Monday, February 23, 2015

The Bible through the lens of Historical Psychology

What is the true nature and intent of religious writings? In one context it's a compilation of historical tales of supernatural triumphs in favor of one culture over others. Tales which instill in young children the fear of punishment they need to survive until they are at least twelve or thirteen years old, when they begin to develop formal operational thinking skills.

Coincidentally this is roughly the same age that Jewish children celebrate their Bar Mitzvahs or Bat Mitzvahs. Through a lot of research, Jean Piaget arrived at roughly the same period in life when formal operational skills were well into development and children should be capable of enough empathy and reason to take responsibility for their actions, providing, of course, that they were taught proper critical thinking skills. This is one example where science appears to validate a tradition, depending on whether or not you think Piaget was pure in his research or just anecdotal.

There are many examples in the Bible of parables that reflect what the people of the period understood about human behavior. 

In the "Parable of the Wicked Tenants" (Mark 12:1-12) A landlord sets up a winery and rents it to some tenants who later refuse to pay rent. They maimed or killed any collectors who came their way, and finally the son of the landlord came to collect and they believed that if they killed him, they would win squatters rights on the property. I can only infer from this that it was accepted at the time, which makes sense under traditional tribal warlord conditions.

In Mark 12:10 Jesus recounts an existing scripture about a stone rejected by the builders, which becomes a "cornerstone" or in the case of this parable, an integral part of the structure, but this is only mentioned after it is assumed by Jesus that the landlord will arrive on the scene himself and evict the tenants with extreme prejudice.

I found this confusing at first. It might refer to the tenacity of the landlord to hold onto his property despite what has become commonplace at that time, of acquiescing to the brute force of the existing power structure. This tiny paragraph of scripture eludes to the construct of the bureaucracy of it's time, and one man's fight against the bureaucracy. The priests at that time were of course, political appointees.