Society of Biblical Literature

About

About the Psychology and Biblical Studies Section

The Psychology and Biblical Studies Section is a Program Unit of the Society of Biblical Literature. Founded in 1880, the Society of Biblical Literature is the oldest and largest international scholarly membership organization in the field of biblical studies.

The objectives of the Psychology and Biblical Studies Section are:

  • to present an historical-critical overview of “psychological” approaches to scripture;
  • to assess the significance of these approaches for ongoing Biblical research, exegesis, and interpretation, and
  • to provide a forum for considering and developing the future agenda of “psychological criticism” as a sub-discipline within Biblical Studies.

The group is now celebrating over 20 years as a program unit of the SBL. It began as a “Consultation” at the Annual Meeting in Kansas City in 1991. The original session on “Psychology and Biblical Studies in Historical and Contemporary Perspective” was moderated by Marcus Borg and featured papers by Wayne G. Rollins and David Halperin, and a panel including Borg, Adela Y. Collins, Walter Wink, and Wilhelm Wuellner.

After three years as a Consultation, Psychology and Biblical Studies became a “Group” in 1994. Its meetings that year included papers on Gnostic Literature, Jungian Exegesis, and other psychological perspectives on Bible texts. Presenters and panelists included Shuyler Brown, Murray Stein, Peter Homans, David Miller, Dan Merkur, Elaine Pagels, Lyn Bechtel, D. Andrew Kille, Kamila Blessing and Michael Willett Newheart.

Finally, in 1998, the group received formal recognition as a Section, and has sponsored two or more sessions at each gathering of the Society since then. Among the themes of the sessions have been “Depth Psychology and Exegesis: The Work of Eugen Drewermann, ” Psychological Aspects of Biblical Apocalypticism,” Personality Development in the Biblical Context: Heart, Soul, and Mind,” “The Aha! of a Ha!: Psychological Insights into Biblical Humor,” and “Psychology and the Bible in Practice: Clinic & Classroom, Congregation and Community.”

The gatherings have often included reviews of such books as Word and Soul (Michael Willet Newheart), Soul and Psyche (Wayne G. Rollins), Jesus at Thirty (John W. Miller), Psychology and the Bible (ed. J. Harold Ellens and Wayne Rollins), Psychological Insight into the Bible (ed. Wayne Rollins and D. Andrew Kille), and Jesus the Village Psychiatrist (Donald Capps).

Steering Committee

The Psychology and Biblical Studies Section is directed by a Steering Committee of participating scholars. Current members of the committee include:

  • Co-Chair: Dereck Daschke, Truman State University
  • Co-Chair: Barbara Mei Leung Lai, Tyndale Seminary, Toronto, Canada
  • Heather McKay, Edge Hill University, West Lancashire, England
  • Helen Efthimiadis Keith, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Other Steering Committee members have included Paul N. Anderson, Schuyler Brown, Marcus Borg, Martin J. Buss, Donald Capps, Adela Yarbro Collins, James Dittes, J. Harold Ellens, D. Andrew Kille, Ilona Rashkow, and Wayne G. Rollins.

The Psychology and Biblical Studies Section is a resource for scholars and others interested in how human psychology bears upon the development, transmission, and interpretation of scripture. You can contact us at psybibs@psybibs.org.

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