Identity and Experience in the New Testament

Identity and Experience in the New Testament

Identity and Experience in the New Testament

Identity and Experience in the New Testament


How do the New Testament documents present issues of passion, will, identity, and perception? How did the earliest followers of Jesus understand their experiences, behaviors, and suffering? These questions and more are addressed in this stimulating work by one of the most productive Continental New Testament scholars. Rather than approaching the New Testament with a Freudian, Jungian, or other modern psychological theory, Berger illuminates historically how peoples of the first century described their human experiences in relation to their encounters with God, Christ, demons, and the power of their own desires and will.


Psychology is the disciplined investigation of the interior life of the human being—of the psyche and its constraints, interactions, and outward manifestations. Psychology is a distinctly modern science. in applying a psychological perspective to New Testament texts, then, I will be raising questions those texts do not answer directly. Adding the qualifier “historical” to the basic term “psychology” draws attention to our assumption that both the inner life of the human being and the ways in which it has been understood have undergone far-reaching changes over the course of time.

Significance of the Inquiry

Biblical psychology investigates the way the reality of human existence is presented within the horizon of revelation. Such an issue can hardly be a matter of indifference to anyone who would understand divine revelation in its most immediate context or, expressed in theological terms, who would reflect on the Incarnation in all its dimensions. To be sure, in this study psychology is understood in a strictly historical sense, which means it will differ considerably from modern or contemporary modes of psychological understanding.

A brief illustration can suggest the importance of our inquiry. in ancient Greek there is no semantic differentiation between the notions of suffering and passion; both are designated by the term pathos (cf. the Latin passio). Modern English, however, recognizes only a distant relationship between them. This has substantive importance for our understanding of ancient . . .

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