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Gay, V.P. (1990). Psychoanalysis and the Bible A Study in Depth of Seven Leaders by Dorothy F. Zeligs New York: Human Sciences Press, 1988, xxiv + 348 pp., $39.95. Psa. Books, 1(3):362-364.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Books, 1(3):362-364

Psychoanalysis and the Bible A Study in Depth of Seven Leaders by Dorothy F. Zeligs New York: Human Sciences Press, 1988, xxiv + 348 pp., $39.95

Review by:
Volney P. Gay, Ph.D.

Dorothy Zeligs uses her clinical insights with contemporary patients to reconstruct the inner experience of seven figures from the Hebrew Bible: Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Joseph, Samuel, Saul, David, and Solomon. Given the distance between ourselves and these patriarchs and the centuries of commentary and scholarship expended upon these texts, and given the ways psychoanalytic speculation can go wrong, Zeligs's task is a daunting one. It is equally daunting to evaluate her effort with any claim to rigor. As she notes, in attempting to bridge two dissimilar disciplines, biblical studies and psychoanalysis, she had to forsake the comfort of the ordinary means of validation established by the canons of scholarship and clinical science. This means that we too cannot rely on our customary methods for evaluating claims we make as clinicians, or claims we make as scholars.

Instead, we follow Zeligs's lead to see if her speculative interpretations of the inner life of these heroes seem plausible, and if they are plausible, whether they offer a richer possibility for understanding the development of the Hebrew Bible. At this level of discussion, our own assumptions (or prejudices) about the nature of religious experience, and the nature of human nature, will determine whether we agree or disagree with Zeligs's essays. To speak of a textual figure as a “biblical analysand” (p. xxi) is to use the term in a metaphorical sense since there is no patient to respond and validate the interpretations applied. Technically, this means that Zeligs must use psychoanalytic theories, clinical generalizations, and decoding methods to interpret her subjects' actions, actions set within the fabric of a history framed by a resolute body of editors and collectors.

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