Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Roland Martinson


Pastoral care and the biblical tradition are inextricably linked in the minds of Jews and Christians for whom a central human task and calling is healing which leads to wholeness with each other, the world and God.This study explores the possibility of integrating reading the biblical text with a pastoral counseling approach informed by Martin Buber's I-Thou relation that serves this goal of healing and wholeness.

In Martin Buber's I-Thou wholeness is understood in relational terms. Healing is accomplished through "meeting" each other in genuine encounter. Buber's I-Thou dialogical philosophy has influenced a relational approach for the practice of pastoral counseling. There is less secondary literature about Buber's teaching on how to approach the biblical text dialogically. He taught that the text "a dialogue between heaven and earth" encourages our active participation by engaging the whole person with its "living voice." Bringing these two elements—dialogical counseling and dialogical text reading—together in the counseling process introduces possibilities for adding to and enriching the healing process.

The study examines both the scholarly theories and the practices of counselors who have integrated Buber's I-Thou into their work of dialogical counseling and have included biblical interpretation. An integrated model is proposed, several examples of pastoral counseling cases are considered and two of the author's cases are presented with verbatim material to demonstrate the model.

The study shows that the essential features of I-Thou relation, the practice of dialogical counseling, and the practice of dialogical biblical text reading are compatible both theoretically and practically. Reading a biblical text with an open and engaged receptivity can be fully integrated into the mutuality of the healing partnership. This enhances the healing partnership without disturbing the nature of the helping process.

For those who practice relational healing, the introduction of the biblical text can add unexpected dimensions and energy into the dialogue and the unfolding healing process. The biblical voice, while addressing presenting concerns can also invite each person into dialogue with God, whom Buber calls the Eternal Thou.