Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Students' Perceptions of Jesus' Personality as Assessed by Jungian-Type Inventories

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Students' Perceptions of Jesus' Personality as Assessed by Jungian-Type Inventories

Article excerpt

The present study was the first phase of an exploration of college students' perceptions of the personality of Jesus Christ as assessed by two Jungian-type inventories, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Myers, 1998) and the Keirsey Temperament Sorter II (Keirsey, 1998), which categorize personality along four dimensions: Extraversion/Introversion, Sensing/Intuition, Thinking/Feeling, and Judgment/Perception. Along with an overall exploration of students' perceptions, the present study focused on whether students were likely to make self-based attributions in their perceptions of Jesus' personality. Results indicated that students perceived Jesus to be an Extravert Feeler and made self-based attributions along the Sensing/Intuitive dimension, with 43% perceiving Him to be an Intuitive-Feeler and 37% perceiving Him to be a Sensing-Judger. Perceptions of Jesus as a Judger or Perceiver were divided, with those placing more importance on modeling Jesus more likely to see Him as a Judger, and those placing less importance on modeling Him perceiving Jesus as a Perceiver.

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The present study explored students' perceptions of the personality of Jesus Christ as measured by two Jungian-type inventories, the Keirsey Temperament Sorter II (Keirsey, 1998) and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, specifically focusing on whether participants were likely to make self-based attributions in their perceptions of Jesus. Both the Keirsey and the Myers-Briggs assess personality along four dimensions (Extraversion/Introversion, Sensing/Intuition, Thinking/Feeling, and Judging/Perceiving), none of which are intended to be indicative of mental health or illness, but reflect behavioral preferences which embody strengths as well as challenges (Keirsey, 1998; Myers, 1987).

Past research has already suggested a relationship between personality type and various aspects of religiosity. Michael and Norrisey (1991) proposed that each of the four gospel writers exemplified one of the four basic Myers-Briggs types (Sensing-Judging, Sensing-Perceiving, Intuitive-Feeling, Intuitive-Thinking) thus perceiving Christ and His work from the perspective of his own type. Such an interpretation suggests that each gospel writer would have assigned meaning and importance to Christ's actions based on his own personality which would result in the gospel accounts varying somewhat in terms of events recorded and the importance attached to those events. Accordingly, Michael and Norrisey suggested that readers of the Scripture will feel more drawn to the gospel which was written from the perspective of his/her own personality type.

Likewise, other studies have explored the connection between religiosity and personality. Bunker (1991) asserted the importance of expressing one's spirituality in a way most satisfying to, and consistent with, one's personality type. Bassett, Mathewson, and Gailitis (1993) indicated a relationship between personality and preferred interpretations of Scripture.

Personality type has also been associated with the interpretation of ambiguous information (Frederickson, 1995). Frederickson found that subjects in his study made self-based attributions when presented with a list of ambiguous characteristics which they were asked to identify as descriptive of extraversion or introversion. Extraverts, as characterized by the Myers-Briggs, tended to label ambiguous items as characteristic of extraversion; introverts tended to attribute introversion to the same ambiguous items. Frederickson concluded that in the absence of a clear cut behavioral display of extraversion or introversion, subjects in his study tended to make attributions based on characteristics of their own personality type, "thus assuming a greater self-other similarity than may actually exist" (p. 34).

Frederickson's (1995) findings seem noteworthy given Goldsmith's (1997) assertion that Jesus' personality seems somewhat ambiguous to us today. …

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