The Bible as psyche: developing tools for psychological translation of scripture for contemplative care and reflection in chaplaincy

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As a core faculty member of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care and an adjunct at the New York Theological Seminary, I train chaplains from diverse theological backgrounds, including many who now follow a Buddhist tradition. Although these chaplains typically have some biblical tradition in their backgrounds, they lack a working appreciation of biblical content, themes, and methodology. This can create a gap in ministry as many patients that chaplains attend to have a living biblical orientation. Not only that, but the hermeneutic tasks involved in textual understanding are similar to the tasks involved in therapeutic listening. I surveyed a group of chaplains about the need for a set of tools with which to deeply engage both biblical text and the patients for whom this text is foundational. The results favored the development of an approach that would not contradict a reader’s personal theology and yet would allow strong therapeutic engagement with someone who is biblically oriented. The difficulty of the task lies in the attempt to be at once both hermeneutically aware and therapeutically effective. This is an account of the psychological and hermeneutic background, development and usage of a particular approach, embodied in the phrase psychological translation, and its application to the Bible. Included as well are the results of feedback surveys and vignettes which show the degree of relevance of this approach as well as areas for future improvement.  
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