The Bible, the Torah and the Koran document stories to teach and guide followers. Given our understanding about neurodiversity today, were any of the characters autistic? Samuel Levine wanted to find out. His analysis of religious texts provides an interesting view of neurodiversity, and so he asks, “Was Joseph on the spectrum?”
Levine’s thoughts about Joseph are outlined on the Different Brains website. He claims that:
“Joseph’s behaviors, interpersonal relationships, personal journey, and development are often difficult to understand. At times, they even seem to defy explanation as he faces concomitant and interconnected challenges, opportunities, and experiences, often at once, both surprising success and unexpected failure.
Over the years, I have read the biblical story of Joseph numerous times, and I have studied the text through the prism of the works of classical Jewish commentators, spanning thousands of years and geographical locations across the world.”
Levine describes some of Joseph’s behaviours in reaching his conclusion. He claims there are lessons we can learn from Joseph’s experiences. The key lesson is that with the right supports individuals can achieve their goals and exercise their talents.
The article on the Different Brains website is an introduction to Levine’s book. The full title is, Was Yosef on the Spectrum: Understanding Joseph Through Tora, Midrash, and Classical Jewish Sources.
You can read a full review of Levine’s book by Majia Nadesan, Arizona State University.