Psychological Criticism of Biblical Narrative

David Gelernter

Abstract: No literary approach to the Hebrew Bible can succeed unless it considers the psychology of biblical characters. The text tends to be so compressed and elliptical and so apt to use concrete images to hint at abstractions, yet so deeply aware of the psychol­ogy of its characters and narrative, that we miss much if we confine our attention to its surface. I give some examples by considering “theophany as epiphany”—where divine revelation is simultaneously a revelation to the seeker of his own character. I discuss briefly Moses at the bush, Jacob’s long night before rejoining Esau, the puzzling story of Moses (evidently) attacked by the Lord, and Elijah’s encountering the “still, small voice.” Naturally, biblical criticism reflects the mood of the times. Our own age tends to be sul­lenly hostile to the study of individual psychology, and virtually all scholarship—biblical scholarship especially—pays the price.

Biography: David Gelernter is professor of computer science at Yale and contributing editor at the Weekly Standard; his Judaism, A way of being has just been published by Yale University Press.

Volume 4, Number 3 (Summer 2009) pp. 222–229