- Series: Jesus the Healer (Book 1)
- Hardcover: 216 pages
- Publisher: Continuum Intl Pub Group; First Edition edition (June 1, 1995)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0826407943
- ISBN-13: 978-0826407948
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.8 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,573,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Jesus the Healer: Possession, Trance, and the Origins of Christianity Hardcover – June 1, 1995
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In this fascinating addition to the vast and ever expanding body of historical Jesus literature, Davies' unique contribution is his application of comparative anthropological and psychological research into spirit possession to the historical Jesus. He depicts the Jesus of history as a spirit-possessed healer whose healing was effected by induction of spirit possession analogous to the psychotherapeutic techniques of Milton Erickson. One of the more intriguing results of Davies' approach is that it reunites the Jesus of history with the Christ of faith, thus "solving" a perennial problem for historical Jesus research. In shifting attention from Jesus as teacher to Jesus as healer (or therapist), Davies also makes a potentially important contribution to theologically informed discussion of the teacher's role. In theological discussion of the work of Jesus, that role has often been defined (as Davies assumes) as ideological indoctrination or "transmission" of information. If Davies' discussion reminds readers of the more venerable definition of teaching as "turning the soul," it will have provided an invaluable service, whether or not the picture of Jesus as therapist proves more convincing than the many available alternatives. Steve Schroeder
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The basic theme is that Jesus was a man periodically “possessed” by an alternate personality – which he interpreted as the Spirit (also called “Son”) of God. During these episodes the ego of Jesus of Nazareth was suspended so that there were really two “people” speaking from one body. Davies is careful to never say that this possession was strictly a product of Jesus’ unconscious rather than of the Holy Spirit. In fact, for those believing in a collective unconscious, there might be little difference. Davies does not appear to think it makes a material difference. One place in the gospels where this “phenomenon” suggests an explanation is Jesus at the crucifixion saying “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me.”
Davies has clearly researched this hypothesis to an extraordinarily great extent. He analyzes many sayings of Jesus trying to distinguish those of Jesus of Nazareth vs. Jesus as Son of God. These are very interesting. Further, Davies has interesting thoughts regarding the disciples, the Apostles, and St. Paul. All in all, at first blush it is very convincing. I was fascinated by his interpretation of Jesus’ therapeutic actions as being extremely similar to the hypnotherapeutic techniques of Milton Erikson M.D. One can see these techniques in action to an extent in modern Pentecostal churches.
There are several problems with his theme that he really doesn’t concern himself with.
First, the “possession” phenomenon underlying Jesus as Son of God, other “possessed” persons, and those he healed of illnesses presumably caused by “conversion disorders” (ie. psychosomatic) are all what today’s psychologists call “dissociative” personalities. However while possession may be a dissociative disorder, like multiple personalities, these are very, very rare. Some of you might remember the movie about such a case, “The Three Faces of Eve.” It might be that it was less rare two thousand years ago, but how can we know? That culture is so removed from ours that it is hard to apply the factors we observe today.
Second, Davies indicates no mechanism to account for when Jesus was in or out of this possession state. There is nothing in the scriptures to suggest that he went into the Son of God persona as a result of factors immediately around him, which factors Davies enumerates but doesn't apply.
Third, he really says nothing about the exorcisms which would make them special except that the possessed appeared to recognize the “possessed” Jesus as “Son of God” yet doesn’t explain why the subject of the exorcism would know this.
To accept Davies’ argument you must have a very high degree of confidence in modern psychoanalytic theory. I do not, yet I’m willing to suspend my doubts to follow his argument to the end. Nevertheless, I found his discussion of these psychoanalytic principles to be rather tedious, although thoroughly documented.
On balance, I think you will find this book stimulating, thought provoking, and, perhaps, illuminating if you are interested in trying to understand the gospels better in connecting the “historical” Jesus with the Jesus of faith and of the early Christians, especially St. Paul. The thesis might be overstated, but it certainly is interesting and gives you a very different perspective as you read the gospels.