Comparing Biblical Writings with the Five-Factor Model of Personality

By: David Rawlings  

Psychologists who take a "dimensional" approach to personality description frequently argue for a Five-Factor Model (FFM) of personality. According to this view, five hierarchically arranged broad traits, factors or dimensions underlie non-intellectual individual differences between people within a population. The summary labels often given to the dimensions are Extraversion, Neuroticism, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, and Openness to Experience (or Intellect or Imagination). The proposed paper attempts to connect the five-factor model with the conceptual frameworks that appear in biblical writings. My starting point is the view of Duke University theologian Douglas Campbell, who understands the apostle Paul’s model of salvation to include the central concepts of life, death and sin, enslavement verses freedom, love, and the Spirit. I will show how these concepts are connected, respectively, to the processes underlying the FFM dimensions listed above. In addition to Campbell’s view, further evidence for the association will be provided using the writings of other contemporary biblical scholars, other biblical sources such as the gospels and the Hebrew writings, and (by way of contrast) the writings of Epicurus, an ancient scholar with ideas opposed to those of St Paul. Some possible interpretations and implications of the proposed relationship will be briefly discussed.

Apostle Paul Personality
Religious Foundations
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

David Rawlings

Senior Fellow (honorary), School of Psychological Sciences, University of Melbourne, Australia
Victoria, Australia