Society of Biblical Literature

2008 Boston

Psychology and Biblical Studies

Annual Meeting, November 21-25, 2008
Boston, MA

S22-25 Review of Psychological Insight into the Bible: Texts and Readings , ed. by Wayne G. Rollins and D. Andrew Kille (Eerdmans, 2007)

Barbara Leung Lai, Tyndale Seminary, Presiding

Panel: Part 1

  • Pheme Perkins, Boston College
  • Andre Lacocque, Chicago Theological Seminary

Panel: Part 2

  • Paul Anderson, George Fox University
  • Jill McNish, Swedesboro, NJ

Respondents: Wayne Rollins, Hartford Seminary;
D. Andrew Kille, Bible Workbench

S22-128 Abuse and Healing in Biblical Texts

J. Harold Ellens, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Presiding

Adrien J. Bledstein, Chicago, IL
Abuse and Recovery: Telling the Story

The Bible is full of traumatic events. Insights on how some people cope and thrive may provide clues to the identity of an ancient writer. In legend Joseph is abused by his brothers, becomes prime minister of Egypt, then reconciles with his family. In 2 Samuel 13, seven centuries after Joseph, Tamar, wearing a coat of many colors, is abused by her half brother Amnon. We hear her protest before, how she thinks and feels about what her half-brother intends to do, and what she feels after the rape. Thrown out, Tamar does not shamefully slink into the shadows along the streets of Jerusalem as one might expect in a patriarchal shame culture. Instead, she tears her garment, strews ashes on her head, and laments, loudly bewailing her humiliation. When she arrives at her brother Absalom’s, he hushes her. We do not hear her voice again within the narrative.

With recognition that trauma can become a source of strength through telling the story in context, my paper suggests that with an omniscient perspective and a sense of irony and humor erupting from human grief, Tamar transforms her lamentation to storytelling. Beginning in Eden, she presents humans as vulnerable and satirizes those who behave as if they are immortals, like the “benei-elohim” in Gen 6 who take any woman they choose as do deities in other people’s myths. She focuses on trials of mortals, revealing fundamental values and strategies for surviving in a difficult world. To be heard, a woman at that time would focus on men, and present strong women as well as disadvantaged women. Perceiving Tamar as the “master” storyteller opens a reader to hear stories differently than if one assumes narratives were written by men (or Harold Bloom’s sophisticated lady). Understood in context of this woman’s perception of the past, “texts of terror” (Trible) may become sources of healing.

Robin Gallaher Branch, Crichton College
A Case of Spousal Abuse:
A Study of the Marriage of Jeroboam I (1 Kings 14:1–18)

The biblical text introduces Jeroboam with high praise as a hayil, a man of standing (1 Kgs 11:28).  From this singular honor, the text chronicles his downfall. A vignette showcasing his marriage (1 Kgs 14:1-18) functions as the concluding event in his 22-year reign. Something is clearly wrong in his household. Using a cross-disciplinary approach incorporating a close textual reading and psychology, this paper focuses on the unnamed, silent wife of Jeroboam and argues that she and her marriage reflect the classic signs of a kind of suffering now termed spousal abuse. Granted, the vignette recounts no evidence of physical beating. However, textual evidence supporting the view that the wife of Jeroboam experiences abuse includes the following:  her isolation, passivity, and instant obedience. Most indicatively, she returns home after hearing the prophet Ahijah’s three-fold announcement of doom.

Textual evidence that Jeroboam operates as an abusive husband includes his control over her comings and goings; his command-mode mentality in addressing her; his lack of compassion toward her; his cowardice in sending her to Ahijah instead of going himself; and his earlier violence toward the man of God (1 Kgs 13). Via Ahijah’s prophetic word, God lists Jeroboam’s sins as disobedience, making idols of metal, provoking God to anger, and thrusting God away.

Shortly after Jeroboam’s reign ends, his name is ignominiously paired with evil and sins (2 Kgs 13:2; 13:11; 14:24; 15:9). If indeed the wife of Jeroboam is an abused woman as this paper claims, then God’s assessment of Jeroboam’s reign as evil (1 Kgs 14:9) encompasses more than is commonly held:  it encompasses the sin of spousal abuse.

Kamila Blessing, Blessing Transitions Consultant
Thaumaturgical Psychology: Jesus as Type versus Antitype
of the Human Capacity for “Wonder Works”

When John the Baptist sent to inquire whether Jesus was the one sent by God, what did he say?  “Go and tell John what you hear and see:  the blind receive their sight…” (Matthew 11:4-6, RSV).  Not “believe in me,” and certainly not “believe (blindly) because I say so – but “believe your ears and eyes.”  Isn’t faith “the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1)?

This passage is a challenge to us moderns – a challenge to be truly empirical.  It is also a challenge to interpret a crucial but often overlooked thread of biblical theology.  This paper looks at the place of the Thaumaturge, the “wonder worker” who cites empirical evidence as the standard of truth and belief.  We then look at the implications for the anthropology of the relevant Bible texts.  We pose two questions:  1)  Are we scholarly enough to acknowledge what the text actually says?  2)  Are we scientific enough to consider the anthropology of these texts represents an incisive understanding of the psyche of the person-as-a-whole? 

Vincent Mudd, John Carroll University
The Parable of the Good Samaritan:
Challenging Relationships and Redefining Goodness

Jesus meant for the parable of the Good Samaritan to challenge the way humanity views relationships; however, throughout history it has been forced to fit various theologies and interpretations that have limited its original impact. Early church leaders used the parable as an example of how to treat neighbors while defining the term “neighbor” in such a way as to exclude certain people, directly contradicting Jesus’ message of the inclusiveness of God’s love, regardless of situation.  Later church leaders and scholars interpreted the story as a general guideline for hospitality: Do good to others in need.  Even today, secular people understand the story of the Good Samaritan as a call for hospitality to those in need. While certainly a hallmark of any religion that calls itself Christian, simply doing “good” to those in need misses the radical implications of Jesus’ parabolic teachings. In order to re-present the power of the parable for humanity today, it is important to first look at the history of the parable in its original contexts. Having established a historical understanding of Jesus’ and Luke’s use of parables, the Good Samaritan pericope can then be removed from the confines of Luke and re-interpreted for its modern relevance.

Wayne Rollins, Hartford Seminary, Respondent

S24-37 European Perspectives

Jill McNish, Swedesboro, NJ, Presiding

Andrew Village, York St. John University
The Influence of Psychological Type Preferences on Readers
Trying to Imagine Themselves
in a New Testament Healing Story

A sample of 404 Anglicans from a variety of traditions in the Church of England was asked if they could imagine themselves into a healing story from Mark 9:14-29 by identifying with one of the characters in it. Around 65% could do so (‘imaginers’) and 35% could not. Imaginers, when compared with non-imaginers were more likely to be women than men, more likely to have heard the story before and were generally more biblically conservative and more charismatically active.

In terms of psychological type, imaginers were more likely to prefer feeling to thinking in their judging process. Dominant intuitives were more likely to imaginers than were dominant thinkers. Multivariate binary logistical analysis revealed that judging psychological-type preference, sex and charismatic activity were the best independent predictors of being an imaginers. The implications of these results for psychological approaches to biblical interpretation, and for the use of Ignatian-type meditation on the bible are discussed.

Leslie Francis, University of Warwick and
Andrew Village, York St. John University, UK
Assessing the SIFT method of Biblical Hermeneutics
and Liturgical Preaching

The SIFT method of biblical hermeneutics and liturgical preaching draws on the insights of psychological type theory as proposed by Jung and developed by instruments like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.  The bases of this method, grounded in hermeneutical theory and in Jungian understanding of the perceiving process (sensing and intuition) and of the judging process (feeling and thinking) are discussed and evaluated by Francis and Village (2008), and displayed  by Francis and Atkins (2000, 2001, 2002) in their reflections on the Sunday Gospel readings proposed by the three year cycle of the Revised Common Lectionary. The aim of the present paper is to test the underlying principles of the SIFT method in an empirical study.  Data were provided by 266 churchgoers who completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and evaluated interpretations of Mark 1.29-39 developed from the distinctive perspectives of sensing (S), intuition (N), feeling (F) and thinking (T). The analyses provided support of the theory

Raimo Hakola, University of Helsinki
Psychological Identity Theories and the Formation of Early Christianity

Psychology and Biblical Studies Section Business Meeting

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