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Psychological Aspects of Pauline Theology
by Gerd Theissen
List Price: $44.00

Sigler Price: $21.00 

Cloth - 433 pp
ISBN 0-8006-0789-9
Fortress Press


Gerd Theissen here presents a psychological exegesis of key Pauline texts which illuminate how religious symbolism did and can alter human experience and behavior.  He combines a psychological-historical approach to the New Testament with a theological perspective.  Belief in Christ, Theissen suggests, enables previously unconscious aspects of life to become conscious, thus paving the way for new types of behavior.  Three psychological theories -- learning theory, psychodynamics, and cognition -- are used to explain this transformation of human experience.  Theissen then considers specific Pauline texts in light of these psychological theories: the secret of the heart (1 Cor. 4:1-5; Rom. 2:16; and 1 Cor. 14:20-25); the veil of Moses and the unconscious aspects of the Law (2 Cor. 3:4-4:6); the conflict between law and sin (Rom. 7:7-23);  glossolalia as the speech of the unconscious (1 Cor. 14:1-40): and wisdom for the perfect as high consciousness (1 Cor. 2:6-16).  He concludes with observations on the behavior- and experience-altering effects of Pauline preaching.

Editorial Review

More than anyone in recent decades, Gerd Theissen has directed New Testament scholarship toward the broader intellectual, interpretive cultures of our day.  Using sociology, biological (the theory of evolution), and now psychological methodologies, Theissen is rescuing the study of biblical literature from the dangers of a back-water mentality.  Even in his use of psychology, he is boldly eclectic, assessing the usefulness of three psychological approaches - he calls them learning, psychodynamic, and cognitive theories - for a deeper understanding of selected Pauline texts.  That is, Theissen's approach remains exegetical and deals with that Paul intends to say through his writing.  Whether or not one agrees with everything the author claims, his suggestions are always provocative of new, and perhaps deeper, insights into familiar passages.  An exciting book!

Robin Scroggs
Union Theological Seminary
New York, N. Y.

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