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image of Biblical Interpretation

Theologians like Blumenthal, Brueggemann, and Chastain have recently stressed the abusive and sometimes capricious nature of Yahweh's actions toward his people, at times using studies of present-day child abuse to bolster their case. Predictably, such indictments of Yahweh have met with considerable resistance. This paper assesses the proposed analogy between Yahweh's behavior and that of abusive parents, by making more extensive use of the psychological literature on child abuse and trauma. The discussion also moves in a new direction, by employing recent research on narcissistic parenting to analyze Yahweh's behavior as father (and mother) to his "special" child Israel and his unique son Job. Passages in which Yahweh is said to love or hate his human children are examined in terms of psychological studies of parental ambivalence, narcissism and emotional "splitting." The final section of the paper examines the relationship between Yahweh's own lack of a family history and his narcissism, in part by comparing the unique and parentless divine king Yahweh with the Egyptian god Amun. The paper concludes by contrasting the single parent Yahweh with Assmann's characterization of ancient polytheisms, and asking whether monotheism itself is the most dramatic example of divine royal narcissism.

Affiliations: 1: Wichita State University


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