Society of Biblical Literature

2016 San Antonio

Psychology and Biblical Studies Section

SBL Annual Meeting, San Antonio, Texas
November 19-22, 2016


S20-142: “DMT and the Soul of Prophecy” Review Session

S21-237: Neighbors, Strangers, and Enemies: Loving the Other in the Bible

S21-340: Cris de Coeur: Despair in the Bible

Click title links for abstracts.

S20-142: DMT and the Soul of Prophecy Review Session

Sunday, November 20, 2016, 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Conference Room 17 (3rd Level) – Marriott Rivercenter (MRC)

A review of Rick Strassman, M.D., DMT and the Soul of Prophecy: A New Science of Spiritual Revelation in the Bible (Park Street Press, 2014). “Carefully examining the concept of prophecy in the Hebrew Bible, Strassman characterizes a ‘prophetic state of consciousness’ and explains how it may share biological and metaphysical mechanisms with the DMT effect. Examining medieval commentaries on the Hebrew Bible, Strassman reveals how Jewish metaphysics provides a top-down model for both the prophetic and DMT states, a model he calls ‘theoneurology.'”

Matthew Goff, Florida State University, Presiding

  • Jay Ellens, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Panelist
  • D. Kille, Panelist (25 min)
  • Dereck Daschke, Truman State University, Panelist

Panel Discussion

Open Discussion

S21-237: Neighbors, Strangers, and Enemies: Loving the Other in the Bible

Monday, November 21, 2016, 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Crockett C (4th Level) – Grand Hyatt (GH)

Barbara Leung Lai, Tyndale University College and Seminary (Ontario), Presiding

Heather McKay, Edge Hill University, Respondent


S21-340: Cris de Coeur: Despair in the Bible

Monday, November 21, 2016, 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
206B (2nd Level – West) – Convention Center (CC)

Ilona Rashkow, Stony Brook University, Presiding



Business Meeting


The Price of “Love”: Psychological and Political

The word “love” in English translations of the Hebrew Bible is used in many different situations. ’ahav (the word used most frequently for “love”) occurs over 200 times and refers to love between human beings, to love of concrete things or behavioral qualities, to human love for God, and to God’s love for individuals or groups. A specialized and important nuance of love between human beings (not common to English usage) is political loyalty. The two passages which are the focus of this session are the command to “love” your “neighbor” (Lev 19:18) and love the “stranger.” (Lev 19:34). But just as the word “love” is ambiguous, the words translated commonly as “neighbor” and “stranger” are not the literal translations – hence another level of ambiguity. Leviticus 19:17-18 deals with pent-up hatred and its consequences. Literally, it reads: “Do not hate your brother in your heart. Admonish your people [fellow citizen] but incur no guilt because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your people. Love your friend (countryman) as yourself…” The first verse prohibits one who has been wronged from internalizing resentment and requires informing the wrongdoer of his action; The second verse elaborates: grudges result ultimately in vengeance. According to Freud this passage is the strongest defense against human aggressiveness. However, he wrote also that this commandment is impossible to fulfill without major psychological consequences. Traditional interpretations treat each verse independently. Most notably, “love your countryman as yourself” was generalized in Jewish and Christian traditions as a brief encapsulation of and a blanket command covering all ethical duties not mentioned specifically. However, Leviticus 19: 33-34 which extends the two laws to the ger (resident alien) leads to a more defined interpretation: “love” of the ger is shown by treating him as a citizen with regard to all civil and criminal laws as well as financial dealings. Therefore, the prohibition in 19:33 against “wronging him,” is a prohibition against denying equal justice under the law. Israel’s tradition strongly emphasized assistance, especially to the weak and underprivileged. This emphasis on practical action and political expediency rather than on personal feeling may account for the references to “love” of neighbor. Throughout the Hebrew Bible, the theme of justice remains a constant presence. In some contexts, the pursuit of justice requires punishment for misdeeds or inaction, reminding the people of their responsibilities under the covenant relationship. In other contexts, the notion of justice require that the marginalized receive equitable treatment in the community. Both psychologically and politically “equal treatment” incurs risks and benefits. This paper uses Freudian and Lacanian concepts of aggression as well as relevant discussions of sibling rivalry in two different settings: the Israel of Leviticus and the Israel of today. “Love” comes at great cost psychological and political: to the giver and the receiver.

Loving the Other in the Book of Tobit: An investigation into the interrelationships of the main characters in Tobit

The Book of Tobit is full of relationships with the other that hold the potential for love, hate fear and other strong emotions. This paper discusses the interrelationships between the main characters in Tobit, focusing particularly on familial and supernatural love. It posits that Jung’s concepts of Eros, anima and animus can form a framework within which these interrelationships may be understood.

Killing the Mad Dog for Love: Psychological Ponderings on Enemies and How to Deal With Them

C.G. Jung wrote, “…we simply accuse our enemy of our own unadmitted faults. We see everything in the other, we criticize and condemn the other, we even want to improve and educate the other” (CW 8:516). W.W. Meissner writes of the importance of identifying “the other” in order to split them off from one’s group as an essential component of the “paranoid process.” Jesus calls on his followers to “love your enemy” (echthros—the “hated one”). How can one simultaneously love and hate another? Would not the effort to do both lead to distorting language or shifting categories or transforming situations? The question becomes hugely significant in the contemporary political and cultural scene, in which fear and suspicion of “the other” is invoked as necessary and proper for the protection of the society and its values. The paper will move eclectically, drawing on analytical psychology, object relations theory, and cognitive learning theory in order to explore psychological frameworks for understanding the dynamics of love and enmity, and the factors that might either inhibit or enable a person to “love your enemy.”

The Other and the Neighbor as a Topological Problem: Matt 19:19 in a Shantytown

This paper will consider some issues that develop from the interrelation between psychoanalysis, as a method for discourse analysis, and biblical studies. I will focus on some linguistic and topological issues surrounding Lev 19:18 and Matt 19:19 in order to raise the question in regard to the category of neighbor in its difference from the other. I will propose two examples from my practice: one related to one of the cruelest genocides in South America, the dictatorship in Argentina who took place in 1.976 till 1.983. What happens when the enemy asks for succor? Is he a neighbor? The latter example will be an articulation vis-à-vis my practice in a shantytown near Buenos Aires leading a team of catholic workers. In this violent place we study the idea of the difference between the other and the neighbor. This circumstance allows for a new perspective in our practice. The approach to the Bible verses will be through the comparison and inquiry of the pronominal constructions ???????? and ?? sea?t?. Between one text and the other there is a subtle linguistic difference, which I would like to narrow down to the problem of the spaciality of language. Topology as a virtual space where the unconscious takes place such as it is mentioned by Freud and theorized by Lacan. In view of the above the question emerges in regards to the sort of surface that the relative pronoun digs in language. It is a topological space which builds a link that transforms the other into a neighbor.

Why O Lord? Lament as a window to the human experience of distress,/p>

In more recent decades fresh appraisals of lament psalms, as a form within the Psalter, have emerged along with an accompanying recognition of their importance in both personal and communal devotion. Most of these appraisals naturally lead to a key question, ‘What then ought we to do with these psalms?’ While it is undoubtedly important to analyze them for their features and evaluate them for their effectiveness, one might wonder what happens when we lament, using these psalms as prayer our devotional practice? Could their use add ballast to a person’s capacity to engage with their distress and, if so, what might this ballast look like? This paper will focus on one of the most interesting features found in lament psalms; the tripartite relationship between the psalmist, their enemy and God. Even a cursory examination of most lament psalms reveals that the presence of these three entities is ubiquitous. Interestingly, the three do not exist in isolation but, rather, occur in dialogue with each other and shaped into the form of a lament over distress. From the dynamic produced through dialogue (or, dialectic as it is more accurately described) between the three parties, psychodynamic shifts can be observed and even experienced by those who pray these psalms. These psychodynamics, in turn, draw attention to intrapsychic processes which reflect typical experiences of those who are distressed. In addition, lament psalms foreground theological issues with which a distressed person desiring to trust in God contends. By illuminating this, lament psalms offer a unique window into the lived experience of a distressed person. When viewed together, these psychodynamics reveal one aspect of the capacity of lament psalms not only to shape a person’s experience of distress but also to form their sense of relationship with God. Rather than disavowing their distress, this formation occurs as the person embraces their experience within the faith context articulated in lament psalms and courageously confronts God with their struggle.

“I Am a Brother of Jackals”: Evolutionary Psychology and Suicide in the Book of Job

In this presentation, I will read the animal imagery in Job’s speeches through the lens of evolutionary psychology. The poet of Job’s speeches uses a variety of metaphors taken from animal behavior to articulate Job’s experience of psychological pain. In particular, the poet uses animal imagery to articulate Job’s experience of “defeat” and “entrapment,” animal behaviors that have been argued to parallel symptoms of human depression. The ancient poet of Job recognized intuitively the analogy between human and animal behavior that modern psychologists have only recently come to theorize.