The Book of "Job"

The Book of "Job": A Biography

Mark Larrimore
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    The Book of "Job"
    Book Description:

    The Book of Job raises stark questions about the nature and meaning of innocent suffering and the relationship of the human to the divine, yet it is also one of the Bible's most obscure and paradoxical books, one that defies interpretation even today. Mark Larrimore provides a panoramic history of this remarkable book, traversing centuries and traditions to examine how Job's trials and his challenge to God have been used and understood in diverse contexts, from commentary and liturgy to philosophy and art.

    Larrimore traces Job's obscure origins and his reception and use in the Midrash, burial liturgies, and folklore, and by figures such as Gregory the Great, Maimonides, John Calvin, Immanuel Kant, William Blake, Margarete Susman, and Elie Wiesel. He chronicles the many ways the Book of Job's interpreters have linked it to other biblical texts; to legends, allegory, and negative and positive theologies; as well as to their own individual and collective experiences. Larrimore revives old questions and provides illuminating new contexts for contemporary ones. Was Job a Jew or a gentile? Was his story history or fable? What is meant by the "patience of Job," and does Job exhibit it? Why does God speak yet not engage Job's questions?

    Offering rare insights into this iconic and enduring book, Larrimore reveals how Job has come to be viewed as the Bible's answer to the problem of evil and the perennial question of why a God who supposedly loves justice permits bad things to happen to good people.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4801-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    The book of Job tells of a wealthy and virtuous man in an unfamiliar land in the East. His virtue is so great that God points him out to hassatan—literally the satan, “the adversary,” a sort of prosecuting attorney in the divine court, who, whether by temperament or profession, is skeptical regarding the possibility of genuine human piety. (This is not the Satan with a capital S of later scriptural works and related lore and legend, although the two are soon identified.) This adversary argues that Job’s piety is only the result of divine favor. If God stripped him...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Job in the Ancient Interpreters
    (pp. 25-77)

    As modern readers informed by Enlightenment presuppositions and decades of historical critical scholarship, we think we know what the book of Job is and how to approach it. Like any other book, we assume it must be a fixed text with a beginning, middle, and end. We take for granted that it was written at a particular time by a particular person. We might (or might not) also ask for what purpose it was written. Knowing this is enough for us to know what the book is about, and to judge later interpretations and adaptations. We praise as legitimate those...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Job in Disputation
    (pp. 78-115)

    The proliferation of stories swirling around Job described in the last chapter may give us pause. The eagerness to retell the story seems to suggest a reluctance to let it tell itself and a refusal even to acknowledge its central challenge. Why does God permit an innocent and virtuous man like Job to suffer? Reasons have been proposed—battling for God against Satan, testing, purification—but we may still think them unconvincing. Is it all for Job’s benefit? Must so many others suffer that he might learn? And is suffering the only way these lessons can be learned? God seems...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Job Enacted
    (pp. 116-153)

    It is sometimes claimed that only the modern age has had the courage to hear Job’s voice, while pre-modern interpreters either tuned out his inspired rants and pleas, or construed them as expressions of weakness, vice, or pain-induced madness. We have seen a fair amount of such reframing, although we have found that most of it attends closely to Job’s words and in fact validates Job’s discovery that this world doesn’t make moral sense. In this chapter we will see that Job’s voice was one of the best known of biblical voices. If in philosophical readings Job’s questions are somehow...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Job in Theodicy
    (pp. 154-194)

    Religious rivalry and secularization have undermined the authority of scripture, tradition, and liturgy in the modern West. As a result, new concerns—theodicy (the problem of evil), ethics, and individual religious experience—have taken center stage in the practice and the theory of religion. The book of Job, from its beginnings something of an outsider to biblical traditions, played a decisive part in the unfolding of each of these new emphases, providing crucial templates and examples. Job legitimated critics of religion as well as its defenders. It was a book of the Bible, however, so even as it resonated with...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Job in Exile
    (pp. 195-239)

    Thus far I have made a point of talking about the book of Job as a unified text. This is the way every book of the Bible was understood until modern historical critical scholarship changed our understanding of scripture. Earlier interpreters noticed oddities and tensions that we now attribute to multiple or even competing authorships, but that interpretive option was not open to them. The legacy of the ancient interpreters who made the Bible the Bible continued to inform these readings, whether one was a member of an interpretive community that worked hard to excise even the appearance of ambiguity,...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 240-248)

    We have seen the book of Job studied, prayed, and performed. We have seen Job’s story supplemented, his words turned, and even turned inside-out. He has been a gentile, a Jew, a fable, a task. He has been tested and judged, as has his God. Both may have grown in the encounter. His story has been that of the exceptional friend of God, of the proud, the humble, the virtuous, and finally of every person suffering inhuman ordeals. His travails have been thought to show the justice of God and its opposite, a learning, an unlearning, a capitulation, a protest....

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 249-268)
    (pp. 269-272)
    (pp. 273-286)