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ties to their communities and profession. These are issues that become increasingly
crucial to the settlement houses in subsequent decades. My current research deals in part
with these questions. In addition, I would like to second Scimecca’s suggestion that
sociologists (and also social workers) become involved in using the tremendous amount
of documentary evidence on settlement houses in public archives. The varying perspec-
tives are bound to add much depth to our knowledge of this unique special institution.

Dorothy F. Zeligs. Psychoanalysis and the Bible: A Study in Depth of Seven Leaders.
New York: Bloch, 1974. pp. xxiv + 348, $10.00. (Reviewed by L. D. HANKOFF)
As the subtitle of the volume indicates, the author has undertaken a personality
study of seven Old Testament characters - Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Samuel, Saul,
David, and Solomon - using the standard biblical text supplemented by a considerable
available folklore as the basis for her application of psychoanalytic thinking to the sub-
ject. She has, in effect, provided us with seven psychoanalytic biographical studies in
miniature, approaching the biblical material with respect and a background of interest in
biblical matters which goes beyond a mere application of her profession to the topic. Dr.
Zeligs, a psychologist with training in psychoanalysis, has written the book in lucid and
simple terms with the interested layman in mind. This is evident in her inclusion of a
glossary of psychoanalytic terms and the lack of technical referencing with regard to
modern biblical scholarship.
Zeligs offers many interesting formulations concerning the unconscious strivings of
her seven characters and possible explanations for some of the puzzling events in the Bi-
ble. We are told in a brief forward by Dr. Joost A. M. Meerloo that the present form of
applied psychoanalysis is comparable to the approach of good exegesis generally. This
raises some general issues with regard to Zeligs’ techniques of applied psychoanalysis.
The issue of the context of the psychoanalytic focus is perhaps the most basic con-
cern. The author has chosen to use mainly the biblical account of the character as a basis
for a psychoanalytic formulation. This is bound to introduce distortions if the assump-
tion of the researcher is at variance with the intention of the biblical writer. For what pur-
pose was the Bible written and is it suitable for psychoanalytic study as biographical
material? The author often uses the scriptural text as if it were an analysand’s free
association, interpreting portions as indicating psychodynamic relationships in the
character’s unconscious. For example, she refers to an apparent unclear and faltering
passage about King David in the Book of Samuel as possible evidence of David’s
“resistance” to dealing with sensitive material (p. 212). I believe it is an error to consider
the Bible’s narrative as in any way comparable to modern biography. The Old Testament
gives an account of the relationship of a people to God and any biographical details
which have been included are incidental to that task.
The present psychoanalytic study of the historical character is prone to the error of
ignoring the context because of the nature of the psychoanalytic study process. The psy-
choanalytic method is of value clinically in looking at the individual in terms of in-
dividual defenses, coping mechanisms, and motivating forces. There is an emphasis by
the psychoanalyst on universal symbols and the interpretation of behavior in terms of in-
dividual psychology. The broader context is not always in sharp focus. Thus we find our

present author resorting to familiar later-twentieth-century clinical observations as a

basis for understanding the biblical character. As examples, she states, “. . . narcissistic
women, whose erotic feelings are centered largely in themselves, tend to choose passive
husbands” and, therefore, she assumes that the father of the prophet Samuel was a
passive, submissive character (p. 99); or, “. . . we often find men who suffer from feelings
of sexual inadequacy also have difficulty in activities that require manual dexterity” and,
therefore, Solomon greatly admired Hiram of Tyre who helped build the Temple (p.295);
or, Jacob wrestled with the angel, a symbol of death, because “to the unconscious, death
is the punishment for aggression against the father” (p. 52); or, in Egypt, where all
nourishment depends on the Nile’s fluctuations, “. . . oral problems may retain their im-
portance psychologically to a greater degree than customary” (p. 78).
She applies a psychoanalytic interpretation to information apparently not included
in the biblical text. For example, she notes that the mother of King David is never men-
tioned in the Bible (p. 169); nor are King Saul’s mother and wife (p. 147); nor is the
prophet Samuel’s wife (p. 106). In the latter case she goes on to state, “We can assume
that this area of Samuel’s life was a conflictful one and therefore subject to repression.”
A more parsimonious explanation might be that the Bible includes that information con-
sistent with its goal of providing a religious history and testament. Details and characters
extraneous to the goal of the Bible are not included. The issue of personality study of the
biblical figure has been discussed by the biblical scholar Rudolf Bultmann, who questions
the validity of viewing the work of significant historical figures in personality terms. “In
the case of those who like Jesus have worked through the medium of word, what they
purposed can be reproduced only as a group of sayings, of ideas - as teaching. Whoever
tries, according to the modern fashion, to penetrate behind the teaching to the psy-
chology or to the personality of Jesus, inevitably. . . misses what Jesus purposed. For his
purpose can be comprehended only as teaching” (Jesus and the Word, p. 10).
The context of the literature used for psychoanalytic interpretation is important
from another viewpoint, namely, the language of the original sources. Zeligs appears to
have relied heavily on the English translation of the Bible and where folktales are
employed has depended on secondary sources entirely. The literal translation of the Bible
may lead the exegete astray. For example, it must be appreciated that grammatical
structure in biblical Hebrew is basically different from modern language. In an area as
fundamental as tense, we know that the past, present, and future tense forms in English
are not grammatically congruent with the biblical Hebrew forms.
Our understanding of original biblical language is further complicated by the fact
that the collection of books canonized as the Old Testament extend over a thousand
years of written contributions with portions written in Aramaic interspersed in the
biblical Hebrew. The dangers of relying on translations for exegesis are well known and
are all the more a difficulty for the psychoanalyst who seeks the subtle meaning of the
verbal material. In the Bible, terms of particular importance to the psychoanalyst may
have meanings and metaphorical connotations understandable only in their original con-
texts. For example, the term for “soul” in the standard translation of the Old Testament
may stand for any of four Hebrew words (nephesh, laev, ruach, neshama), each having a
distinct meaning. Even more basic, however, is that the most fundamental concepts of
body and mind are not to be understood in contemporary terms. There was no biblical
Hebrew word equivalent to our “body.” The entire biblical period is an historical era in
which body and mind (or soul) was spoken and conceived of as a unity in contrast to
modern dualistic language.

The distinction between group and individual psychology may also be of importance
in the psychoanalytic study of history. The history of a people obviously cannot be
viewed as the simple extension of the history of an individual. Unfortunately, Zeligs has
slipped into this error and offers the interpretation that the Old Testament is the expres-
sion of a working through of the oedipal struggle over many generations of Hebrews:
“The text of the Bible. . . is a remarkable expression of the development of the superego,
outgrowth of the oedipal conflict, portrayed as a group drama, with its leaders as the
representative actors” (p. 3 11-3 12). She supports this contention with the argument that
psychoanalytic investigation of the (biblical) text has been surprisingly limited because
psychoanalytic inquiry represents looking at the father critically, a forbidden form of
voyeurism (p. 314). Her contention is refuted by the simple fact that biblical studies by
psychoanalysts are not rare and their willingness to look at the Bible suffers no
voyeuristic constraints.
Dr. Zeligs’ mature appreciation of the Old Testament is evident in this work, but I
believe that it contains a misapplication of the psychoanalytic method. There is little to
be achieved in attempting a character analysis based on highly incomplete information.
The author is often forced to pile conjecture on conjecture in the effort. This is not to say
that psychoanalysis cannot make important contributions to the understanding of an-
cient literature and ancient man. I believe that psychoanalytic theory can have con-
siderable value in the ongoing effort to grasp the nature of the cognitive processes and
belief systems of ancient man. Psychoanalysis could be well applied along with other dis-
ciplines, such as comparative developmental psychology (in the broad sense used by
Heinz Werner), cognitive anthropology, and ethnopsychiatry, which have been directed
at the problem of the ancient mind.

The Author Replies:

I regret to say that the preceding review is so full of distortions about what my book
attempts to do that it is not possible within this limited space to deal with these ade-
quately. I do, however, appreciate the opportunity for a response, brief though it must
What I find most puzzling is that the reviewer seems to be unaware that most of the
questions and objections he raises were anticipated and dealt with in the book itself
because I was fully cognizant of how untraditional my approach to this literature was.
The first responsibility of a reviewer is to understand and acknowledge the frame of
reference within which a given study is carried out. Contrary to what Dr. Hankoff states,
the focus of these studies was not biographical. Its purpose was a psychoanalytic in-
vestigation of seven personalities in the early history of biblical Israel aspresented in the
so-called received text, the Bible as we have known it for over two thousand years.
Specifically, the objective was to see if these leaders were genuinely understandable
human beings in terms of their psychological structure, as manifested in what they said
and did, not only in the separate experiences of their lives but throughout all the biblical
narratives regarding them. The daring step I took for this purpose was to treat the Bible
of the common reader as a respected entity in itself, as having apsychological reality and
unity of its own,apart from how it came to be. As stated in the Introduction, it is this Bi-
ble of everyday usage, not the fragmented text of scholars, that has exerted so powerful
an influence in the world.
Significantly, the psychoanalytic findings are in basic harmony with Talmudic inter-
pretation, with a large body of folklore, which served its own purpose in this study, and

with much of recent scholarship which has taken a more humanistic and unified ap-
proach to the Bible than was evident in the biblical exegesis of the last two centuries or
so. My presentation offers a psychoanalytic confirmation of what was previously largely
intuitive and makes even more impressive, as I see it, the remarkable qualities of this

L. D. HANKOFF [Review of Zeligs, Psychoanalysis and the Bible, JHBS 15 (1979):
92-95] is Professor of Psychiatry at the New York Medical College and Chairman of
Psychiatry at Misericordia and Fordham Hospitals, Bronx, New York. He previously
directed and developed programs in psychiatry at Queens Hospital Center, Brooklyn,
New York. He is the author of Emergency Psychiatric Treatment: The Handbook of
Secondary Prevention.

NELLYS. HOYT[Review of Baker, Condorcet: From Natural Philosophy to Social

Mathematics, JHBS 15 (1971): 85-88] is with the Department of History, Smith College,
Northampton, Mass. 01063.
BRUCEMAZLISH[Review of Colp, To Be An Invalid, JHBS 15 (1979): 88-90] is
Professor of History and Head of the Department of Humanities at M.I.T. He is the
author of, among other books, James and John Stuart Mill (1975), The Riddle of
History (1966), and (with J. Bronowski) The Western Intellectual Tradition (1960). He
has been a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1967 and was a
Visiting Member of the Institute for Advanced Studies, 1972-1973.

JOSEPH A. SCIMECCA [Review of Trolander, Settlement Houses and the Great

Depression, JHBS 15 (1979): 90-921 is Chairman of the Department of Sociology at
George Mason University. Prior to his appointment at George Mason University, he was
an Associate Professor of Sociology and Education at SUNY-Albany. He is the co-
author of Crisis at St. John’s: Strike & Revolution on the Catholic Campus (1968) and
author of The Sociological Theory of C. Wright Mills and The Social Basis of
Education: A Conflict Approach.