1:1-5) sets the book in the context of a very particular system of “symbolic immortality” in the Hebrew Bible (what I call the “life/piety/relationship-to-deity-complex”). This system collapses under the weight of theologically problematic death, or rather, desymbolized death (1:13-19). Job attempts twice to resymbolize death (1:20 and 2:10), each time reconfiguring the “life/piety/relationship-to-God complex.” Both of his attempted resymbolizations of death have intriguing theological implications about both the nature of life and death and the nature of the human-divine relationship.

Petri Merenlahti University of Helsinki
Reading Mark for the Pleasure of Fantasy

Reading is a social skill. With each new genre and discourse type, we must learn what we are to make of a text like this. While ways of reading and interpretation may differ depending on who ’we’ are, the reader will always be expected to follow some communal rules. Such rules also originally affected the composition of the text itself. Semiotic categories, such as the ‘model reader’, focus on this form of discipline to which texts and reading communities seek to socialize us. Yet we read not only for discipline but also for pleasure. What connects the text with the uncoscious and makes it pleasurable is fantasy. Fantasies allow us to grope for wish-fulfilment in a disguised form, without our knowing it. In the private fantasies of our dreams we are personally present. In stories, we participate through identification, accepting the desire presented by the text.This paper asks how this might take place in the case of Mark’s gospel.

Halvor Ronning Home for Bible Translators

Can a psychological/sociological analysis of the gospel writers provide evidence for determining the relative chronology of the Synoptic Gospels?

The aim of this study is to look for psychological evidence which could support or debunk the potential of establishing a relative chronology of the synoptic gospels by psychological/ sociological analysis. The analysis is based on two commonly accepted historical trends in the second half of the 1st century AD/CE: 1) there was a growing psychological rift between the Jews and their Roman oppressors which resulted in revolt 66-73 AD/CE; 2) there was a growing psychological rift between the Jews who believed in Jesus as Messiah and the Jews who did not believe in Jesus as Messiah This study makes a careful analysis of the cultural groups and leaders of these various groups and factions as presented in each gospel. The psychological attitudes of the gospel writers toward the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the high priests, the temple officers, the Jewish bystanders, the Jewish mobs, the Jewish king, the Roman soldiers and the Roman governor are analyzed to determine the presence or absence of “psychological drift” in the presentation of these factions. Which author reflects the greatest degree of rift between the groups? Can we conclude that such an author is chronologically later than the other two? The comparison of each author’s attitude to the attitudes of the other two gospel writers may have the potential of reflecting various stages in the development of the growing psychological rifts between Jew and Roman and also between Jew and Jew. An attempt is made to give a critical cultural evaluation of the linguistically based chronological arguments of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Gospel Research, and to present the psychological arguments for chronology.


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