Possession and Other Spirit Phenomena in Biblical Literature. Doctoral Dissertation (Harvard Divinity School, 2019).
Reed Carlson is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at United Lutheran Seminary in Gettysburg and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Current Research Activities:
He is currently revising his dissertation for publication with De Gruyter. His next research project investigates the social effects of shared belief in the immanent “end of the world” through comparing ethnographic work on modern apocalyptic movements with the literary reception of the Noah story in early Judaism and Christianity.
“God and Spirituality“ in the award-winning publication:
This project maps the functions of spirit language, rituals, and myths in the Hebrew Bible and in Second Temple Jewish literature. Many existing studies of these phenomena aim to decode them using modern categories (e.g. mental health, symbolization of oppression, demonization of the ‘other’). I employ a different approach, utilizing ethnographic studies on possession, trance, and other related practices from communities around the world (and especially from the global south and its diasporas). This comparison reveals facets of biblical spirit texts not usually recognized, including “technologies of the self,” social commentary, therapeutic self-othering, and means to reembody the past. Further, I suggest that frequent assumptions of early Christian paradigms for spirit phenomena (e.g. exorcism, Holy Spirit baptism) have obscured the ways in which early Jewish literature presents spirit phenomena most often as corporate, cultivated, and collaborative—modes that are consistent with the ways that spirit possession is practiced widely around the world today.
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