Academic Programs 

The Bible and the Habits of the Soul: Psychological
Perspectives on Scripture
Summer 2009

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 also will 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:
Mondays and Wednesdays, May 27 – June 29, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Wayne Rollins
Adjunct Professor of Biblical Studies

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9500

Course Syllabus

The Bible and the Habits of the Soul: Psychological Perspectives on Scripture

An introduction to the new discipline of psychological biblical criticism, with emphasis on the contributions of C. G Jung, Sigmund Freud, and Viktor Frankl, along with insights from cognitive, developmental, behavioral, and object relations theory 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 (e.g. feminist, liberationist, ideological, and cultural criticism). Activities will include workshop sessions utilizing the "transforming Bible study" of Walter Wink.

“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

“The fate of the world is determined by what happens in the human soul.”
- Hans Carossa

“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

“. . . 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. (=Miller) (Available at our bookstore)
  • Rollins, Wayne G. and D. Andrew Kille, Eds. (2007). Psychological Insight into the Bible: Texts and Readings. Grand Rapids, MI, Eerdmans (= PIITB)
  • Wink, Walter. Transforming Bible Study: A Leader's Guide. 2nd, revised ed. Nashville: Abingdon, 1989. (= Wink)


  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 quintessentially 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 historical and semantic understanding of the words “soul” and “psyche” in Aristotelian, Greco-Roman, biblical, and contemporary use.
  3. To examine 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 and Sigmund Freud 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 consider the contributions of cognitive , developmental, behavioral psychology and object relations theory other fields of psychology to biblical understanding.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. To experiment with Walter Wink’s Transforming Bible Study approach as a workshop demonstration of the psychodynamics at work between text and reader.


  1. Attendance. Classroom exchange is as important as the reading. ( 1/6 of grade)
  2. Book Review*: Credit participants are to make one book review presentation (with a written copy submitted to the instructor as a basis for grading, within one week after the oral report). Select a title from the attached Book Review Selection sheet and register your choice with Reserve librarian, Marie Rovero. (If someone has already selected the title you are asked to choose another.) Be prepared to present your book review any time between June 3 and June 29 (a definite time for your report will be set at our first session). The review is to include the following: (a) an informative précis or overview of the book in relation to this course, (b) a brief discussion of five to ten ideas you have found worth thinking about, explaining why, and (c) the presentation of one important issue for class discussion. The reviewer is encouraged to prepare some “visuals” (hand-outs, chalk-board outlines, overhead projector transparencies, etc.) or a class participation exercise to enhance communication. (2/6 of the grade).
  3. Final Project*: A 10-20 page paper due, September 1. Topic proposal is due the second to the last session (June 24) 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

Wed. May 27 . Prospectus: Jung and the Bible - Where Psychology and Biblical Studies Meet

Read “Approaching the Unconscious,” the first essay in Man and His Symbols (New York: Doubleday, 1964, or one of many other editions). Please come prepared with five ideas, issues, or problems for class discussion. Also read Rollins and Kille, Psychological Insights Into the Bible: Texts and Readings (pp. v, xii-xiv, xv-xix), along with selections from Chapter One: “Past, Present, and Future” ( pp. 3-4, and Readings 1.2 and 1.3 by Fletcher and Rollins on pp. 11-21). Come prepared to discuss questions and strategies that seem to you to lie at the heart of psychological approaches to the Bible and its interpretation.

Mon. June 1. Exploring Symbols and Archetypes and Walter Wink’s “Transforming Bible Study

Read PIITB, chapter 6, Biblical Symbols and Archetypal Images, 99-113. Introduction to Wink’s “Transforming Bible Study with in-class case study exercise on Luke 12:22-31,

Wed. June 3. Freud, the Man, the Mission, and Scripture

Read PIITB, chapter 2, “The Care and Cure of the Soul,” 22-39, and chapter 3, “Freud and Jung,” 40-55.

Mon. June 8. The contribution of Viktor Frankl’s Existential Psychotherapy and Logotherapy: Its Relevance for Biblical Understanding

Read PIITB, chapter 4, “Behavioral, Learning, Object Relations and Developmental Approaches,” 56-78, plus a special handout reading. Wink class exercise on Mark 2:13- 17: Eating with Sinners

Wed. June 10. Psychological Biblical Studies in the 20th and 21st centuries with a Footnote on Eugen Drewermann’s Remarkable Contribution
Special handout reading.

Mon. June 15. Psychology and Exegesis : Biblical Genres and Biblical Texts in Psychodynamic Perspective

Read PIITB, chapter 9. “Dynamics of Biblical Texts: Hebrew Scriptures,” 158-74, and chapter 10, “Dynamics of Biblical Texts: New Testament,” 175-91. Wink class exercise on Matt. 25:14-30, Parable of the Talents

Wed. June 17, Biblical Religious Experience in Psychodynamic Perspective

Read PIITB, chapter 11, “Biblical Religious Experience: Dreams, Prophecy, and Healing,” 193-210, and chapter 12, “Biblical Religious Experience: The Demonic and Exorcism, Glossolalia, and Conversion,” 212-28

Mon. June 22. Biblical Personalities in Psychological Perspective: Ezekiel, Paul, Moses and Jesus

Read PIITB, chapter 7, “Biblical Personalities: Ezekiel and Paul,” 116-37, and chapter 8, Biblical Personalities: Moses and Jesus,” 138-56. Also have completed Miller, Jesus at Thirty: A Psychological and Historical Portrait. Wink class exercise, Mark 2:23-28, Plucking Grain on the Sabbath.

Wed. June 24. Psychology and Hermeneutics: What Texts Bring to Readers and Readers to Texts

Read PIITB, chapter 5, “Between Texts and Readers,” 79-96.

Mon. June 29 Summing Up: The Pathogenic and the Therapeutic in Biblical Texts and Interpretations
Read PIITB, chapter 13, “Biblical Effects: The Pathogenic and Therapeutic,” 230-47, and chapter 14, “Biblical Psychology: On the Nature and Habits of the Soul,” 248-64.

[See letter to participants below]

A Letter to Participants in SC 660. “The Bible and the Habits
of the Soul: Psychological Perspectives on Scripture”.

Dear Friends,

In preparation for our five weeks together on “the Bible and the habits of the soul,” I would like you to read three introductory pieces as background for the first two sessions and a fourth for the third last session . I think you will find them interesting and “reader friendly.”

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 come prepared with five ideas, issues, or problems for class discussion.

The second assignment is the dedication, preface and foreword in Rollins and Kille, Psychological Insights Into the Bible: Texts and Readings (pp. v, xii-xiv, xv-xix), along with selections from Chapter One: “Past, Present, and Future” ( pp. 3-4, and Readings 1.2 and 1.3 by Fletcher and Rollins on pp. 11-21). Come prepared to make a stab at what questions and strategies lie at the heart of psychological approaches to the Bible and its interpretation.

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 regular basis. If 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 is reading as much as possible into John Miller, Jesus at Thirty: A Psychological and Historical Portrait, gathering comments, observations, and questions for the June 22 session on “Biblical Personalities in Psychological Perspective.” Miller is a seasoned biblical scholar as well as a director of psychiatric rehabilitative services in a pastoral counseling setting.

I look forward to our time together. I hope it will provide you with a new way of understanding what we are about as pastors, ministers, or teachers of the Word, or as just plain “inquirers” into the mystery of the relationship between the Bible and reader on the human/divine journey, keeping in mind the observation of German poet Hans Carossa, “The fate of the world is determined by what happens in the human soul.”


Wayne G. Rollins

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


(Should you wish to report on a book not contained in this list,
contact Professor Rollins by e-mail or phone for possible approval)

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.

Capps, Donald. Jesus the Village Psychiatrist Nashville: Westminster/ John Knox 2008.

Dolto, Francoise, and Gérard Sévérin. The Jesus of Psychoanalysis: A Freudian Interpretation of the Gospel. Translated by Helen R. Lane. New York: Doubleday, 1979.

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.

Kille, D. Andrew. Psychological Biblical Criticism, Guides to Biblical Scholarship - Old Testament Series. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001.

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.

Newheart, Michael Willett. My Name is Legion: The Story and Soul of the Gerasene Demoniac, Interfaces. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2004.

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

Pfister, Oskar, and Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis and Faith: The Letters of Sigmund Freud and Oskar Pfister. Translated by Eric Mosbacher. Edited by Heinrich Meng and Ernst A. Freud. New York: Basic Books, 1963.

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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