Academic Programs 

The Bible and the Habits of the Soul: Psychological Perspectives on Scripture   (SC-660)  
Summer 2005

This course is an introduction to psychological studies of scripture, focusing on the contribution of the life and thought of C.G. Jung, but including the contributions of other fields of psychology.  The course will also consider the psychological aspects of the newer forms of criticism (e.g. feminist, liberationist, ideological, and contextual/ cultural criticism) to our understanding of the Bible and its therapeutic as well as pathogenic effects in the lives of its readers, past and present. 


Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
Monday, June 6 - Friday, June 10 from 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Wayne Rollins
Adjunct Professor of Biblical Studies.

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9500


Course Syllabus

An introduction to the new discipline of psychological biblical criticism, with special emphasis on the thought of C. G Jung, Sigmund Freud, and Viktor Frankl, as applied to select biblical texts and themes, toward a deeper understanding of the role of the Bible in the life of the soul/psyche. The course will also consider therapeutic and pathogenic effects of biblical texts, as highlighted by new approaches to the Bible (feminist, liberationist, ideological, and cultural criticism). Activities will include workshop sessions on "transforming Bible study."

“Everything to do with religion, everything it is and asserts, touches the human soul so closely that psychology least of all can afford to overlook it.”            - C. G. Jung

“We do not yet grasp what historical forces brought forth and determined early Christianity. But beside and within this external history there is an inner history . . . . Anyone who thinks that this religion can be illumined historically and factually without psychological reflection is just as much in error as one who pretends that everything about this religion can be said in this fashion.”                      -Gerd Theissen

“But divine inspiration necessarily comes through a human heart and a mortal mind, through personal prejudice and communal interpretation, through fear, dislike, and hate as well as through faith, hope, and charity.”                  - John Dominic Crossan

“. . . Words not only convey something, but are something . . . [they] have color, depth, texture of their own, and the power to evoke vastly more than they mean; . . . words can be used not merely to make things clear, . . . but to make things happen inside the one who reads them or hears them.”                       -Frederick Buechner


Books for Purchase

  • Jung, Carl Gustav.  Man and His Symbols. New York: Doubleday, 1964.
  • Miller, John W. Jesus at Thirty: A Psychological and Historical Portrait. Minneapolis: Augsburg/Fortress, 1997.
  • Rollins, Wayne G. Jung and the Bible. Atlanta: John Knox, 1983.
  • Rollins, Wayne G. Soul and Psyche: The Bible in Psychological Perspective. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1999.
  •  Wink, Walter. Transforming Bible Study: A Leader's Guide. 2nd, revised ed. Nashville: Abingdon, 1989.
  • Newheart, Michael Willett. My Name is Legion: The Story and Soul of the Gerasene Demoniac, Interfaces. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2004.


1. To understand  Scripture as a soul book, produced by the soul/psyche, addressed to the soul/psyche, for the soul/psyche.  This means that the Bible is to be seen not only as the product of historical, social, literary, and revelatory processes. It is also the product of a psychic process in which conscious and unconscious factors are at work in the biblical authors and their communities, in the texts they have produced, in readers and interpreters of these texts and their communities, and in the historical “effects” of Scripture in the lives of individuals and cultures over the centuries.

2. To come to an informed understanding of the words “soul” and “psyche”as virtually synonymous terms in historical and contemporary usage, from Aristotle and the Bible to the present. 

            3. To tell the story of the emergence of the new discipline of psychological biblical criticism, beginning in the late 1960s in the context of the new developments in biblical scholarship in the last three decades (e.g., feminist, liberationist, ideological, and cultural criticism), with a survey of the new literature in the field.

4. To explore the foundational contributions of Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, and Viktor Frankl to a psychological critical approach to the Bible, with special emphasis on its rich repertory of myths, legends, history, laws, psalms, proverbs, prophetic vision, gospels, parables, letters, and apocalypses.

            5.  To explore the exegetical agenda of a psycho-spiritual approach to the Bible, with attention to select themes: biblical symbols and archetypes; psychodynamic factors at work in biblical narrative; the psychology of biblical personality portraits (e.g. Jesus of Nazareth, King Saul, Ezekiel, Paul, and Judas Iscariot); the psychology of biblical religious experience (e.g. glossolalia, dreams, conversion); the psychology of biblical ethics; and biblical psychology.

            6. To explore the hermeneutical agenda of a psycho-spiritual approach to the Bible, with attention to select themes: the effects of texts on readers; the effect of readers on texts; the “performance” of texts through drama, music, liturgy, soup kitchens, and creeds; and the history of biblical effects, both pathogenic and therapeutic.

            7. To experiment with Walter Wink’s Transforming Bible Study approach as a workshop demonstration of the role of psyche in the reading of the Bible.


1.Daily attendance at all sessions. Classroom exchange is as important as the reading. (For credit and CEU students,  attendance = 1/6 of the grade. Each hour missed constitutes one tenth of the percentage grade.  See the instructor for class makeup in case of an emergency) 

2. Book Review*:  Credit/CEU participants must make one book review 

presentation (with a written copy to the instructor for grading). Select a title from the attached list of books on Reserve in the library and register your choice with Reserve librarian, Marie Rovero. (If someone has already selected the title you must choose another.)  Be prepared to present your book review any time on Tuesday through Friday (a definite time for your report will be set at our first session on Monday). The review is to include the following: (a) a clear précis or overview of the book in relation to this course, (b) a brief discussion of up to ten ideas you have found helpful or informative, explaining why, and (c) the presentation of one important issue for class discussion. The reviewer is asked to prepare some “visuals” (hand-outs, chalk-board outlines, overhead projector transparencies, etc.) to enhance communication. (2/6 of the grade).

3. Final Project*: A 10-20 page paper due, September 1. Topic proposal is due the last day of class for approval by instructor. List the title of your proposed paper/project with a descriptive paragraph of your objectives. (3/6 of grade)

* Required of credit and CEU participants only. All academic papers are to conform to conventional technical, grammatical, and stylistic standards referred to in the General Guidelines for a Research Paper. The Hartford Seminary Grading Guidelines will be the standard of evaluation for the course.

Class Meeting Schedule and Assignments

Monday:   Jung and the Bible: Where Psychology and Scripture Meet

            Read:  C. G. Jung, “Approaching the Unconscious,” in Man and His Symbols;  W. G. Rollins, Jung and the Bible, pp. 1-55; W. Wink, Transforming Bible Study: A Leader’s Guide, 11-43; skim 44-65, 109-127 (see attached letter for instructions).

Tuesday: Sigmund Freud, Viktor Frankl, and the Bible: Where Psychology and Scripture


            Read:  Rollins, Soul and Psyche: The Bible in Psychological Perspective, chap. 2, “Freud and Jung,” 33-60. Also, two brief handouts to be distributed in class on Monday, on Freud’s Future of an Illusion, and Frankl’s, Man’s Search for Meaning.

Wednesday: Psychological Criticism and Biblical Studies in the New Millennium:

Reclaiming a Sense of Soul

            Read:  A handout from the Pontifical Biblical Commission on “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church” on contemporary biblical scholarship. Also, Rollins, Soul and Psyche: The Bible in Psychological Perspective, Preface, v-viii, and chap. 4, “What is Psychological Biblical Criticism: Definition and a Model,” 89-114.

Thursday: The World of the Text in Psychological Perspective: Exegetical Case Studies

            Read: Selected sections of Rollins, Soul and Psyche: The Bible in Psychological Perspective, chap. 5, 115-145, and of John Miller, Jesus at Thirty: A Psychological Historical Portrait (specially assigned chapters for class presentation and review). Michael Newheart, My Name is Legion: The Story and Soul of the Gerasene Demoniac, pp. 53-110.

Friday: Between Text and Reader in Psychological Perspective : Hermeneutical Case Studies

            Read: Selected sections of Rollins, Soul and Psyche: The Bible in Psychological Perspective, chap. 6, 145-182. 

April 11, 2005

To: Participants in SC 660. “The Bible and the Habits of the Soul: Psychological Perspectives on Scripture.

From:  Wayne G. Rollins

Dear Friends,

            In preparation for our week together on “the Bible and the habits of the soul,” I would like you to read a few introductory pieces as background for the first session. I think you will find them interesting and “reader friendly.”  They are listed in order of their importance. Please try to make your way down the list as far as possible before the week of class.

            The first is the essay Carl Jung wrote just before he died in 1961, summarizing his discoveries about the nature of the human soul/psyche. The title is “Approaching the Unconscious,” the first essay in Man and His Symbols (New York: Doubleday, 1964, or one of many other editions). We will discuss this fascinating essay at the first class meeting. Please write or highlight five ideas, issues, or problems for class discussion.

            A second background assignment is the first three chapters of my book, Jung and the Bible (1-55). If you don’t know much about Jung, it will be good “boot camp” introduction. Be sure to include the third chapter, “The Bible and the Life of the Soul.” It lies at the heart of this course. Again, please write or highlight at least five questions/observations for class discussion.

            A third assignment is a book that has changed many a parish Bible study group, Walter Wink’s Transforming Bible Study: A Leader’s Guide. Once you get started you will probably want to read the whole book. For starters please read the Preface, chapters one and two (pp. 11- 43). If you have time, skim chapters three and eight (44-65,109-27).  We will be demonstrating “transforming Bible study” on a daily basis. If any of you would like to try your hand at leading a session, and have a passage you would like to explore, let me know by telephone or e-mail.

            A fourth assignment in two stages. Read pages xvii to xxiii and then skim pages 3-49 of Michael Newheart’s eminently readable My Name is Legion: The Story and Soul of the Gerasene Demoniac. It will introduce you to the latest scholarly biblical insight into this dramatic tale found in Mark 5:1-20. 

            I look forward to our time together. It will go all too fast, but I hope it provides you with a new way of understanding what we are about as pastors, ministers, or teachers of the Word.


            Wayne G. Rollins


P.S. Credit students: please note also the Book Review Assignment under “Requirements.”



(Books are on library reserve for students to sign up and take out for  book reports)

Alter, Margaret G. Resurrection Psychology: An Understanding of Human Personality Based on the Life and Teachings of Jesus. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1994.

Bettelheim, Bruno. Freud and Man's Soul. New York: Knopf, 1982.

Brown, Schuyler. Text and Psyche: Experiencing Scripture Today. New York: Continuum, 1998.

Capps, Donald. Jesus: A Psychological Biography. St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2000.

 Halperin, David J. Seeking Ezekiel, Text and Psychology. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993.

Hill, Jill, and Rand Cheadle. The Bible Tells Me So: Uses and Abuses of Holy Scripture. New York: Anchor Books/ Doubleday, 1996.

Johnson, Cedric B. The Psychology of Biblical Interpretation. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983.

Jung, Carl Gustav. “Answer to Job.” In The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, edited by et al. Gerhard Adler, 355-470. Princeton: Princeton University, 1953-78.

Jung, Carl Gustav. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. New York: Pantheon, 1963.

Kelsey, Morton. Dreams: The Dark Speech of the Spirit. New York: Doubleday, 1968.

LaCocque, A., and P.-E. Lacocque. Jonah: A Psycho-Religious Approach to the Prophet. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1990.

McNish, Jill L. Transforming Shame: A Pastoral Response. New York: Haworth Press, 2004.

Oates, Wayne E. Temptation. A Biblical and Psychological Approach. Louisville, KY: Westminster/ Knox, 1991.

Rashkow, Ilona N. The Phallacy of Genesis: A Feminist-Psychoanalytic Approach, Literary Currents in Biblical Interpretation. Louisville, KY: Westminster/ John Knox Press, 1993.

Rashkow, Ilona. Taboo or Not Taboo: Sexuality and Family in the Hebrew Bible. Miinneapolis: Fortress, 2000.

Rubenstein, Richard. My Brother Paul. New York: Harper & Row, 1972.

Sanford, John A. The Kingdom Within. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1970.

Sanford, John A. The Man Who Wrestled with God: Light from the Old Testament on the Psychology of Individuation. [1981, republished by Paulist; Ramsey, NJ] ed. King of Prussia, PA: Religious Publishing Co., 1974.

Scroggs, Robin. Paul for a New Day. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977.

Stewart, Elizabeth-Anne. Jesus the Holy Fool. Franklin, WI: Sheed & Ward, 1999.

Theissen, Gerd. Psychological Aspects of Pauline Theology. Translated by John P. Galvin. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987.

Vitz, Paul C. Sigmund Freud's Christian Unconscious. New York: Guilford Press, 1988.

Westman, Heinz. The Structure of Biblical Myths: The Ontogenesis of the Psyche. Dallas, TX: Spring Publications, Inc., 1983.

Wink, Walter. The Human Being: Jesus and The Enigma of the Son of the Man. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001.

Wuellner, Wilhelm H., and Robert C. Leslie. The Surprising Gospel: Intriguing Psychological Insights from the New Testament. Nashville: Abingdon, 1984.

Zeligs, Dorothy. Psychoanalysis and the Bible: A Study in Depth of Seven Leaders. New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1974.





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