Wellness, Illness and the Psalms: Thinking Theologically with the Bible



13 October 2018


10 am - 16:30 pm


Humanities A02, University Park Campus


£15 (£5 concessions)


Online registration


Keynote speakers

Tarah Van De Wiele... an Honorary Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Nottingham. Her research explores various theological, historical, and philosophical issues at the intersection of ethics and the Book of Psalms.
Katherine Southwood... Associate Professor in Old Testament at the University of Oxford and author of Ethnicity and the Mixed Marriage Crisis in Ezra 9-10: An Anthropological Approach (OUP, 2012) and Marriage by Capture in Judges 21: An Anthropological Approach (CUP, 2017). Her research combines philology with interdisciplinary approaches to the Hebrew Bible, combining a rigorous and detailed analysis of relevant aspects of language with vibrant evaluations of texts using methods from other disciplines.
Simeon Zahl... University Lecturer in Christian Theology at the University of Cambridge and author of Pneumatology and Theology of the Cross in the Preaching of Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt (Bloomsbury, 2012) and The Holy Spirit and Christian Experience (OUP, forthcoming). His current research focuses on the themes of the Holy Spirit, affect and religious experience, and the nature of doctrine in contemporary theology.
Susannah Ticciati... Reader in Christian Theology at King’s College London and author of Job and the Disruption of Identity: Reading beyond Barth (T&T Clark, 2005) and A New Apophaticism: Augustine and the Redemption of Signs (Brill, 2013). Her current research is focused on the theological interpretation of Scripture in engagement with Augustine and others.

Conference Papers

The "innards" in the Psalms and Job as Metaphors for Illness (Katherine Southwood)
This paper explores the ways in which healthcare chaplains and patients may use the Hebrew Bible through aligning with research from medical anthropology. This interdisciplinary approach, enables the paper to utilise existing research concerned with illness experiences and identity as a heuristic tool for addressing the study of illness in the Hebrew Bible. However, as well as providing a useful heuristic lens, this article argues that ancient texts can also bring a richness to present day perspectives and analysis of illness accounts within medical humanities. This may be a helpful way of thinking about and reconfiguring the material for some healthcare chaplains in present-day clinical settings.
The Psalmist Syndrome (Tarah Van De Wiele)
What does it mean when the psalmist's liver spills onto the ground? When his bones rattle and his eyes weaken from anger? Moreover, why do the psalms containing these bodily troubles also point to social troubles—foes, enemies, and evil-doers?  I propose these bodily and social states are a set of symptoms that collectively indicate a peculiar illness to the poet. The illness is theologically-bound or, more specifically, Yahwist-bound in a similar sense to how anthropologists identify cultural-bound syndromes rooted in theological interpretations of existence. It is the Psalmist Syndrome: a unique Biblical Hebrew expression of trauma and dissociation rooted in a theological wellness narrative wherein Yahweh is a cosmic healer and his medicine is perfect justice. 
Sin and the Body in the Psalms (Simeon Zahl)
Much recent Christian theology has sought to reconsider the significance of the body in theological reflection. At the same time, a number of areas of suffering traditionally associated with the experience of sin have come to be reinterpreted, for good reasons, as medical disorders without moral valence. The result is that the doctrine of sin has become increasingly dissociated from the body in contemporary theology. This paper addresses this dissociation by exploring the correlation in a number of psalms between unforgiven sin and bodily suffering and dysfunction, in light of recent theological debates.
Augustine on Healing in the Psalms (Susannah Ticciati)
This paper will explore the way in which healing functions as a central metaphor in Augustine’s reading of the Psalms and as part of his wider account of Christ as healer. In the process it will reflect on his hermeneutic as one directed towards healing the reader as well as the wider communities in which the reader is situated. The paper will speak into the wider scholarly discussion concerning the ’theological interpretation of Scripture’, cutting through some of the impasses encountered in the ongoing tension with historical critical modes of reading by way of a focus on reading Scripture for wise healing.

About the conference

This event is an interdisciplinary workshop for researchers and students, led by the Centre for Bible, Ethics and Theology at the University of Nottingham.

The book of Psalms has been used in Jewish and Christian worship for more than two millennia, with a particular and special place in liturgies for the ill, afflicted and the dying. In these poems and songs the psalmists express their distress at various forms of illness and their hope for restoration to wellness. This workshop is designed to facilitate a constructive biblical and theological dialogue about contemporary concepts of wellness and illness, drawing on the book of Psalms as a foundational text.

The format reflects CBET’s particular commitment to collaborative work between theologians and biblical scholars, featuring sustained reflections and ample time for discussion. Speakers include two Hebrew Bible scholars and two systematic theologians whose recent work has focused on ideas of illness and wellness in the ancient and contemporary world.

Conference essentials


Location map



The University of Nottingham
University Park

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5151