Society of Biblical Literature

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Call for Papers: SBL Annual Meeting, November 2016

Psychology and Biblical Studies Section

Society of Biblical Literature
2016 Annual Meeting
November 19 – 22, 2016
San Antonio, TX

Call For Papers Closes: March 2, 2016

Call For Papers: We always welcome proposals for papers that address Biblical texts, themes, figures and/or readers using the concepts and interpretive tools of any field of psychology. We urge the use of the original Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic, especially when the argument of your paper rests on the meanings of specific words or phrases.

We also welcome any papers that highlight methods, models, and approaches in the interface between psychology and Biblical studies, including from the emerging fields of neurotheology, brain physiology and religious experience, and evolutionary psychology.

This year, we are calling for papers on the theme of “Neighbors, Strangers, and Enemies: Loving the Other in the Bible.” Jesus called Leviticus 19:18’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself” the greatest commandment, along with loving God. Freud called it impossible to fulfill. Leviticus also commands the Jews to love “the stranger” as yourself (Lev 19:34), and Jesus entreats his followers to “love your enemies and do good to them that hate you” (Matt 5:44). Today, the prospect of loving the stranger and the enemy may seem even more psychologically impossible than the neighbor, yet in many ways these three commands make up the core of the Bible’s moral calling. We invite papers that examine the psychological functions and conflicts that arise out of these commands to love the Others in our midst.

Program Unit Chairs

Barbara Mei Leung Lai
Dereck M. Daschke

For full information or to propose a paper for the Program Unit, go to the Society of Biblical Literature site.


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Religious Thought and the Modern Psychologies

Browning, Don S. and Cooper, Terry. D. (2004). Religious Thought and the Modern Psychologies, 2nd edition. Minneapolis: Fortress.

In this important work, Browning & Cooper convincingly argue that the modern psychologies (Freud, Rogers/Maslow/Perls, Skinner, Jung, Erikson/Kohut, Ellis/Beck/Bowen) “transcend themselves” by their implicit assumptions regarding ethics and the nature of the universe. The hermeneutic philosophy of Heidegger, Gadamer, and especially Ricoeur, supply Browning and Cooper with the framework in which to challenge the scientific objectivity of the psychologies. They effectively demonstrate that the “images of obligation” and “metaphors of ultimacy” in these psychologies function as religious myths that can be helpfully compared with and critiqued by a Christian anthropology largely informed by Reinhold Niebuhr and William James. The result is an interesting, philosophically informed, theologically nuanced, and at times arrogantly argued, moral evaluation of the modern psychologies.
(Paul Fisher)

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Psychological Biblical Criticism

Kille, D. Andrew (2001). Psychological Biblical Criticism. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Part of the “Guides to Old Testament Scholarship” series, this volume offers a brief introduction to psychological biblical criticism in general and a specific investigation of interpretations of Genesis 3 from the perspectives of Freudian, Jungian, and developmental psychologies. Using a model of adequate interpretation drawn from the work of Paul Ricoueur, the book evaluates each of the approaches and suggests directions for future work.

This book was featured in a session of the Psychology and Biblical Studies Section at the SBL Annual Meeting in Denver in November 2001.

RBL review

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Depth Psychological Interpretation and the Bible: An Ontological Essay on Freud

Polka, Brayton. (2001). Depth Psychological Interpretation and the Bible: An Ontological Essay on Freud. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

The book is a heavy, 397 page philosophical work that offers a sweeping critique of Freud’s metapsychology (focused primarily on the explanatory function of the father complex, the castration complex, and the pleasure principle) as internally contradictory to the presuppositions of Freud’s analytic practice. It also makes a cogent (though not highly elaborated) case for the Bible as the effective source of the therapeutic ideals implicit in Freud’s psycho-analytical protocol.