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The Shaping of New Testament Narrative and Salvation Teachings by Painful Childhood Experience

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This article considers the influence of childhood corporal punishment, abandonment, and neglect on the development and reception of seminal New Testament teachings. Two related but distinct propositions are argued. First, that widespread patterns of painful childhood experience provided a thematic template that deeply shaped the New Testament during its formative period. Second, that this thematic shaping has contributed, on an individual level, to subjective experiences of faith and, on a cultural level, to the initial spread and subsequent persistence of Christianity. The approach is interdisciplinary, drawing on religious texts, historical evidence about the treatment of children, and several areas of psychology. The article ends with an exploratory excursus intended to stimulate thought about possible childhood influences in non-Christian religions and myths; the traditions considered are Judaism and Islam, the religious-philosophic system of karmic reincarnation that is foundational to Hinduism and Buddhism, and a Greek mythic text associated with the historically important Eleusinian mystery religion.

Affiliations: 1: South Egremont, MA United States, Email:


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