Response to Wayne G. Rollins

Article excerpt

From the very beginning of my work, Wayne Rollins has known, better than anyone, what my objective was. In 1973 he gave a precis and appreciation of my project at the Society of Biblical Literature, characterizing it as somewhat flamboyant, an assessment that he still seems to consider valid, and which I suspect is right. Interesting writing is hyperbole that can be documented as accurate. There was a certain inchoate logic in my first developing a Bible study process and theory of interpretation before launching into full-scale exegetical inquiry. That process, given literary expression in The Bible in Human Transformation (Philadelpha: Fortress Press, 1973), created an uproar, with its--yes, hyperbolical--opening salvo: "Historical biblical criticism is bankrupt." That line cost me tenure at Union Theological Seminary, and left me virtually blacklisted in seminaries all over the United States. By the time I was offered a halftime position in continuing education at Auburn Seminary (in the buildings of Union but independent of it), I was grateful to have anything at all. Twenty-eight years later I look back with thankfulness for Auburn's hospitality.

Wayne Rollins is especially well located to put my book into perspective. His exhaustive study, Soul and Psyche: The Bible in Psychological Perspective (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999), examines virtually everything ever written in any language on the use of psychology in biblical interpretation. His appreciation of my work is especially welcome to me, since it locates it in the widest possible context. Rollins is able, therefore, to understand the impulse that the historic Jesus inaugurated in the human psyche. The Human Being, he writes, "alters forever the way in which the Son-of-the-Man passages will be read.... It achieves this by placing the discussion in a totally new context, namely, the process, in which and out of which the Son-of-the-Man image emerges as a heuristic force within the human psyche." My concern in biblical study has been, from beginning to end, the issue of human transformation, that is, the search for a Jesus who can bring us to life. The failure, or rather, incapacity of the historical critical method to achieve that goal has led me to focus again and again on hermeneutics, with a concentration of what Rollins calls "psychological realism." His response to me is a masterly summary of an entire emergent field in the area of New Testament studies, and we are all indebted to him for creating the section on "Psychology and Bible" at the meetings of the SBL.

Let me respond quickly to a few matters. Sorry about the son of the man synonyms ("mother's son," "Wisdom's child," etc.), but the double sexism ("son" and "man") of the phrase creates the false impression that a male figure or archetype is intended, whereas in Hebrew it clearly means simply "a human being." And I also wanted to indicate that it really doesn't matter what we call it; it is the reality in experience, which is beyond names, that counts.

Jesus really did hammer out the first consistent critique of domination that we know of since the world began, as Riane Eisler showed in The Chalice and the Blade (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987). …