Were leading characters in the history of Judeao-Christianity suffering from psychotic symptoms?

by fulltimestudent 11 Replies latest jw friends

  • fulltimestudent

    I don't think I've seen any reference to this academic study on this site. The analysis in question was published in a serious academic journal, The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, in 2012, with the title, The Role of Psychotic Disorders in Religious History Considered.

    The authors were Evan D. Murray, M.D., Giles G Cunningham, M.D. Ph.D, and Bruce H.Price,M.D.

    It was published online October 01, 2012, Reference link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1176/appi.neuropsych.11090214

    The abstract for the article states (in part):

    The authors have analyzed the religious figures Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and St. Paul from a behavioral, neurologic, and neuropsychiatric perspective to determine whether new insights can be achieved about the nature of their revelations. Analysis reveals that these individuals had experiences that resemble those now defined as psychotic symptoms, suggesting that their experiences may have been manifestations of primary or mood disorder-associated psychotic disorders. The rationale for this proposal is discussed in each case with a differential diagnosis. Limitations inherent to a retrospective diagnostic examination are assessed. Social models of psychopathology and group dynamics are proposed as explanations for how followers were attracted and new belief systems emerged and were perpetuated.

    If the above link does not work, my original web-link was: http://neuro.psychiatryonline.org.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/doi/full/10.1176/appi.neuropsych.11090214

    I've read the full article via my university library, if the initial summary appeals to you, you'd probably need the services of a good library to access the full journal article. By the terms of my access, I can't reproduce the full article.

    I think its worth reading as an explanation as to how our culture is so deeply mired in an intellectual bog.

  • xjwsrock

    I have wondered that myself. I mean when voices tell you to kill your son, you need a doctor.

  • David_Jay

    As a Jew I am very bothered by the term "Judeo-Christian."

    It is like Christians can dictate how Jewish Scripture is to be translated, but what we say doesn't matter. So if Christianity teaches that the stories of the "Old Testament" are literal, we get blamed because, "after all, it's all a part of Judeo-Christian culture."

    So you end up believing that my forefather Abraham literally attempted to offer up his son as a sacrifice.

    You end up viewing our narratives about Moses as history.

    You lump Jesus and Paul into the same group as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob...even though those who followed the teachings of Paul and Jesus later apologized for the part they played in the pogroms, the tortures of the Inquisiton, and the genocide of the Jews in the Holocaust.

    For centuries we have declared our stories as legends and moral plays or history retold as religiously reconstructed opera, but off you have gone ignoring all this. Then when you learn the truth about these writings, you blame us Jews and our stories for lying to you.

    Sorry, but we didn't tell people that the Hebrew Scriptures required a lens named "Jesus Christ" to understand them.

    Some among us might see more history in them compared to others, but we never promised anyone that they were supposed to be read at face value. If you read our works through the eyes of those who can't even read our texts unless they are translated out of Hebrew into another language, why are we to blame?

    The term "Judeo-Christian" is nothing but a farce. There's nothing Jewish about it except what has been taken from us and interpreted without us.

    Sorry if you listened to Christians and they gave you the wrong ideas about Jewish tales, but why blame Jews or the stories themselves? If you really wanted to understand them, why did you go running to non-Jews and folks of a different religion? If you want to know what Buddhists believe, would you ask Mormons? Should people learn the truth about atheists from Jehovah's Witnesses?

    Don't point the finger at our legends and mythology. We weren't the ones who told you to read them out of line with Jewish thought.

  • Witness My Fury
    Witness My Fury

    Yes. Paul went to the 3rd heaven (allegedly). Well these days we'd call that psychosis.

  • David_Jay

    Also, be careful you don't become like those you hate.

    Jehovah's Witnesses call those who leave "mentally diseased." Have we just dispensed of the doctrine but left the attitudes upon our exit?

    I understand people's anger and even deep hatred for religion. It is not unjustified. To be honest, there is not enough uproar in my opinion regarding what we suffered and what continues to go on under the shadows cast by the Governing Body.

    And while everyone deserves their opinion, how logical is it to claim that the characters in Jewish literature must be suffering from psychotic symptoms? If you already claim they aren't even real to begin with, how intelligent is it to further declare fictional characters as 'suffering from psychosis' because in the genre narratives (which is a story about a deity communicating with people), some of the people in the story talk to another character who happens to be a deity?

    Would people waste time and money producing a study declaring that Luke Skywalker and other Jedis in the Star Wars stories had mental problems because they heard voices and moved things with their minds? It would be ludicrous to do so because these stories aren't meant to be taken as fact. In the genre narrative some characters have these powers, and the story moves along as if certain aspects, like mind reading and control, are true.

    And if somebody told you the stories were factual and you believed them for years, changing your life based on this idea despite George Lucas screaming out, "They're just fiction!" Why get mad at the stories and even Lucas because you believed someone not associated with Lucas that Star Wars was fact?

    And then you turn around and blame the stories and George Lucas because you ignored George who kept telling you it was fiction all the time? And that sounds sane?

    How are "studies" like this and similar views warranted or even logical? Just because you believed a snake oil salesman and turned over all your money to him is no reason for you to go around killing snakes. They had nothing to do with it.

    Can't you just admit you were wrong and stop blaming the snakes, fictional characters, authors, and a book? Even if the book claimed that it was 100% fact, it still isn't the book's fault or its authors that you believed in that claim.

    If you believe that Uncle Sam is a real man living in America and that Paul Bunyan is his landscape specialist, you can't blame Americans. Sam and Paul aren't insane because you were gullible enough to believe fictional characters were real.

    And it doesn't speak too well about your own sanity that you keep blaming fictional characters for your own mistake.

  • sparky1

    Very interesting article indeed. Men pretending to be doctors, using unscientific criteria, to diagnose (label), possibly fictitious characters from a book (the Bible) written over two thousand years ago that may or may not be historically relevant. Pass me another Prozac...........I can't handle any more bullshit.

  • Giordano
    Men pretending to be doctors, using unscientific criteria, to diagnose (label), possibly fictitious characters from a book (the Bible) written over two thousand years ago that may or may not be historically relevant.

    analysis in question was published in a serious academic journal, The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, in 2012, with the title,The Role of Psychotic Disorders in Religious History Considered.


    Received September 13, 2011; revised March 15, 2012; accepted March

    22, 2012. From the Dept. of Neurology, McLean Hospital, Harvard

    Medical School, Belmont, MA (EDM, BHP); Dept. of Psychiatry,

    McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Belmont, MA (MGC);

    Dept. of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical

    School, Belmont, MA (EDM, BHP). Send correspondence to Evan D.

    Murray, M.D., Dept. of Neurology, McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA;

    e-mail: [email protected]

    Copyright © 2012 American Psychiatric Association


    David-Jay you make a point. Myth's and legends.

    Unfortunately for Christians the stories in the Old Testament were considered real in Jesus's day and are still considered real by those that see the entire Bible as inspired.

    Looking at it from our understanding of modern psychotic disorders one could draw the conclusion that As portrayed in the OT and NT the leading personalities of scripture do appear psychotic to a non believer.

    Now it may simply be that many of us can not grasp all of the social mores of those days but if there is one thing we can grasp it is that semi insane people can and do have a profound effect on the general public if they can present themselves as totally sane.

    "Diminished insight about
    having a mental disorder is part and parcel of the
    condition, occurring in 30%–50% of persons with schizophrenia.
    4 How do we explain to our patients that their
    psychotic symptoms are not supernatural intimations
    when our civilization recognizes similar phenomena
    in revered religious figures? On what basis do we distinguish between the experiences of psychiatric patients
    and those of religious figures in history?
    A review of the medical literature revealed little discussion
    of these specific issues utilizing modern neuropsychiatric
    and behavioral neurologic principles. An
    examination of the revelation experiences of prominent
    religious figures was needed to determine whether new
    insights could be achieved about their nature through the
    application of neuropsychiatric and behavioral neurologic
    principles. We undertook this examination with the intent
    of promoting scholarly dialogue about the rational limits
    of human experience and to educate persons living with
    mental illness, healthcare providers, and the general public
    that persons with psychotic symptoms may have had
    a considerable influence on the development of Western
    civilization. The selection of personalities for analysis was
    based on 1) the existence of narratives recounting the individual’s
    mystical experiences and behaviors; 2) the potential
    similarity of these experiences to psychiatric
    phenomena; 3) the high degree of impact their life stories
    had on Western civilization in terms of influencing themes
    found in literature and art, religious thought and practice,
    philosophy, concepts of social order, and jurisprudence.
    The following is a retrospective diagnostic examination of
    Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and St Paul.
  • sparky1

    I read the article, Giordano and realize that it was published in a respected journal by respected medical professionals. That does not make it truly 'scientific' or even credible. It just means that others agree with the authors opinions. Would you accept this same premise if it was written about Moroni of the Mormon faith or characters from the book of Urantia or characters from the Quran? Something to think about. Labeling behaviors of characters from a book written over two thousand years ago is not scientific, it is a personal judgment of that person and their behavior, masquerading as medical diagnosis. "The following is a retrospective diagnostic examination of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and St. Paul." That statement seems to be a carryover from the old Psychoanalytic method. This is just my opinion as I have no medical credentials. The hype of 1975 and the polemics of the Watchtower Society against higher education destroyed my dream of becoming a Doctor, so I am just a dilettante with my own viewpoint.

  • OrphanCrow
    fts: I've read the full article via my university library, if the initial summary appeals to you, you'd probably need the services of a good library to access the full journal article. By the terms of my access, I can't reproduce the full article.

    The article can be accessed at http://sci-hub.bz/

    I read some of the article. I think the article has some issues. Primarily, the authors of the article approach the characters in the Bible as the subject of inquiry when it would be more accurate to approach the study from the position that the authors of the Bible, rather than the characters themselves, are the ones who are revealed in the characters written about.

    It is problematic to study another culture using the measurement tools of the observing culture. The results are ethnocentric and biased.

  • David_Jay


    I see where you are coming from. To add to what you stated, in particular...

    "...it is that semi insane people can and do have a profound effect on the general public if they can present themselves as totally sane."

    I can't say there isn't evidence of this as one could argue that this describes Jehovah's Witnesses.

    But it doesn't have anything to do with Judaism and its Scriptures, unless you are saying:

    There is empirical evidence that the Jewish authors and redactors of the Hebrew Scriptures were insane. I think it would be awesome if you can present evidence that these people were insane because then, at least, we would know who wrote and edited these volumes. Most of the Scriptures were composed by anonymous authors, let alone that we equally have no idea who the redactors were. None of the books fell out of the sky or even off a writer's desk in the form we have today, so this would be an awesome first step in learning who wrote what, despite the fact there were "mentally diseased."

    There is such a thing as "semi" insanity. I was unaware that being just a "little" insane meant that part of you wasn't, or does it? If semi-insanity exists, how does the other part of a person remain unaffected, especially when, as you say, the same "semi-insane" people can have such a "profound" effect on others? Your partial insanity can profoundly affect others who are sane but not have enough effect to change you, a semi-insane person, and make you totally insane?

    It is more insane to write false stories than to attribute reality to them and base a religion on them. I know this is going to insult some people, so to show it's not my own view I'm going to quote the musical The Book of Mormon: "Wow! God says go to your own backyard and start digging? That makes perfect sense!" I think the actual Book of Mormon is totally false, but I am not sure this means Joseph Smith was insane. I think it says more about you and your sanity if you believe "that ancient Jews built boats and sailed to America," to quote another song from the musical.

    Okay, I know that you weren't necessarily writing this to counter what I wrote. In fact you were generally agreeing with some of what I said, it appears. But the report, despite being produced by "sane" and "expert" individuals, still argues an illogical point: blame fiction for your own stupidity of believing the same fiction was real (which you did despite the fact that the culture that produced and uses the very same fiction told you not to take it literally).

    After all, who is the real "insane" one? The person who tells you that "God lives on a planet called Kolob," or the person who believes it?

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