Despite erroneous statements of some writers to the contrary, the Hebrew scriptures state clear and strong prohibitions against suicide and consider it to be an immoral act. The biblical prohibition against suicide derives from two sources: one from the Decalogue, “Thou shall not commit murder” (Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5:17), and the other from Noahide law, “For your lifeblood too, I will require a reckoning” (Gen. 9:5). The Hebrew scriptures also contain several additional prohibitions regarding self-mutilation, “Ye are the children of the Lord your God: Ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead” (Deut. 14:1). A similar prohibition is given specifically to the priests: “They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corners of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh” (Lev. 21:5).1

The goal of all these commandments is to preserve human life and dignity, as together they regard all self-destructive behavior (suicide and the intention to commit suicide, but also drug or alcohol abuse) as an offense against God: “And God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen. 1:27). Thus, to destroy any human being is equivalent to insulting God and his divine image.2

The Hebrew scriptures’ prohibition against all self-destructive behavior stands in stark contrast to the prevalence of suicide in ancient Greece and Rome. Indeed, the works of ancient biographers such as Plutarch and Diogenes Laertius recount many suicide tales: Pythagoras; Socrates; Zeno; Demosthenes; Marc Antony; Seneca and his wife, Paulina; and many more. And there are at least sixteen cases of suicide in the twenty-four surviving tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides (e.g., Jocasta, Antigone, Haemon, Eurydice, Ajax, Deianeira, Heracles, Phaedra, Menoeceus, Evadne, Iphigenia, Macaria, Polyxena, and Alcestis.3 Conversely, the Hebrew scriptures only portray six cases of suicide (Ahitophel, Zimri, Abimelech, Samson, Saul, and Saul’s armor bearer), and one more (Judas Iscariot) occurs in the New Testament. In addition, there are six cases of suicide prevention in the Bible, cases in which God’s intervention prevented the threatened accomplishment of suicidal behavior (Elijah, Moses, David, Job, Jeremiah, Rebecca, and Jonah).4

So why are there so many more cases of suicide in Greek tragedy than in the biblical tradition? We suggest four potential explanations for this discrepancy: (1) contrasting views of freedom, (2) contrasting views of body and soul, (3) contrasting views of self and other, and (4) contrasting views of hope, prayer, and the possibility of repentance.

Contrasting Views of Freedom

First, the biblical world provides a sense of secure parenting as each person (male and female) is made uniquely in God’s image. In the Greek world, however, the gods themselves emerge from nature. They are more like capricious, nasty superheroes than secure parents. Related to this are the very different views of freedom that are expressed in the Greek and biblical worlds. For the Stoics, freedom is a struggle against the control of others; it is an effort to establish some sense of control over one’s own life, and the highest form of this control is the freedom to decide whether to continue to live or to die (by suicide). Lucius Annaeus Seneca, the brilliant Roman writer and statesman, puts it this way:

You see that yawning precipice? It leads to liberty. You see that flood, that river, that well? Liberty houses within them. You see that stunted, parched, and sorry tree? From each branch, liberty hangs. Your neck, your throat, your heart are so many ways of escape from slavery [. . . .] Do you inquire the road to freedom? You shall find it in every vein of your body. (De Ira III, 15: 3-4)

Seneca (and his wife Paulina) put these thoughts into action, calmly cutting their wrists at the order of his former pupil, the Emperor Nero.

The biblical mindset has a very different view of freedom. The Mishna (part of the tradition of the Oral Torah given to Moses, at Sinai, to accompany the written Torah) is not concerned with fate, and real freedom always exists in the human realm as the freedom to act righteously. However, the Mishna does not posit illusory freedom or choice in matters beyond human control. In this way, the rabbis are the polar opposites of the Stoics. Where the Stoics felt overwhelmed by necessity or fate in all things except in the time and manner of death, the rabbis argued that in such matters as death, there is in fact no choice. “Against your will you are born [. . .] against your will you will die, against your will you shall in the future give account before the King of Kings” (Mishna, Avot 4:29).

Judaism sees freedom as a central feature of its foundation stories, and the issue of control is resolved in a direct manner: freedom can only be achieved in accepting the realities of man’s relationship with God. This sets the stage for a striking psychological contrast. For Greeks and Romans, suicide represents a very high form of creativity, whereas in Judaism, life itself is the essence of creativity and suicide destroys this opportunity.

The rabbis accepted that God controls these matters of life and death. They felt no need to take these impossibly difficult decisions out of the hands of the one omnipotent and benevolent deity. And thus human beings gained the freedom to devote their attention wholly to those tasks which are peculiarly theirs—loving God and studying and fulfilling his commandments. The Mishna illustrates this relationship between freedom and devotion in its commentary on the creation of the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments were carved (harut) on stone, but the Mishna asks us to “Read not harut but herut (freedom). One is not free unless he devotes himself to study of the Torah,” (Mishna, Avot 6:2). Freedom here means freedom of the human spirit from fears and unhappy desires. When one is dominated by such fears and desires, there is not freedom but slavery. The Stoics seek freedom from the terror of death by choosing their own means of exit, whereas the Rabbinic Jews acknowledge God’s total power over birth, life, and death. In so doing, these Jews accept the responsibility of their freedom to make moral choices.

While talk of suicide fills the letters of Seneca and the writings of other classical philosophers, in Rabbinic thought, the choice between life and death is not one to mull over daily. Yet the Hebrew scriptures are clear that there is something to consider, “See I have put before you today life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life so that you and your seed shall live” (Deut. 30:19). The decisive choice is not whether or not to destroy one’s life but how best to live it in covenant with God.

Contrasting Views of Body and Soul

Second, the Greek and biblical views of suicide are characterized by contrasting views of the relationship between body and soul. Socrates, although not advocating suicide directly, makes it clear that the soul is imprisoned by the body, that philosophy is to be understood as preparation for death. And Plato suggests that the evil acts of the body pollute the soul, preventing it from achieving a complete and clean separation and returning to the world of Ideal Forms. Only the soul can perceive Ideal Truth, but it cannot do so as long as it must perceive Reality by use of the five bodily senses. Thus, for Plato the real attainment of truth can come only in the higher world, when souls can perceive directly without interference of the body:

For, if pure knowledge is impossible while the body is with us, one of two things must follow, either it cannot be acquired at all or only when we are dead; for then the soul will be by itself apart from the body, but not before. (Phaedo, 66e)

Biblical and Talmudic thought provide quite a different view of the relationship between body and soul. They suggest that body and soul should function together harmoniously, that the body supports the soul in their joint service of God, and there is no Platonic sense of the body dying in order to liberate the soul. Body and soul may be differentiated, but they need not be in conflict, as humans must keep their bodies both physically and morally clean.5

Hillel, the famous rabbi before the Common Era, described the soul as a guest in the body; the body should keep itself fit in order to offer hospitality to so distinguished a guest. To Hillel, the body was neither an evil to be repressed nor a bastion of heroism to be glorified by Olympic victories; both physical and spiritual activities were part of man’s obligation to God. And just as a king appoints someone to keep his statue clean, man, created in the divine image, must keep his body clean (Avot D’R Nathan, 2.33).

The contrasts between Greek and biblical views regarding the body-soul relationship are exemplified in the following passage, which contains a discussion between the Roman Emperor Antoninus (perhaps Marcus Aurelius) and Rabbi Judah the Prince, the man credited with composing the Mishna:

Antoninus said to the Rabbi: “The body and the soul can both free themselves from judgment. Thus, the body can plead: The soul has sinned, [the proof being] that from the day it left me I lie like a dumb stone in the grave [powerless to do aught]. Whilst the soul can say: The body has sinned, [the proof being] that from the day I departed from it I fly about in the air like a bird [and commit no sin].” He replied, “I will tell thee a parable. To what may this be compared? To a human king who owned a beautiful orchard which contained splendid figs. Now, he appointed two watchmen therein, one lame and the other blind. [One day] the lame man said to the blind, ‘I see beautiful figs in the orchard. Come and take me upon thy shoulder, that we may procure and eat them.’ So the lame bestrode the blind procured and ate them. Some time after, the owner of the orchard came and inquired of them, ‘Where are those beautiful figs?’ The lame man replied, ‘Have I then feet to walk with?’ The blind man replied, ‘Have I eyes to see with?’ What did he do? He placed the lame upon the blind and judged them together. So will the Holy One, blessed be He, bring the soul, [re]place it in the body, and judge them together, as it is written, He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people: He shall call to the heavens from above—this refers to the soul; and to the earth, that he may judge his people—to the body.” (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin, 91a–b)

As this text demonstrates, although later Talmudic thought differentiated the body and the soul, there is nothing of the complete disconnection that characterizes Platonic writings.

Contrasting Views of Self and Other

Third, a case-by-case analysis suggests that many of the Greek suicides mentioned above are unable to successfully integrate individuation (self) and attachment (other). The great sociologist and founder of suicidology Emil Durkheim distinguished among three types of suicides: egoistic suicides, which resulted from an isolation of self from society; altruistic suicides, which resulted from a lack of differentiation between self and society; and anomic suicides, which resulted from a confusion in boundaries between self and society.6

This typology can be applied directly to the sixteen suicides/self-mutilations in the tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides (see Table 1). Most of the Sophoclean suicides are egoistic, whereas most of the Euripidean suicides are altruistic. Consider, for example, the egoistic suicide of Ajax in Sophocles’s great play of the same name. Ajax has run amok because Achilles’s armor has been given to Odysseus. In a “frenzied” state and filled with “grievous wrath,” he attempts to murder Odysseus. He is prevented from doing so, however, by the goddess Athena, who guides him in his “ecstasy” to a herd of sheep upon which he wreaks great slaughter, believing it to contain both Odysseus and those who were responsible for Odysseus’s acquisition of the armor. Before long, the “ecstasy” passes and Ajax discovers himself amid the animals he has killed. The realization of what has happened has a devastating effect on him: he winces at the thought of Odysseus laughing over his plight. He will kill himself, he announces, “because his former glory is gone” (ll. 463-467).

In contrast to the generally egotistical and male-focused nature of the suicides in Sophocles’s plays, the majority of suicides in Euripides’s writings are of the altruistic, female-focused sort. Macaria, the daughter of Heracles, in The Heracleidae, provides an excellent example. Demophon, King of Athens, announces that a royal maiden must be sacrificed if the Athenians are to succeed in repelling the attacks of Heracles’s old enemy. When Macaria “ventures forth” to inquire into the trouble, she encounters her father’s old friend and companion who puts pressure on her, saying to her:

My daughter, ‘tis nothing new that I should praise thee, as I justly may, above all the children of Heracles. Our house seemed to be prospering, when back it fell again into a hopeless state, for the King declares the prophets signify that he must order the sacrifice, not of bull or heifer, but of some tender maid of noble lineage, if we and this city are to exist. Herein, is our perplexity, the King refuses either to sacrifice his own or any other’s child. Therefore, though he use not terms express, yet doth he hint, that unless we find some way out of this perplexity, we must seek some other land, for he in this country fair would save. (482-491)

It is the embedded quality of Macaria’s internalization of the group superego that classifies her suicide as altruistic.

Some of the most lethal suicides in Greek tragedy may actually fall into Durkheim’s anomic or conflicted category. Consider the examples of Sophocles’s Antigone (Antigone) and Euripides’s Phaedra (Hippolytus). Antigone buries her brother Polyneices, defying Creon’s edict, which was enforced by threat of death. Although she is often viewed as the most individuated and free of Greek heroines, she may also be considered enmeshed and de-individuated in that she has integrated her idealized sense of family and community to such an extent that her desire to bury her brother cannot be separated from her desire to die.

Phaedra is a second example of anomic suicide. Euripides’s play Hippolytus opens with Phaedra being consumed by her passion for the title character, the illegitimate son of her husband Theseus. At the same time, Phaedra shows an intense preoccupation throughout the drama with her honor or her self as she exists in the eyes of other people.

The Durkheimian terminology can be applied to suicidal behavior in the Hebrew Bible as well. Of the six suicides listed in Table 2, three (Ahitophel, Zimri, and Abimelech) can be classified as egoistic, and three (Samson, Saul, and Saul’s armor bearer) can be classified as altruistic. None, however, fit into Durkheim’s anomic category.

The story of Ahitophel represents a prime example of egoistic suicide in the Hebrew Bible (2 Sam. 17-23). One of several reasons, all of which are egoistic, seem to have prompted Ahitophel’s suicide. First, he knew that Absalom’s attempt to overthrow David was doomed, and he was destined to die a traitor’s death. Second, Ahitophel is disgusted with Absalom’s conduct in setting aside his counsel, thus wounding Ahitophel’s pride and disappointing his ambition. Finally, David’s curse may have further prompted Ahitophel to hang himself (Makkot 11a). Significantly, Ahitophel is listed in the Mishna (Sanhedrin X, 2) as among those who have forfeited their share in the world to come.

A good example of altruistic suicide is when Samson brings down the Philistine temple upon himself and his enemies, which is so vividly described in the book of Judges: “And he leaned on [the two pillars], and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein, so the dead that he slew at his death were more than he slew in life” (Ju. 16: 23-30).

What may be of even greater significance to this discussion is the number of suicide preventing (and life-promoting) narratives in the Hebrew Bible, which often involve characters in seemingly hopeless and desperate situations (see Table 3). Job, for example, in his afflictions expresses a clear wish for suicide (Job 7:15). Yet as we shall discuss, he does not commit suicide and indeed seems to maintain his faith: “Though he slay me, yet I will trust in Him” (Job 13:15). The prophet Elijah represents another example of suicide prevention. He expresses a wish to die but recovers his strength after being given food and drink and allowed to rest (I Kings 19:8). Finally, Moses, overwhelmed by burdens he was shouldering alone, expresses death wishes to God when he is in the desert (Nu. 11: 14-15). Once again, however, God successfully intervenes by offering Moses a chance to have his burdens shared (Nu. 11: 16-17).

Perhaps the quintessential suicide and suicide-prevention narratives in Greek mythology and the Hebrew scriptures, respectively, are the stories of Narcissus and Jonah. We present this comparison in Table 4 in an attempt to model what is suicide-promoting in Greek mythology and suicide-preventive in the Hebrew scriptures.

Let us start with the story of Narcissus, which is seldom thought of as a suicide story. Indeed, the term “narcissistic” is a popular term in modern psychology and psychiatry to describe a person who is very self-involved and cannot truly relate to others. In other words, narcissism refers to someone who is full of oneself. However, examination of the story of Narcissus illustrates a far more complex and lethal pattern—it is really a suicide story.

In both Ovid’s and Conon’s versions of the story, Narcissus moves from disengagement to enmeshment before dying in despair. Narcissus is the product of sexual violence, his mother Liriope having been raped by a river god. An oracle tells his mother he will live as long as he does not know himself.

In the first part of the narrative, Narcissus seems self-absorbed, treating his admirers of both sexes as mere extensions or mirrors of himself (Ovid, 3: 359-378). This trend becomes accentuated in his relationship with Echo who becomes a perfect mirror for Narcissus, reflecting back everything he says (3: 379-382). At this point, Narcissus is clearly egoistic in Durkheim’s terms (being insufficiently connected with his environment), but he is not yet suicidal.

The story continues. A rejected suitor prays that Narcissus will experience unrequited love (3: 405-406). Nemesis answers this prayer, causing Narcissus, for the first time, to fall hopelessly in love. He now idealizes a face in the pond, not realizing that it is his own reflection (3: 414-454). Narcissus is now altruistic in Durkheim’s terms (being insufficiently differentiated from his environment), but he is still not yet suicidal.

Ultimately, however, Narcissus recognizes the face in the brook as his own (3: 463-473). The reflection becomes simultaneously an ideal and a mirror. He is not self-invested, but self-empty, driven to grasp his self, which has now been projected onto the outside world. This psychotic juxtaposition rips Narcissus apart. As Ovid expressed it, “How I wish I could separate myself from my body.” This represents an extreme statement of what Durkheim refers to as anomic confusion in the boundaries between the self and the outside world, and it is suicidogenic. The story ends with Narcissus’s death, in one account killing himself by plunging a dagger into his chest (Conon, Narrations, 24), and in another, by pining away (Ovid, 3: 497-502).

The suicidogenic element in the myth of Narcissus is the inability of Narcissus to successfully integrate his individuation and attachment behaviors. First, he is individuated at the expense of attachment (egoistic). Then, he is attached at the expense of individuation (altruistic). And finally, he is overwhelmed by the irreconcilable confusion between his individuation and attachment issues (anomic), “resolving” the conflict through self-murder. Narcissus represents an extreme example of the inability to integrate one’s personal self and one’s social self; one can only be obtained at the expense of the other. Narcissus cannot be said to show any sort of healthy development; instead, he cycles back and forth and then self-destructs. This pattern is present throughout Greek tragedy, but the myth of Narcissus simply presents the dilemma in a highly lethal form.

Perhaps the quintessential suicide-prevention narrative in the Hebrew Bible is the story of Jonah. The story of Jonah is dramatically different from that of Narcissus, creating a structure whereby Jonah is able to integrate individuation and attachment. The story begins with Jonah in a terrible dilemma: God calls on him to warn the people of Nineveh regarding their wickedness, but Jonah does not want to go and instead runs away toward Tarshish (Jonah 1:1-3), neither arguing with God openly nor obeying him. Avoiding both altruistic and egoistic solutions, Jonah runs in anomic confusion, and when the great storm threatens the ship, he tells the sailors to throw him overboard (1:4-16).

The story could thus end in anomic suicide, but it doesn’t—God intervenes as a protective parent, having Jonah swallowed into the protective stomach of a great fish until he overcomes his confusion. Then the fish vomits him out on dry land (2:2-11).

This same pattern occurs later in the story as well. God again asks Jonah to go to Nineveh. This time Jonah goes and gives the people God’s message. They repent and God forgives them (3:1-10). While sitting outside the city, Jonah becomes angry and expresses the wish to die. Again, God intervenes, sheltering Jonah with a gourd from the burning sun. Then, after a worm destroys the protective gourd, Jonah once again expresses suicidal thoughts. And once more, God intervenes, this time engaging Jonah in a mature dialogue in a successful attempt to end his anomic confusion (4:1-11).

The suicide-preventive element in the story of Jonah is God’s covenantal intervention of providing a protective shield to allow Jonah to regress so that he can harmoniously reconcile his individuation-attachment dilemma. God teaches Jonah that these two alternatives are not contradictory, that the personal self and the social self need not be in contradiction to each other. His rejection of egoistic and altruistic resolutions need not lead to suicidal oscillation or to anomic suicide. A covenantal shield is provided that allows Jonah time to work out his boundary confusion at his own pace. Unlike Narcissus, Jonah does not simply oscillate or cycle between polarized alternatives, but moves ahead on a healthy developmental axis. This development sometimes necessitates a temporary regression, which requires protection as it leaves the individual very vulnerable. However, receiving proper time and protection, Jonah successfully integrates individuation and attachment, and he learns to attach to others as he comes to know himself.

In the Bible, God provides this kind of shield in many ways: with a fish and gourd (Jonah), with trustworthiness (Job), and with food and drink (Elijah). In the modern world, parental understanding, therapeutic containment, and psychiatric care may play the same shielding function, protecting confused individuals from irreconcilable individuation-attachment pressures and allowing them to regress to a more simple pattern so that they can properly work through their individuation-attachment dilemma.

Contrasting Views of Hope, Prayer, and the Possibility of Repentance

Perhaps the most important facet of the suicide-preventive power of the biblical tradition is that it provides a sense of hope, a realistic expectation that people can indeed change. “Even if a sword’s edge lies on a man’s neck, he should not hold himself back from prayer,” says the Babylonain Talmud (Berachot 10a). Greek characters, in contrast, are caught in a deterministic tragic trap. They are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t: “Pray thou no more; for mortals have no escape from destined woe” (Sophocles, Antigone, l. 1336). While the biblical person can repent (teshuvah), the Greek person only seems to oscillate back and forth, showing a cognitive change (metanoia) without going to the heart of the problem. The narratives of Zeno and Job are instructive in this regard.

According to the ancient Greek writer Diogenes Laertius, Zeno, the founder of the Stoic school of philosophy, wrenched his toe on the way home from lecturing at the Stoa and subsequently voluntarily held his breath until he died (Diogenes Laertius, 7.28). Leaving aside the question of whether it is possible to commit suicide in this manner, the story raises several questions, especially in contrast to the behavior of the biblical figure of Job

Job does not commit suicide despite being assailed by far more serious misfortunes. He is struck by the loss of his great wealth, the deaths of all of his children, and the affliction of sores all over his body, to name a few. His wife even urges him to blaspheme God and die. Still, in the midst of such suffering, Job reaffirms his faith in and relationship with his creator: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither; The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 2:21); “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job, 13.15).

Why should Zeno kill himself after so seemingly minor an annoyance as wrenching his toe, whereas Job is able to withstand much greater stressors?

Understanding Zeno’s actions requires a close examination of the Stoic school of thought regarding suicide. Suicide must not be undertaken frivolously, “but if he (god) gives the signal to retreat as he did to Socrates, I must obey him who gives the signal, as I would a general” (Epictetus, Discourses, 1.29.29). In this quote, the contemporary writers Droge and Tabor7 find a precedent for “rational suicide,” on which they base their justification for physician-assisted suicide (PAS). According to this philosophy, voluntary suicide is condoned when it is necessary (anangke) and rational; it is condemned when it is irrational. A rational suicide is preceded by an apparently divine signal that the time to die is at hand. In other words, Zeno killed himself by holding his breath, not because he broke his toe, nor because he was in pain, nor even because he was depressed, but because he believed that the event of stubbing his toe represented the divine signal to depart.8

But this only begs the question. Why did Zeno interpret stubbing his toe as a signal from the gods to depart? Droge and Tabor may be correct in citing Zeno’s actions as a precedent for rational suicide. However, they may not be focusing on what is rational in Zeno’s act. Zeno’s rationality lies not in his interpretation that stubbing his toe represents a sign from the gods that he should depart, but rather in his need for the events in his life to have meaning. Zeno, aging and lonely, was vulnerable to wishing that the act of stubbing his toe had cosmic meaning. Zeno becomes a hero, even if he dies in the process. The inherent rationality of this belief is not that stubbing a toe is a sign to depart, but that it is better to have a world in which one’s actions are given meaning, even destructive meaning, than a world in which one’s actions have no meaning. In the absence of a religious system that gives life meaning, Zeno is cast adrift, over-interpreting events in an attempt to feel less adrift and isolated.

Job, in contrast, is anchored in a sense of a personal Creator who is with him from the moment of his birth and will be with him into his death and beyond. Thus, he can withstand far greater misfortune than can Zeno, without the need to attribute cosmic meaning to his misfortunes. This does not make Job less rational, but simply anchors his interpretive structure in his desire to live. Job’s God gives and takes away life but does not give signals that it is time for Job to depart. Job is not obsessed with death, nor does he need to control it, nor does he need to worry that it is timely. Job thus does not interpret each event as a signal to exit, but as a challenge to live the life that has been given to him in dignity.9 Life, for Job, has inherent meaning and purpose, and this represents the best alternative and antidote to the obsession of death with dignity and rational suicide that is so endemic to Zeno the Stoic and to contemporary culture.

The reluctance to mix religion and psychology is understandable in the context of a liberal democratic society with its insistence on the separation of church and state. However, contemporary psychology and psychotherapy have implicitly reflected much of the Greek value structure that we have discussed in this essay; we have even used the suicidal pathology implicit in Greek stories in an attempt to cure people, which can perhaps be likened to giving patients influenza medicine in a glass that has already been contaminated by the virus.10

Instead, we advocate an uncontaminated glass. As our examination of the Greek and biblical perspectives of suicide illustrates, it is time for a biblical psychology. It is time for a view of the human person, health, process of change, and of course, suicide prevention that, because it is informed by the scriptural rather than the Greek tradition, is holistic, life-affirming, and includes the possibility of repentance.11

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1. The Hebrew scriptures, or the Tanach, consist of the Torah or Pentateuch, the Neviim or Prophets, and the Ketuvim or Writings. In the Christian tradition, the Hebrew scriptures are known as the Old Testament. Unless other wise noted, all scripture references are from The Holy Scriptures (Philadelphia, PA: the Jewish Publication Society of America, 1955).

2. See K. J. Kaplan and M. W. Schwartz, Jewish Approaches to Suicide, Martyrdom and Euthanasia (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1998).

3. See M. D. Faber, Suicide and Greek Tragedy (New York, NY: Sphinx Press, 1971).

4. See K. J. Kaplan, M. W. Schwartz, and M. Markus-Kaplan, The Family: Biblical and Psychological Foundations (New York, NY: Human Sciences Press, 1984); Kaplan and Schwartz, A Psychology of Hope: An Antidote to the Suicidal Pathology of Western Civilization (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1993); and Kaplan and Schwartz, A Psychology of Hope: A Biblical Response to Tragedy and Suicide (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008).

5. See A. Buchler, Types of Jewish-Palestinian Piety from 70 B.C.E. to 70 C.E. (London, UK: Jews’ College, Publication #8), 14-20.

6. See E. Durkheim, Suicide, trans. A. J. Spaulding and G. Simpson (New York, NY: The Free Press, 1951 [1897]).

7.  See A. J. Droge and J. D. Tabor, A Noble Death: Suicide and Martyrdom Among Christians and Jews in Antiquity (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1992), 29-39.

8. Ibid., 31.

9. See K. J. Kaplan, L. Ficker, N. Dodge, K. Thiel, M. Folk, I. Wallrabenstein, and P. G. Laird, “Why does Zeno the Stoic hold his breath? ‘Zenoism’ as a new variable for studying suicide,” Omega: The Journal of Death and Dying 56 (2008): 369-400.

10.  See B. Simon, Mind and Madness in Ancient Greece: The Classical Roots of Modern Psychiatry (Ithica, NY: Cornell University Press, 1978).

11. The senior author, Dr. Kalman Kaplan, has developed an online program that uses a biblical approach to mental health (i.e., biblical psychology). It is housed at the University of Illinois College of Medicine ( and is sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation.