Jakob auf der Couch: Kann die Psychologie uns helfen die Jakobserzählung zu verstehen?

Translated title of the contribution: Jacob on the Couch: Can Psychology Help us to Understand the Story of Jacob?

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper investigates the possibility of a psychological reading of the biblical story of Jacob (Genesis 25-36). This kind of reading is often proposed by psychologists and psychotherapists for obvious reasons: due to the many twists and turns in the story, and the complicated relationship between Jacob and the characters surrounding him, the story lends itself easily for this type of reading.
Some time ago, approach to biblical stories was heavily promoted by theologian and psychotherapist Eugen Drewerman, and fiercely criticized by many exegetes. Why not try a fresh approach to this unfinished debate?
A review of psychological approaches of the Jacob story shows how psychology can function to discover aspects of the story that are easily overlooked, and as such can be a useful heuristic exegetical instrument. At the same time, the limits of the psychological approach become clear. For example, it depends on the hypothesis that the psyche of people and their interaction is basically the same over thousands of years, which is hard to prove. Furthermore, it takes the stories strictly historical, without accounting for the intention of the author, who might use people in the story as models (e.g. Jacob = Israel, Esau = Edom) and use interaction between humans for his own kerygmatic intentions.
With these precautions, however, psychological reading can be an instrument for the exegete in a manner comparable to reading the Midrash. While both psychology and the Midrash use a paradigm rather different from that of the exegete, they can help him or her with their probing questions and creative and sometimes fantastic answers.
Translated title of the contributionJacob on the Couch: Can Psychology Help us to Understand the Story of Jacob?
Original languageGerman
Article number7
Pages (from-to)322-337
Number of pages16
JournalCommunio Viatorum
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Biblical Studies – psychological reading – exegesis – characters


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