The Bible and the Pursuit of Happiness

The Bible and the Pursuit of Happiness

The Bible and the Pursuit of Happiness

The Bible and the Pursuit of Happiness

Synopsis

Scholars of the social sciences have devoted more and more attention of late to the concept of human happiness, mainly from sociological and psychological perspectives. This volume, which includes essays from scholars of the New Testament, the Old Testament, systematic theology, practical theology, and counseling psychology, poses a new and exciting question: what is happiness according to the Bible? Informed by developments in positive psychology, The Bible and the Pursuit of Happiness explores representations of happiness throughout the Bible and demonstrates the ways in which these representations affect both religious and secular understandings of happiness. In addition to the twelve essays, the book contains a framing introduction and epilogue, as well as an appendix of all the terms used in reference to happiness in the Bible. The resulting volume, the first of its kind, is a highly useful and remarkably comprehensive resource for the study of happiness in the Bible and beyond.

Excerpt

The essays in this collection originated in a conference held in Atlanta during December 11–13, 2009. That conference and, indeed, the project as a whole emerged out of a larger, five-year project devoted to the Pursuit of Happiness hosted by Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion (CSLR) and funded by the John Templeton Foundation. The larger Pursuit of Happiness project was chaired by my Emory colleague Philip L. Reynolds, who at several key junctures lent expert advice to this related, though much smaller project. I am thankful to Philip and to the director of the CSLR, John Witte, Jr., for inviting me to take up this task, which proved, happily (!), to be an enjoyable one. I should also register my thanks to my colleagues Carol A. Newsom and Carl R. Holladay—both of whom participated in the original Pursuit of Happiness project—for recommending me for the job. The lion’s share of my thanks go to the contributors, of course, for their excellent work as well as their patience and good humor during the editorial process. I’m thankful also to several of them for taking time to read and comment on my own contributions to the volume. I would be remiss if I did not also acknowledge the hard work of the indefatigable Linda B. King, without whom, I’m quite sure, the original conference would not have happened. Anita W. Mann also helped with details surrounding the conference, as did my research assistant Michael J. Chan, who offered help both then and at numerous points since—all in addition to contributing a very useful appendix to the volume that will be of great help to future studies on the Bible and happiness. Both Michael and another research assistant, Josey Bridges Snyder, provided crucial assistance in the final stages of editorial work. My most recent assistant, Henry M. Huberty, deserves thanks for producing the index.

Lastly, given this work’s relationship to the CSLR, it seemed only right that I dedicate it—or at least my efforts on it—to the best lawyer I know, Reese E. Verner. Reese has always showed great interest in my work and has often offered to help me, though, thankfully, he has never billed me for his hours. In addition . . .

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