Walter Wink, pioneer in psychological approaches to the Bible and one of the founding members of the Psychology and Biblical Studies Consultation in 1991 passed away at his home in Sandisfield, MA on May 10, 2012. He had been diagnosed with Lewy Body dementia and unable to participate in the SBL in recent years.
Walter was Emeritus Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York. He was profoundly influenced by seminars on the “Records of the Life of Jesus” led by the Guild for Psychological Studies, which sought to bring together critical reflection on biblical texts and insights from Jungian Psychology. His call for a “new paradigm” in his book The Bible in Human Transformation (Fortress, 1973) opened the way for a more psychologically-informed approach. His trilogy on the language of power in the New Testament, which included Naming the Powers (1984), Unmasking the Powers (1986), and Engaging the Powers (1996, all published by Fortress Press) demonstrated the value of a psychological perspective. Transforming Bible Study (Abingdon, 1990) explained more deeply why engaging both sides of the brain was important for transformational reading, and was an effort to make the Guild process more accessible to a general audience.
Walter’s interests were not confined to psychological issues alone. He was deeply engaged in teaching and cultivating nonviolent resistance to the powers that be in the present day, and traveled to South Africa and Latin America on behalf of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Many of his books dealt with peacemaking, nonviolence, and the Gospel tradition.
A 2003 session of the Psychology and Biblical Studies Section was devoted to “The Bible and Human Transformation,” marking the 30th anniversary of Wink’s original work. Walter reflected on what he had learned about “Bible study that transforms us, and transforming the way we do Bible study.”
In that same session Wayne Rollins traced how Wink’s book The Human Being: Jesus and the Enigma of the Son of the Man (Fortress, 2001) represented an example “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.”
We will be forever indebted to Walter’s perspective and impact on biblical studies.
Walter Wink, Presente! (FOR website)