The Institute of Midrashic Studies of the New Testament

What does Genesiology have to do with Word Association?

Henry W. Johnstone, Jr., In “Introducing Genesiology,” The Journal of General Education 27, no. 3 (1975), page 200, attributed the term “genesiology” to Dr. Joseph Flay, a colleague of his. He related the word “to the person’s coming into earthly existence” written in the aftermath of the 1973 Roe V. Wade decision. In the article Johnstone posed the questions that a child might ask his or her parents like, “What if I had not been born?”

A recent article submitted to a theological journal examined the “genesiology” of the Messiah. Paul had a tremendous problem and the article supposes that it was the basis for the “crisis” of the recipients of the letter of Hebrews and that was, “How could a descendent of Judah officiate at the altar?” (Hebrews 7:13) This question is physically at the very center of the letter and is surrounded by words that are associated with each other. 

Word association has largely been ignored in theological studies. It is typically taught in medical schools and is largely attributed to Jung’s work in psychoanalysis. (C. G. Jung, Studies in Word-Association Experiments in the Diagnosis of Psychopathological Conditions Carried Out at the Psychiatric Clinic of the University of Zurich, Under the Direction of C. G. Jung [New York: Moffat, Yard & Co., 1919]). Herbert H. Clark, “Word Association and Linguistic Theory,” in New Horizons in Linguistics, ed. John Lyons (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1970), 272-275 noted “word association would be thought of as a consequence of linguistic competence.” The traditional studies of word association he pointed out are “paradigmatic’ and ‘syntagmatic’ responses.” (The paradigmatic response for example to a certain plant would be another plant and the syntagmatic response would be for example the same color represented by the plant.)

Without going much further into the recent article submitted, comparative paradigmatic analysis was used to pair up Genesis 20:1-26:1 (particularly the search by the servant of Abraham for Rebekah as the wife of Isaac in chapter 24) with Hebrews 7:1-28, and word association as a literary device to answer the question “How could a descendent of Judah officiate at the altar?” was uncovered within Hebrews 7 (Diagram 1) but the device was also found in the section of Genesis (Diagram 2). No longer should Jung be given credit for word association but it should be given to God! 

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