Wow, Job (RJS)

I was inspired earlier this year to listen to the whole Bible straight through – inspired by the example of some of the regular readers and commenters on this blog. In the course of this project (as of today I am about 3/4 of the way through a second pass) I have learned quite a lot. After many decades in the church, there was very little that was unfamiliar. I think this is the first time I’ve had the patience for all of 1 Chronicles – even the interminable lists. And it is probably the first time I’ve heard some portions of the minor prophets. But by and large the material was familiar. I know the stories and the people. The surprise was in the context provided by this birds-eye view. Little bits and pieces, out of context and rearranged, simply do not do justice to the whole sweep of scripture.

As a consequence of this project I have listened to the book of Job not once, but three times through. After the second I had to stop and listen again, with more careful attention. The book of Job strikes me as probably one of the most significant, misunderstood, and under appreciated books in the entire Bible. I am far from an expert on Job – but in a coincidence of timing two new commentaries on the book of Job were published just this last August. The first is by Tremper Longman III Job (Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms) and the second is by John Walton Job (The NIV Application Commentary). Over the course of the next many weeks I intend to post about once a week on the book of Job using both of these commentaries, along with a few others I’ve gotten from the library including Job (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture), as source material. How long this series will go depends on the interest level, both mine and that of the readers of this blog.

Have you read the book of Job lately?

What message should we as Christians take from this book?

Longman introduces his commentary of Job in the series preface (he is also the series editor) with the following observation:

Job is a difficult book from start (translating its obscure Hebrew vocabulary) to finish (understanding its place in the canon), but it is also a profound exploration of wisdom and suffering. (p. 13)

Job is a profound exploration of wisdom and suffering. But beyond this the book of Job also provides insight into the nature of God, the nature of Creation, the nature of man, and the interaction of God with his creation and his creatures. Its place in the canon, handed down by the church through the Spirit, makes it an important book in any orthodox discussion of a number of issues at play in the discussion of the intersection of science and the Christian faith.  Because no one really looks to the book of Job to find concord between science and faith it provides an opportunity to look at scripture directly, without the historical and cultural baggage attached to some of the others texts. My primary purpose in this series, however, is not to find rapport between science and the Christian faith, but to better understand the book of Job, its message, and its role in the canon.

The Genre of Job. Both Walton and Longman begin their commentaries with a discussion of the form and genre of Job. The book of Job is a highly literary text, consisting of prose and poetry. It is, Longman tells us, “a poetical book framed by a prose narrative.” The book of Job is wisdom literature, carefully structured to make a philosophical or more precisely, a theological point. Some of the structure, like some of the language, is obscured by the passage of time. This is an old book, and it uses language and grammar that is uncommon. Longman points out that Job has a higher percentage of rare words than any other OT book except Song of Songs. This, along with the peculiar grammar in the poetry, presents special challenges to any modern translator or interpreter.

And of course both Longman and Walton address the question sure to come up in any evangelical audience. Did Job really exist? Is the book of Job about the real suffering of a historical figure? Both Walton and Longman note that it is not possible to know for sure, and both emphasize that it does not matter.  The book is true whether Job is a literary figure or the book has a historical figure known for his response to suffering behind the story. Walton seems the more likely to think that there was a historical on whom Job is based, Longman finds it highly unlikely that Job was a historical person. But more importantly neither Walton nor Longman find the significance  of the book in the historicity of Job.

The book is not about Job. I doubt that can be emphasized too strongly. The book of Job is wisdom literature.  John Walton puts it like this:

In approaching this question, we must keep foremost in our mind that this book is manifestly and unarguably in the genre category of wisdom literature, not historical literature. As wisdom literature it makes no claims about the nature of the events. In that sense the discussion about whether the events are real events is misplaced. A second understanding that is important is that as wisdom literature, this book would easily fit into the classification “thought experiment.” In such a case the author is using the various parts of the book to pose a philosophical scenario that will be used to address the wisdom themes as we have articulated them above.  … we would be mistaken to think that the author seeks to unfold a series of historical events. It is wisdom literature. (p. 26)

The author of Job may have used a real historical antecedent to frame the story he wishes to tell and the points he wants to make, but that is an unimportant detail.  It simply doesn’t matter. The book is about God and the way that God works in the world. It is about God’s creation, the nature of God’s creation, and the appropriate response of mankind to God.

Does it matter if Job is a historical character?

Does Job as “thought experiment” detract from its power as inspired scripture?

If you would like to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net.

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  • phil_style

    Yes, Job is an interesting book.
    I personally think the book is great, until God speaks at the end!

    The interplay between Job and his “friends” is wonderful. Job is clearly scapegoated by his friends. http://girardianlectionary.net/res/job_girard.htm They have to find a reason for his suffering “Any sufferer could not suffer except for a good reason in a universe governed by divine justice”. Their only viable option is Job himself. Of course, it never occurs to them that maybe the suffering is completely meaningless or purposeless.

    I find God’s response to be completely unfair, and borderline ridiculous. Firstly, God could have told Job that actually the suffering had been caused as a result of his strange “wager” with the accuser. But Gods basically just tells Job to not conern himself with it, because God knows more about the universe than Job does.

    As a modern, knowing that none of God’s reasons would now stack up – after all we do know where the storehouse of rain is (the evaporation and condensation water cycle) and we can answer most of the apparently dumbfounding questions that God rhetorically asks Job to show up his intellectual inferiority. How do we now respond to a God who tries to use superior knowledge to hold sway over our suffering and/or comfort? How does the God in the final chapters of Job mesh with the God incarnate who entered into that suffering himself?

    More from the link I posted above: [the ending of Job] “does not succeed in defining the God in question and speaking of him as the Gospels will speak . It takes refuge in the unfathomable and incomprehensible character of the deity”

  • Peter

    Just read Job for the umpteenth time in the course of regular reading. More wonderful this time than any prior time. No, it does not matter if there actually was a man named Job. Not sure if it was from Jesus Creed’s rec or not, but I remember a book called “At the Scent of Water, The Ground of Hope in the Book of Job.” Wonderful thoughts from an author who’s “been there and back again.” I will try to follow your discussion of Job. I’m excited that you’re doing this.
    Thanks.

  • RJS

    phil_style,

    I don’t exactly agree, but this will be a great discussion when we get to that part of the book and can look at both the text of God’s response and the view of the various commentaries.

    We will also get to the “wager” – but the scene in heaven is a way to set up the literary context of the dialog. John Walton, just after the quote I have in the post, notes:

    The scene in heaven is not trying to explain why Job or any of us suffer. Job is never told about that scene, nor would he have derived any comfort from it. … The scene in heaven, like the speeches of Job’s friends, is part of the literary design of a thought experiment to generate discussion about how God runs the cosmos; it is not about trying to explain how Job got into such a difficult situation. (p. 27)

    The point is not in the details of ancient cosmology or geography either. The details of storehouses in the sky and Leviathan to name a couple are incidental to the message of the book.

  • Kel

    RJS,

    I recommend picking up Robert Alter’s translation/literary analysis/commentary on the Wisdom Books as well–great for Job and it is somewhat cheaply available in paperback now. http://www.amazon.com/The-Wisdom-Books-Ecclesiastes-Translation/dp/0393340538/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351168090&sr=8-1&keywords=robert+alter+wisdom

    My chief complaint when it comes to Job has nothing to do with the book itself, but how many preachers use it. I’ve heard Rick Warren make points from Job, using the speech of Job’s friends/accusers. If, in the end, God finds fault with what they said, how can preachers use their speech to prove the preacher’s point?

    I look forward to your posts over the next several weeks.

  • http://krusekrinicle.com Michael W. Kruse

    Just before reading your post this morning I came across this quote:

    “Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.” — Pablo Picasso.

    I think there are many such “lies” in the Bible. ;-)

  • http://www.mannsword.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    If you want to question the historicity of Job, I would think that you would need some evidence, especially in view of the fact that later Biblical commentary regards Job as an actual historical figure:

    • James 5:11: As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (also Ezekiel 14:14, 20).

    If Job was a fictional invention, then James is wrong. He uses the account of Job to prove that “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” You can’t do this with fiction or allegory.

    In order to be consistent, you, Longman, and Walton must also acknowledge that James was wrong. However, by concluding this, you are, by implication, claiming to be right, while James is wrong. A little hard evidence might strengthen your case.

  • Rick

    Michael Kruse-

    “I think there are many such “lies” in the Bible”

    I am not advocating that Job was real (though Daniel Mann brings up a good point), but where do we draw the line? When does the God that we thought acted in history become just a story teller?

  • http://www.mannsword.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    Phil_Style,

    You observe that the Book of Job “takes refuge in the unfathomable and incomprehensible character of the deity.”

    Although you are right, I think that it also takes refuge in our own human limitations to grasp the meaning of what we are enduring. Job tells me that there are some things that I will not understand at this moment; nor should I demand an explanation for them. Instead, my refuge has to be in God Himself, and what He has already shown me about Himself.

  • http://www.mannsword.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    Michael,

    If we take the Bible seriously, we have to allow the Bible itself to interpretively guide us.

  • Kel

    Daniel,

    Could there be something about the first-century Jewish mindset that allowed for teaching truth from fiction (Jesus’ parables come to mind)? Our 21st century western post-Enlightenment view of truth doesn’t seem to allow for it, but do you think it is possible that James and Jesus and Paul thought differently when it came to Job, Adam, Eve, Noah, etc. than we do?

  • http://anderslundblad.blogspot.com Anders Lundblad

    What message should we as Christians take from this book?

    Well, I’ve been thinking lately of Job and his wife. Whereas she says, kind of: “Let’s just forget about God, or curse him, or whatever, there’s no use anyway. Go ahead and die. Don’t waste your time asking questions.” – Job, on the other hand, also accuses God, – but in the process he is not withdrawing himself from God. He’s engaging with God. Drawing closer to God, even in his angered frustration and with his boatloads of questions.

    This is such a liberating thought. As long as my face is turned towards God, I’m OK. No accusation is too big. No doubt is to deep. God can handle it all, and He’s able to answer me. Job’s wife was honest – her response was in many ways proper, but at the same time it was foolish. (Help me Lord, not to be a fool in the midst of trial.) It’s about keeping a vivid, honest conversation with God alive (even if at times it feels like a monologue).

  • scotmcknight

    Daniel, you’ve assumed your conclusion and then tossed barbs at RJS and others. In fact, there is no reason when James said “Job” he didn’t mean “the Job in the book of Job” and that then could mean “historical person” or “literary figure.” The fact is that James does not say Job was a historical figure; you must assume that for your view to be right. I’m not saying Job was not a historical figure; I’m saying a piece of fiction — take the parables of Jesus, take the pastor in Marilynne Robinson’s book — reads as reality and if the author doesn’t tell us “this is fiction by the way,” we won’t know. Job could be that kind of fiction. I use Aslan and Gollum as “real figures” all the time and my audience and I know they are fictional, but I don’t say that.

  • phil_style

    @Daniel Mann “Although you are right, I think that it also takes refuge in our own human limitations to grasp the meaning of what we are enduring.”

    And this is why God’s excuse becomes lame over time. God cannot continue to rely on our lack of knowledge, particularly when the answers he uses to demonstrate this lack of knowledge are no longer valid (we know where the rain comes from, how to make more of it, how to make less of it etc). Sooner or later, God is going to run out of unfathomables. What then?

  • http://krusekronicle.com Michael W. Kruse

    #7 Rick, #8 Daniel

    C. S. Lewis wrote “Mere Christianity” and “The Screwtape Letters.” The preface to Screwtape (and I’m talking about the original publication, not later editions where prefaces by others were added later) opens with ““I have no intention of explaining how the correspondence which I now offer to the public fell into my hands. …” From that point to the end of the book there is not one mention that this is a work of fiction. Was “The Screwtape Letters” an account of historical events? It is presented as such. If not, why would we say it isn’t? Does saying that the “The Screwtape Letters” was fiction call into question the validity of what was written in “Mere Christianity”?

  • Kel

    Anders, I believe you are proclaiming what the psalmist also proclaimed.

    “I believed even when I spoke,
    ‘I am greatly afflicted.’”

    Psalm 116:10

    I take Job’s complaints and struggles in the same vein.

  • CGC

    Wow RJS,
    This is so timely as I am working through the book of Job with a series through the Bible. Job is so powerful with its focus not on a solution to the problem of pain and suffering but the focus on the sovereignty of God. I still cannot get over Job’s first response with all the tragedy is to worship God (that challenges me at so many levels!). Job is also a very pastoral book that corrects many right sounding pleatitudes as well as what not to say to people who are hurting or have gone through a tragedy. In the end, Job did not want intellectual answers to why he was suffering. What he could not stand and desired most of all was simply God! When God showed up, that was enough!

  • Rick

    Michael Kruse #14-

    But we don’t have a theology based on the author of the Screwtape Letters (Lewis) working in history. We do have a theology based on the divine author of Scripture(s) working in history. He is not just a storyteller. Again, I don’t have a big concern on whether Job was historical or not, but we do need to be careful about writing off too much history to just story (“lies”) .

  • phil_style

    On a wider note; Job presents so many theological questions. I inkth the book is, in part, an indictment of some pre-existing theologies of it’s time.

    How bizarre is this comment from Job: “shall we receive good from God and shall not receive evil?”
    This is a great observation from Job. If God is responsible for everything, why do we credit him only with the good, and not the suffering? Job is having a dig at ill-conceived theology here. How politically poignant is this, even in the 21st century!?

    But;
    Did god not endorse, permit the deaths of Job’s 10 children?
    How do we theologise their silent suffering at the hands of this little play between God, the Accuser and Job? Is it really enough to just say that God has his reasons? Why then, if God’s reasons are inscrutable, do Christians often have to offer up backhanded consolations and rationalisations on God’s behalf (such as justification for the “genocides” in the book of Joshua).

    I think Job is getting at this – and I think God confirms it to him at the end by both repudiating Jobs friends and by basicallt telling job that suffering is God’s prerogative. If God really is “sovereign”, then God really is to blame for suffering. I think that’s the conclusion that both job and God arrive at in the book.

  • MatthewS

    Part of the draw of Job is that it’s about the problem of pain and evil, something we can all identify with. It doesn’t turn on some miraculous intervention that changed everything (the walls falling down or 300 men defeating thousands, for example). There is a Babylonian theodicy that rings some similar notes; The Brothers Karamazov wrestles with problems of pain and evil. We don’t need those stories to be literal accounts for them to ring true. It’s the underlying struggle that resonates regardless of the particular veneer of an individual account.

    I think it’s sad that many people live with a version of Christianity that is closer to Job’s comforters than the reality of what Job himself presented. If I were God, I’m not sure I would preserve some of the Psalms and the book of Job to help people sharpen their complaints against me! But God is not defensive, nor impassive, nor uncaring, just as much as he is not mechanistic and able to be leveraged in removing all pain and problems, even from the righteous person’s life.

  • http://krusekronicle.com Michael W. Kruse

    Rick #17

    God did not “author” the Bible. Take Luke for example. Here is the opening:

    “1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled[a] among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”

    All the books of the Bible are written by human beings using the rich diversity of idioms and genres that were a part of their culture. The books of the Bible became authoritative, not because of their definitive authorship or their precise fidelity to historical facts, but because the people of the community of God, led by Spirit, came to see them as authoritative witnesses to the truth of God and God’s work.

    Human beings use multiple genres to communicate truth. And that brings us back to my question in #14: How do you know when an author is using one genre or another? What I think I hear you saying is that we should assume everything is a precise historical recounting unless there is incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, otherwise we risk diminishing the Bible. That is a framing we bring from outside the Bible that the Bible does not demand for itself. Can you imagine the dismay C. S. Lewis would have had to see people read Screwtape and think it was historical reporting? Do we risk diminishing the witness to God’s truth by treating non-historical genres as historical?

  • MatthewS

    I read Job some years ago when going through a difficult time. It became a page-turner for me, literally, as Job presents his questions to God. I was saying “yeah, yeah, how ABOUT that God?”

    For whatever reason, the clouds parted at Job 39:1
    Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
    Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?
    2 Do you count the months till they bear?
    Do you know the time they give birth?
    3 They crouch down and bring forth their young;
    their labor pains are ended.
    4 Their young thrive and grow strong in the wilds;
    they leave and do not return.

    Something about the whole “circle of life” that goes on and has been going on, and we don’t even know all the creatures out there. They have somehow managed, without our help or knowledge, to eat, attract a mate, bear young, and move along. Generation after generation they have done this. God did this and it’s his handiwork.

    None of that answers a blooming thing about some of life’s hardest questions, but somehow, I find great comfort in that. I don’t fully understand why. Maybe there is an ironic comfort in being reminded that while I am significant I am but a very small piece of a very large organic whole, and the whole thing has been under God’s purview since the beginning of time.

  • Rick

    Michael Kruse-

    I agree with you about authorship. I was simply trying to be brief and refer to just the inspirational aspect.

    Likewise, I am not advocating that “everying is a precise historical recounting”. However, the historical aspect is a key element to how God revealed Himself (the Incarnation and Resurrection the ultimate examples). And yes, genre is crucial to this conversation. Lewis would want us to read Screwtape differently than Mere Christianity.

    My concern is that we too easily jump to the “story” answer when we are uncertain. For example, some want to do that with the Exodus.

  • CGC

    Wow, great discussion. Okay, here are a few replies to many things here:

    1. The book of Job is true whether Job was a historical character or not.

    2. I love the point RJS that the book of Job is not really about Job but God. Another fascinationg book of the Bible is the book of Esther. The word “God” is not even used in this book but God seems to be there behind every scene in the story for those who have eyes to see.

    3. In regards to a tendency of people to view the book of Job as possibly rediculous or absurd. Again, perspective is everything and one man’s treasure is another man’s junk but I am concerned that we miss beauty, mystery, and wonder in the Bible. It’s like moderns can not appreciate art, dance, or poetry. We just don’t get it. We look at a pointing finger in a picture and think its meaningless without even looking at what the pointing finger is pointing towards. Like some of the skeptics of today, ‘God is not that great’ and he does not meet up to our standards. We end up like Job questioning the Creator and would rather not have the Creator question us.

    4. I believe also the Job narrative was based off of a real historical person but I sure don’t see why the conversation of Job’s friends means we must conclude they were real people who actually had this conversation as if there was somebody taking notes on this debate between Job and his friends. The whole book is kind of like a contrast between the wisdom of people in ancient times and the wisdom of God. There is a heavenly court and then there is like this testimony that goes back and forth like people are taking turns giving evidence for further examination in a trial. Wisdom literature relies heavily on figurative and poetic narrative and the whole book is a literary vehicle to teach us some important truths about God, man, and creation.

    5. Daniel, I read your latest web article connecting evolution to denying miracles and the historicity of the Bible. Some people may do this but you ironically seem to be doing what the Book of Job says not to do whereas Job friends correlate a one to one equation with sin and suffering, you do it with evolution and denying the miraculous and historicity of the Bible. The earliest Christians interpreted the Bible allegorically and they did not believe in evolution. The early Jewish Rabbinic literature used Midrash and did not believe in evolution. I take Job as a historical person and I believe in evolution! I also think there is a danger for biblical literalists to take the Bible historically and be theological theists when it comes to miracles and truth but are practical deists when it comes to experiencing and living in the precence and power of God personally. The question I have for you Daniel is not whether you believe in evolution or not but do you live in the presence and power and faithfulness of God like Job or are you just giving intellectual arguments and mental agreement to doctrine and beliefs?

    6. On the issue of God’s sovereignty and God’s responsibility in Job’s suffering and plight, I think we can read it in some harsh Calvinistic ways which is not how the book ends (I am thinking for example of John Piper and even a politican who said crazy remarks this week about pregnancy and rape). The irony for me is Jews have this fierce view of God’s sovereignty (which many don’t today) while not blaming God for the evil and suffering in the world. We tend to have a smaller view of God and then some want to lay bad things of this world at God’s feet as “God’s will” or God’s responsibility. Again, we not only misunderstand God but do we get the point of what the book of Job is actually making.

  • http://krusekronicle.com Michael W. Kruse

    #22

    “My concern is that we too easily jump to the “story” answer when we are uncertain. ”

    Fair enough and I see this often as well.

  • Alan K

    Phil,

    Are you not saying the same complaints that Job listed in his dialogues? Job makes the perfect modern person by brandishing his rational scalpel trying to cut out his pain. But God does not address Job from the seminar room but from the whirlwind–from that we might judge as irrational. From chapters 38-41 it is clear that God demonstrates his freedom–freedom to not answer Job or us on our rational terms. Job’s response is one where he recognizes his own incompetence to be the judge of the independence of the cosmos and of the freedom of God. And is it not that particular freedom of God from which the incarnation springs?

  • CGC

    Wow Alan,
    Some of the responses on this list amaze me in a profound way. Thanks Alan!

  • phil_style

    @ Alan K “Are you not saying the same complaints that Job listed in his dialogues?”

    But, in the text it is God who confirms Job’s complaint. At no point does God reverse Job’s opinion that He was responsible for the suffering. God just puts a reason on it that is outside of Job’s reach. At no point does God comment on the senselessness of suffering or violence. At no point does God join Job in his suffering. The god of that theology is wholly without, job a kind of puppet and Job’s obedience (thus God’s honor before the accuser) the only prize at stake.

    The whole book/ theater is a critique of that theology, precisely BECAUSE the outcome is absurd. It’s like a Greek tragedy.

    An alternative reading might be to see the whole story as an attempted repudiation of scapegoat religion – that “suffering is deserved”. However, it fails at the last minute to truly declare (1) Job’s innocence, and (2) God as the defender of the sufferer (rather than the manipulator or cause). The whole concept is revisited in greater clarity in Isaiah 53.

  • CGC

    Hi Phil,
    Whether God declared Job innocent to your satisfaction or not, I’ll take God’s “acceptance” of Job and restoration from God at the end (whether God says I am innocent or not?). Nor am I sure what you are really wanting in God “defending” the sufferer? God seems to decide with Job rather than his friends and calls Job “My Servant.” I’d rather be a defenseless sufferer if God is going make me his in the end. God doesn’t even come to Jesus defense when he was suffering but God does vindicate him by the Resurrection!

  • RJS

    Kel (#4),

    Thanks, I may try to pick up a copy of Alter’s translation. It is supposed to be in the library here, but is missing from the shelf. The preview on Amazon is intriguing.

    I plan to keep an open mind working through this with the commentaries – my first impressions probably contain some truth and some misunderstanding. But one of the things that struck me when listening to the book is that within evangelicalism Job seems to exist for two reasons. (1) Job provides a limitus test on the inspiration of scripture. We emphasize the importance of the inspiration and inerrancy of scripture – so we must believe in Job and in the wager – but may, if we wish, ignore the message of the book of Job. Ok, this is a bit of an overstatement, but it is often what happens. And (2) Job provides the words of Job’s friends for Christians to repeat (with favor). I don’t know what Warren preaches, so I have no idea if you are giving a fair assessment – but I have heard others repeat the ideas expressed by Job’s friends with favor in many situations, both laypeople and church leaders. In many cases Job’s friends seem completely orthodox – but they are, the book tells us, completely wrong.

    The value of the book of Job is not in the historicity of the account. If we truly take scripture seriously as the word of God and we have to read Job carefully for the message of the book. That is what I hope to do in this series.

  • Andrew

    A hearty “amen” to Kel’s first comment, #4!

  • Rick

    RJS #29-

    “The value of the book of Job is not in the historicity of the account. If we truly take scripture seriously as the word of God and we have to read Job carefully for the message of the book.”

    On what are you determining the importance of the “historicity of the account”? Are you determining that before we “read Job carefully for the message of the book”, or after?

  • Norman

    Phil_Style #13,

    You said … “Sooner or later, God is going to run out of unfathomables. What then?”

    Really?

    So have you determined that all questions of existence will be fully comprehensible at some point in humanities existence? How in the world can a rational, logical and scientific mind even begin to say such a thing? There are questions that humans will never be able to answer no matter how much one thinks they can. The character of Job essentially is presenting that observation from an ancient view and it is just as true today with our vast knowledge as it was under Job’s limited knowledge. Phil I can’t see where you have really thought through your assumptions, but instead are imposing an overly simplistic appraisal of the issues presented in Job.

    This dialogue between Job and God appears to be a literary formulation that demonstrates questions of existence that go much further than only a physical examination that you are attempting to lay on it. The Physical dynamics are not as cut and dry as you imagine much less the metaphysical.

  • phil_style

    @Norman, “There are questions that humans will never be able to answer no matter how much one thinks they can”

    Fair enough , there are some questions we may “never” answer. And in fact, god does;t really rely on that in his final speech to Job. God contents that he can do what he likes, because he is all powerful. It’s job who then states his inability to understand gods ways.

    However, the story holds an interesting twist: God withholds from Job the answer that the reader has known right from the outset! The answer to the question (why did god do this?), is that God was involved in a cosmic game (of wits?) with the Accuser. So why, does the audience have access to this information but Job does not? The audience is “in on the secret”. Job is left wondering.

    Is the reason for God allowing Job’s infliction satisfying? Is the audience supposed to find it satisfying?

  • Alan K

    @Phil
    Yes, of course God is going to confirm Job’s complaint. Job has not pretended that his suffering was his own fault or uttered doctrine but has spoken “what is right.” God is not going to deny sovereignty over the matter.

    Regarding the failure to declare Job’s innocence, is it declared no less than three times–in 1:1 by the narrator and in 1:8 and 2:3 by the LORD.

    Also, have you not added your voice to the heavenly conversation? Is not the accusation of Satan that the LORD (a covenantal name that informs who this God is even though the scene is somewhere in Moab and not Israel–not the small “g” god you have referred to) has done a rather poor job, that there really is no such thing as love or faith–especially in the midst of suffering and injustice–but that humanity is only a bunch of users and takers? Is not Satan saying, “Job only believes because you bless him, but he will curse you to the face if he suffers without explanation”? There is more than the LORD’s honor at stake. Satan has certainly accused you and me.

    It is unfair of us to say that since innocent Job suffers the narrative must result in his vindication to our satisfaction–that the LORD owes it to him. That would be to make the book play according to our sensibilities. The book does not set out to answer the question of evil, even though the question most certainly is raised.

    It is in the midst of suffering unjustly that Job begins to utter impossibilities. “Oh that you would hide me in Sheol, that you would conceal me until your wrath is past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me! If mortals die, will they live again? All the days of my service I would wait until my release should come.” Perhaps the confirmation of Job’s complaint by God has substantial merit.

  • Josh Gould

    I don’t consider Job to be an historical rendering. Whether or not Job existed is as of little value as it is to the authors. Consider this. The story begins with an interaction between God and an angel, who is terribly mistaken as “the devil.” If this story actually happened, did the author witness this conversation between God and the angel? Was the author there, or did the author simply observe it on a hidden SCTV camera? No, it’s a myth. A REAL myth. A story designed to convey a particular message that a body of people lived by. The validity of factual events should not get caught up in the message.

  • Rodney Reeves

    @phil 33,

    “So why, does the audience have access to this information but Job does not? The audience is ‘in on the secret’. Job is left wondering.

    Is the reason for God allowing Job’s infliction satisfying? Is the audience supposed to find it satisfying?”

    To me yours is the most interesting question of all. I’ve often said Job reveals why we often try to “speak for God” in the midst of these tragedies (often sounding like the comforters) but very few offer to speak for “the Satan.”

  • phil_style

    @Ala K, #34,

    Thanks for that Alan. I appreciate your shaping of my reading!

  • Kel

    RJS,

    This is from a pastor in Oregon who, in 2004, wrote to his congregation to explain why they would not be participating in 40 Days of Purpose. He cites Warren’s sloppy use of Scripture (his adjective) and provides this example:

    “At the top of page 82 of Rick Warren’s book, in speaking of ‘The blessing of surrender,’ he writes, ‘The Bible is crystal clear about how you benefit when you fully surrender your life to God. First you experience peace…’ Then he quotes Job 22:21 from the New Living Translation: ‘Stop quarrelling with God! If you agree with him, you will have
    peace at last, and things will go well with you.’ That sounds like pretty good advice until you go over and read the context and learn that it was spoken by Eliphaz, one of Job’s dubious ‘friends,’ who was working under the false assumption that Job had sinned against God. But Job hadn’t sinned and Eliphaz and Job’s other friends were later rebuked by God for the things they said to Job.”

    I sat under the teaching of a pastor who only preached Warren’s sermons for almost four years, and this is typical of how Warren uses Scripture. But my point was that many people use the words of Job’s friends to prove a point, and given what God says at the end, that just isn’t possible. Even what they say is factually true, they are saying it to support the argument that Job has sinned.

    One aspect I will be interested to hear about, if you choose to throw it out there, is whether or not Elihu’s speech belongs in Job. Earliest manuscripts don’t have it, and if you read Job 31:40 and then go straight past Elihu’s speech (a speech to which no one responds) to Job 38:1, I think the case can be made that Elihu’s speech was a later interpolation and that the text makes more sense without it.

  • Josh Gould

    I’d also like to step into the discourse so many of you are contributing to. I’m only going to offer up a few thoughts instead of responding to previous statements.

    The author of the book of Job did not have the same understandings of God as we do today. Today we are modern, educated and scientific. Thousands of years ago when this book was written, the author has a “pre-modern” sort of understanding of God. Much like the writers of Exodus, Joshua etc, the author had a tribal understanding of God. That is, God is responsible for the good and the bad. If you couldn’t conceive a child then the God(s) didn’t deem you worthy. If you did have a child, you were blessed by the God(s). This is not meant to be contrary to medical science where we know that either the woman was barren or the man had a low sperm count. The point is that the people of those times thought it was God. No rain? No food? No blessing from the God(s). A master puppeteer. Is it now any wonder when Job lost his family and goods that the contemporary view would be that God was cursing Job? Perhaps this is why the interaction between God and the angel took place. To make some kind of cosmic sense of the suffering. It isn’t hard to imagine. Just think about the Greek gods. I don’t really need to explain how they controlled the lives of the people. But that was how they understood God.

    This doesn’t mean that God was actually responsible for all of Job’s losses. Today we could more than likely blame cancer, or faulty wiring that burnt the house down or a terrorist attack! Why else would everyone sit around for a week with Job trying to find meaning? Aside from the ancient practice of “sitting shiva.” Maybe it was them who concocted the story about God and the angel? Maybe this is why God never answers Job. “Don’t blame me. It is what it is.”

  • RJS

    Rick (#31),

    I think we need to read every book carefully for the meaning of the book. This includes Job, Exodus, Kings, Matthew, Song of Songs, Romans, Revelation, … This is the way we should approach scripture seriously as the Word of God.

    Although I am sure that there are some OT scholars who disagree, those I have consulted all agree that Job is not in the genre of a historical report of actual events. Job is wisdom literature. This comes from the text – not from external rationalization read into the text. And it doesn’t come from some modern desire to eliminate the supernatural. Certainly neither Longman or Walton is saying this is an errant human fictional account – wisdom literature is as inspired as any historical account.

    Frankly when I read Job myself it doesn’t seem historical – there are many clues that it has a different form and purpose. The highly stylized format for example. But I refer to Longman, Walton, and others as experts because I also realize that I am not reading the original language with knowledge of the culture and I need to look to the opinions of others with more expertise. I can’t just rely on my sense alone.

  • CGC

    Hi Josh #39,
    Job told his friends that they were worthless comforters. Where should a person get their comfort then?

  • Dianne P

    I lift mine eyes to the mountains.
    Where does my help come from?
    My help comes from the Lord,
    the maker of heaven and earth.

    Isn’t that one of the points? That comfort from friends has its limitations, to put it kindly.

  • Alan K

    @Phil,

    I am not trying to shape your reading. I merely noticed the parallel that (1) you found the epilogue dissatisfying based on the absence of adequate empathy from God and thus concluded the theology of the book questionable and (2) that Satan in chapters 1 and 2 found God questionable as well. Both cast doubt on the rule of God as narrated in the book. There is a reason why I stated them as questions as my impressions are certainly open to refutation.

    But it is greatly concerning to think that we can judge texts via updated weltanschauung. The point of chapters 38-41 is not science, but mystery. If we conflate worldview and Word of God, then we really have no basis for saying Jesus Christ is resurrected from the dead. Worldviews will always come and go. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. It is also greatly concerning to think that we can silence texts via witnesses from elsewhere. If our ancestors gave us Isaiah 53 and the Gospels, then why did they give us the testimony of the Book of Job as well? If we don’t like the god of Job, we will find a sympathizer in Marcion. But then we have to ask why did our ancestors denounce him?

  • Marcus C

    This discussion is another fine example of Christian Smith’s “Pervasive Interpretive Pluralism”…

  • John I.

    Re comments that Job must be historical because James refers to it

    Universally people / cultures use stories that are known to be untrue to teach moral or philosophical or religious truths. Think of George Washington and the cherry tree. Even though it almost certainly did not happen, it is still used to teach kids about honesty. Think of almost any children’s story with a moral or good / bad behaviour in it. Teachers and parents will use those fictional stories to teach kids truths. Teacher / parent: “Sally, remember when Thomas the Tank Engine was disobedient and jumped out of his tracks and . . . .” And then the teacher will make the point, the kid will nod or agree that she remembers, and on the basis of that shared story will agree that she should obey / tell the truth / not hit others, etc.

    So the fact that James refers to a known story does not necessarily entail that the story being referred to is an account of an historical event. It may just be a reference to a shared story with a shared moral framework that can then be used to make a point.

    J.

  • Norman

    Phil #33,

    You said … “The answer to the question (why did god do this?), is that God was involved in a cosmic game (of wits?) with the Accuser. So why, does the audience have access to this information but Job does not? The audience is “in on the secret”. Job is left wondering.

    Phil, the story simply appears to be a theatrical production designed to illustrate many issues that are common to the Jews and to humanity at large. Job was offering sacrifices for his wayward children just as Israel and Adam were commanded to offer sacrifices in Jewish literature for wayward Gentiles. That tells me a lot right there about who constructed this story and the common themes that transcend Jewish literature over the centuries.

    If one starts examining the context of Job for 2nd Temple themes they start jumping out at you all through the story. I personally think it is a brilliant examination of the complexities of life that confront the faithful and their dedication to a Supreme God. You can find the same base issues there as we find being examined today but framed in an ancient melodramatic production that makes it highly imaginative and vividly memorable. Good contemplative teaching literature I would call it.

  • Josh Gould

    CGC #41

    Better friends!

  • Just Pick Something

    Ezekiel 14 was mentioned in a previous comment, and it seems like it deserves more attention than it’s getting. The Lord groups together Noah, Daniel, and Job as extraordinary examples of righteous men. It seems pretty unlikely that fictional and real people would be mixed in an example like that. I’d say all 3 of those men are real people not just good stories.

  • AHH

    John I. @45,

    Right on. Maybe a better example for the readers of this blog would be every preacher who has said “we should love our neighbors like the Good Samaritan did”, or similarly used the Prodigal Son to make a point. It is the point of the story, not any historicity or lack thereof, that matters.
    Job and Jonah are pretty obvious examples of this — some of us would say similar things about Paul’s use of Adam but I realize that is not quite as clear-cut a case in large part due to theological issues around those references.

  • phil_style

    @ Norman, #46: “Phil, the story simply appears to be a theatrical production designed to illustrate many issues that are common to the Jews and to humanity at large. ”

    I agree entirely. I’m of the onion that Job was a “play”.
    Hence my point about the “audience”. It seems clear to me that if the narrative at the opening of the piece was known to the audience, prior to the speeches of the main characters then we have a situation where the audience is in on the vital piece of information that Job is never made aware of.

    So the question is, if we take the overall piece in that context:
    How was the audience going to react at the climax, when God speaks to job? Would the audience, who are “in the know” have felt for Job? Would they have come away with a respect for the kind of god portrayed in the piece, or would the play have given them cause to consider a more robust theology?
    If anything, Job is provocative!

  • RJS

    Just Pick Something (#48),

    Longman brings up Ezekiel 14 in his discussion of the historicity of Job. There are two points here that are important.

    The first is that, while it is clear that Ezekiel 14 references the Job of the book of Job, it is possible, even likely given dating etc. that it is not a direct reference to the book itself, but to a well known story. The same is true of Daniel. Experts in the language point out that it is not likely that this is the Daniel of the Bible but that it is some other well known person, with a story part of the common knowledge of the audience of Ezekiel. The story of Noah was also a well known story to the audience. The historicity or lack of historicity for all three is not important to the point made by Ezekiel (or more accurately by God through the prophet).

    The second point is that even if the reference to Job refers to a real person (something both Walton and Longman admit to be possible and Walton favors as I note in the post) it doesn’t tell us anything about the form of the book we have. This book still is not a historical report of events surrounding Job. The story of Job is a tool in the form of wisdom literature to explore a very important theological question.

  • Thomas Renz

    New commentaries: January 2013 will see the publication of the first volume of C. L. Seow’s two-volume commentary in the (new) illuminations biblical commentary series, paying close attention to reception history. It should be well worth exploring. At 896 pages for Job 1-21 it might rival Clines’ three-volume commentary for seize…

  • Craig Wright

    I wonder if James (in the NT) even had read the Book of Job. In teaching on this book in adult classes at church, after reading Js. 5:10-11 “as an example of suffering and patience…you have heard of the endurance of Job”, I then turn to Job 10:1 and read, “I loathe my own life; I will give full vent to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.”

    I have taught Job about 3-4 times to try to figure it out myself. It is frustrating. Thank you for posting selections from Longman and Walton. Although I have read several commentaries on Job, I can’t keep reading all these new books.

    One other problem in trying to figure out Job is that in the final chapter, God says that Job’s friends did not speak correctly of him. God says Job spoke correctly, yet Job repents of what he said. So, how do we evaluate the comments of the first two chapters, such as “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” and “shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”

    One comment on the dating of Job, is that the mention of the Satan as a character is found only in three places in the OT, and the other two are from Chronicles and Zechariah, both of which are late books.

  • http://www.mannsword.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    Kel#10,

    If our NT writers did think differently about truth, we would need evidence to establish this fact. However, I’ve never seen any such evidence.

  • http://www.mannsword.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    Scot #12,

    Of course, the Bible contains many genre of literature, and our task is to determine how the bible wants us to interpret these various forms. We can not impose a one-size-fits-all formula.

    Meanwhile, you claim, “James does not say Job was a historical figure.” Exegetically, this conclusion is not tenable:

    • James 5:11: As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

    James uses “Job’s perseverance” to prove/demonstrate that “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” However, if Job was mere allegory, such a demonstration of God’s character could not be made. It could easily be challenged in this manner:

    • “This is just a story. This tells us nothing about the character of God. It doesn’t prove that God is merciful!”

    Furthermore, James attempts, by this reference to Job, to demonstrate that the faithfulness of God – “what the Lord finally brought about.” However, once again, if Job is mere allegory, such reasoning can hardly be comforting.

  • http://www.mannsword.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    Phil #13,

    Our knowledge is sketchy at best. We have no satisfying answers for even the basics – the nature of light, time, space, matter, energy, anything. We are truly very limited in understanding. This observation should provoke profound humility, and not charges against God!

  • http://www.mannsword.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    CGC,

    I think you need to read more of my essay. Try the last one: http://mannsword.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-deity-of-christ-and-why-this-matters.html

  • http://www.mannsword.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    RJS #51 (also #48),

    Ezekiel (God) is clearly referencing people with whom his audience was well-acquainted and known for their surpassing righteousness. Since there are no other Jobs in the Bible, it seems far-fetched to suppose that Ezekiel is making reference to an unknown “Job.” (Besides, why the strenuous attempt to squirm out of the obvious conclusion, unless you are trying to defend the hermeneutic of evolution?)

    You claim “This book still is not a historical report of events surrounding Job. The story of Job is a tool in the form of wisdom literature to explore a very important theological question.” Why is it a matter of either/or? Why not both?

  • phil_style

    @ Daniel Mann “We have no satisfying answers for even the basics – the nature of light, time, space, matter, energy, anything. We are truly very limited in understanding.”

    Huh? We have some pretty satisfying answers regarding many of the aspects of those phenomena. We know that time and space are relative. We know that matter and energy are related via the speed of light.
    We can’t just throw out “we don’t know the basics of ‘anything’ ” as some kind of catch-all response. That’s simply nonsense.

    Proposing “we don’t know” is just another version of the God of the Gaps argument. As we continue to find out more, the gaps in our knowledge shrink ever smaller.

    And in any case, in this book, it’s Job himself that comes to the conclusion that he doesn’t know Gods motives – Job basically concedes that he has no idea what God is up to. Gods argument is that he is all powerful (and presumably has the right to do as he pleases), not that he’s all-knowing.

  • RJS

    Daniel Mann,

    I said “The first is that, while it is clear that Ezekiel 14 references the Job of the book of Job,” Neither I, nor the sources I consulted, suggested that the Job referred to by Ezekiel was anything other than the same Job of the book of Job – there is no effort at all to squirm out of this conclusion.

    There is also no hermeneutic of evolution at all where the book of Job is concerned. Except for the fact that I don’t think that the ancient cosmology described toward the end is accurate (no storehouses of snow or hail for example as in 38:22) science doesn’t play a role in the interpretation of Job at all. I do think that Job, interpreted as the canonical book it is, may help us find solutions to some of the theodicy and suffering concerns raised by evolution – not because evolution shapes the interpretation, but because suffering is a theme of Job.

    Here is my hermeneutic – take scripture seriously as the word of God and learn what it has to teach us.

    And with respect to your comment on James 5:11 – are you aware that some at least seem to think from this reference that James has in mind a view of the patience of Job that comes not from our canonical text but from other interpretive texts and traditions that grew up from it? Texts like the Testament of Job perhaps? Scot refers to this on his commentary on James 5:11 although he doesn’t think the reference quite fits the Testament of Job any more than it fits the canonical book if I read him right. Longman refers to the nature of the reference to the patience of Job in the introduction to his commentary on Job as well.

    I have no strong opinion here either way, but the argument isn’t as clear cut as you make it out to be. The reference to Job could be a reference more like the reference in Jude v9 to “the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses” rather than any kind of assertion on which we should base a decision concerning the historicity of Job.

  • RJS

    Daniel Mann,

    And one more. You asked:

    You claim “This book still is not a historical report of events surrounding Job. The story of Job is a tool in the form of wisdom literature to explore a very important theological question.” Why is it a matter of either/or? Why not both?

    Theoretically it could be both. But the highly stylized form of the book makes it clear to many devout OT scholars, not just to those of a skeptical turn, that this is not a historical report. The framing of the scene in heaven? The long poetical discourses and dialogs? The book is structured to explore a very important theological questions – and we should be looking to this, not fixating on the historicity of Job.

  • CGC

    Hi Josh,
    The only comfort Job will find is in God (Diane is right). Actually, the issue is not even Job’s “friends” as if real firends is the issue. The friends represent literary devices of common religious misconceptions of its day. The whole conversation between Job and his friends is a kind of foil to reveal God’s truer meaning when it comes to the deep issues of life. I am not sure that God even fits into your equation but unless we read the book correctly, we will miss its message and misunderstand what this book is really saying.

    Daniel, the book of Job does not demand a historical Job even if there was one (that is the point). RJS is not saying there was not a Job but the literary genre of Job is not written as a historical report. I did read your article and I think you may well be arguing for a both/and approach when it comes to following Christ. I just wish you would give some of us Christian evolutionists the benefit of the doubt and not present the issues in such either/or categories.

  • Bev Mitchell

    CGC (28)

    Great words “I’ll take God’s “acceptance” of Job and restoration from God at the end (whether God says I am innocent or not” And Paul says much the same thing “My conscience us clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” 1 Cor. 4:4

    Alan K (34)

    Your response to Phil moved me. Picking up on your theme, the following may add a layer to the discussion that has not been prominent.

    phil_style (18),

    You conclude,

    “If God really is “sovereign”, then God really is to blame for suffering. I think that’s the conclusion that both job and God arrive at in the book.”

    Your conclusion is one reason why we cannot dismiss the reference to Satan. While Walton concludes, (the story of Job) “is not about trying to explain how Job got into such a difficult situation” (see RJS in #3), I don’t think he would disagree that, in the big picture, the story does reveal a real spiritual contest for our devotion. Job passes the test with flying colours, even while he gives up on knowing the reasons.

    One recent source that I find helpful on the issue of God’s goodness and the reality of evil is R.R. Reno’s commentary on Genesis in the Brazos series. Large bits of this are available on payingattentiontothesky.com/ (search R.R. Reno on that site).

    Here are a few quotes. Hopefully this is not jumping ahead too much. I realize that RJS has many more points to bring up in this discussion on Job.

    “…….the story (of Job) opens with Satan approaching the LORD God in his heavenly court. He challenges God, suggesting that God lacks the ability attract spiritual loyalty without buying off the faithful with worldly rewards. The story ends with the famous divine appearance out of a whirlwind, an appearance in which God recounts to Job, not the details of his life and actions, but instead the divine acts of creation.”

    “Although our actions are free and we genuinely shape the directions of our lives, we do not define the moral and spiritual atmosphere in which we live. As any mention of the devil reminds us, we are cast into a world already shaped by a creation-wide history of resistance to the divine plan. Our freedom is not pristine, unaffected, and uninfluenced by prior events. We must decide and act in circumstances beyond our control.”

    “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:14-15). We are free to switch loyalties, but we cannot invent new armies and new objectives. With exactly the same underlying assumptions about the human condition, St. Paul insists that our choice, which recapitulates the original choice of Adam and Eve, is about whom to serve and not an invitation to brainstorm about the good life.”

    “Again and again St. Paul reminds his readers of the true scale of their struggle against sin. Worldly trials and temptations are not just local; they are afflictions of the devil. The faithful are to resist with confidence, for in due time the God of peace will crush Satan under their feet (Romans 16:20). This image of triumph draws on Genesis 3:15 — the divine prophecy that the children of Eve shall crush the head of the serpent.”

  • Craig Wright

    Bev Mitchell (63)
    Your last paragraph, quoting Reno, doesn’t help at all. It is God who started the whole thing.

  • http://www.mannsword.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    RJS #61,

    You responded:

    ”But the highly stylized form of the book makes it clear to many devout OT scholars, not just to those of a skeptical turn, that this is not a historical report. The framing of the scene in heaven? The long poetical discourses and dialogs? The book is structured to explore a very important theological questions – and we should be looking to this, not fixating on the historicity of Job.”

    By denying the historicity of Job, you and the “many devout OT scholars” fail to assign adequate emphasis to the testimony of James and Ezekiel. Clearly, Job is very stylized. However, if we believe in a sovereign God, we also believe that history is stylized or patterned. In fact, whatever we write is imprinted by our own styles. So this fact shouldn’t undermine its historicity.

    Besides, the presence of figurative elements fails to negate its historicity. We all use figurative flare in our speech and writing without it undermining the factual content of our communication.

    As you know, this isn’t merely academic quibbling. It brings us back to the hermeneutic of evolution – the denial or minimization of the historical (physical) teachings of the Bible as errant reflections of primitive thinking.

    This denial strikes right at the base of the Christian faith. If we can’t believe what the Bible teaches about the physical world (John 3:12), how, in the world, can we believe what it teaches about the spiritual. If the foundation (teachings regarding the physical world) suffers erosion, the spiritual will eventually topple.

  • D. Foster

    RJS,

    I’ve just read Job for the third time as well. I had the same reaction you did. This book is far more significant than I realized.

    One of the most provocative passages to me in all Scripture is Job 13:7-10, when Job replies to his friends:

    “Will you speak falsely for God, and speak deceitfully for him? Will you show partiality towards him? Will you plead the case for God? Will it be well with you when he searches you out? Or can you deceive him, as one person deceives another?
    He will surely rebuke you if in secret you show partiality.”

    Job’s implications are staggering. If God were punishing Job, then God would be in the wrong; righteousness before God is both knowable and attainable; it is not right to slander another person’s integrity in order to defend God’s actions; God knows all of this and is on Job’s side.

    Then at the end, God vindicates Job. Doesn’t this seem to challenge so much we think about God?

    Lastly, G.K. Chesterton wrote one of the finest introductions to Job I’ve ever read:

    http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/books/job.html

    –Derek

  • http://www.mannsword.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    CGC #62,

    Please know that it’s not my intention to be confrontational or uncivil. Nor is it an issue of giving you the “benefit of the doubt.” I’m not questioning whether or not you are a brother in the Lord. However, I believe that evolution might be the most destructive heresy that has entered into the church – one that is undermining its foundations and has won away an entire generation of Christian intellectuals.

    As I’m sure that you can see, the CE or TE approaches Scripture in an entirely different manner, one characterized by heightened skepticism and a marginalization of the Bible’s physical teachings. While the CE counsels humility regarding Biblical interpretation, I only wish that they would be equally humble about their embrace of Darwin.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Craig (64) and Daniel (65) where you say “……if we believe in a sovereign God, we also believe that history is stylized or patterned.” and Daniel (67) responding to CGC.

    You are both correct, much of interpretation depends on our fundamental view of God. Do we envision a God who by application of his almighty power controls everything, or a God who by application of his perfect love grants libertarian freedom – the real ability to say no, to rebel? These views are fundamental, and fundamentally different.

    We must clearly decide, up front, which view of God we will take, because the path our thinking takes, the trace of our logic, depends utterly on our starting point. Assuming they are reasonable and logical, two people cannot each take one of these starting points and end up in the same place somewhere down the road.

    Indeed, God is sovereign, but it would be wise to let God decide how he will exercise his sovereignty. If there is no freedom involved and if God does not value it so highly that he allows all of created beings (spiritual and material) to rebel, should they chose to do so, that takes us down one interpretive road. If libertarian freedom is allowed for all of God’s creatures who have the ability to use it, our interpretation could be quite different. And, we could even venture to say that God allows creation the freedom to act so as, in some sense, to create itself. All of this can be seen as made possible by God and, with this view, we can say that God is in charge (as opposed to controlling every last thing).

    As RJS mentions in her post, there are strong connections between how we interpret Job and Genesis that can even illuminate our thinking about science and Scripture. And, as we see, reveal some fundamental differences in starting points. Our differences in understanding of the nature of God (hopefully as derived from a close reading of Scripture, as opposed to reading some externally derived view into Scripture) should be confronted first. We can, of course, agree to disagree – I don’t think God would mind since we will all have an inadequate understanding. What we cannot do is end up in the same place, interpretively speaking, by beginning from such widely divergent starting points. This applies equally well to what emerges from our reading of science and Scripture.

    We probably shouldn’t further hijack this post with creation/evolution discussions, because the point here is to try to improve our understanding of the book of Job.

  • Craig Wright

    Bev, I got lumped together with Daniel, and so it looks like you were answering him with his views about a sovereign god and evolution. Actually, from reading your writing on Jesus Creed and Roger Olson’s blog, I am more like you. I was just responding to your last paragraph about Satan, and saying that it didn’t help much in understanding the actual Book of Job. Satan never gets mentioned again in the whole book, by Job, his friends, nor God. It is a puzzle.

    I would appreciate it if you would go back to my post (53) and deal with some of the issues there. I am not seminary trained, yet I study a lot. I work in the church with lay people and try to be honest with how to handle scripture.

    By the way, I believe in free will, that Job is probably not historical, and I accept evolution. I also have trouble figuring out the Book of Job.

  • CGC

    Hi Daniel,
    We had this conversation before and sometimes it seems like we are just going in circles? I remember a past conversation on this issue where you apologized for defining evolution from an atheistic perspective while not fully recognizing that theistic evolutionists or Christian evolutionists do not define evolution from a worlview of materialism or anti-supernaturalism. You seem to be doing this all over again.

    In responding to RJS who happens to be a practicing Christian and a practicing scientist, you say the hermenutic of evolution is a denial or minimizing of the historical of the Bible as errant reflections of primitive teachings. Please Daniel, if that is what the hermeneutic of evolution means, then yes, by all means, let all people who believe in God’s Word reject it. But you have once again given the definition of evolution to the atheists while importing “their” meaning onto Christians who do not mean this at all. Evolution is simply God’s process. Just like a baby starts as a small embryo and develops, so does other species. One can argue against macro-evolution if one wants but you continue to define issues from the materialists and atheists perspective on this issue.

    Secondly, I do hold macro-evolution with tentativeness. You are the one it seems to me to hold to anti-evolution with a whole lot more certainty. I say, physician heal thyself when it comes to how we should look at this issue Daniel.

    Lastly, it seems strange for me to hear someone say that you are a brother in Christ but you and others have let the most destructive heresy into the church. “Most destructive heresy” Daniel? Actually, I think nationalism, American-consumerism, greed, and idolatry are killing the church more than anything evolution is doing. And wouldn’t the most destructive heresy be getting Christ wrong?

  • http://www.mannsword.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    CGC,

    You have misrepresented me and my position. I certainly don’t associate CEs with naturalists/materialists. If you are interested in hearing my concerns, please read this essay: http://mannsword.blogspot.com/2012/09/why-we-are-troubled-by-darwins-inroads.html

    I would welcome your response.

  • CGC

    Hi Daniel,
    If the Bible is errant reflections of primitive teachings which you call the hermeneutic of evolution, is that a hermeneutic of belief or unbelief? Is this naturalism and the Bible is just a man-made book or a hermeneutic with God at the center? And when did evolution get associated with a view on the Bible? Is that intristic to evolution from a CE perspective or from what perspective?

    In regards to your article. You suggest that Darwin undermines the Christian faith (I’ll deal with four of them):

    1. It unbiblically elevates evolution to the level of Scripture. Evolution stands in judgement over Scripture. Science trumps Scripture. You have said much of this in the context of speaking to RJS and myself (have you heard us correctly?). We have said over and over that science does not trump Scripture much less that evolution trumps Scripture. Evolution is not my Savior but Jesus. The Bible is the book I live by, not the book of science. Can you “hear” us on that???

    2. Evolution introduces a competing and entirely alien worldview. I read your description here and I have to ask. What Christian Evolutionists (CE’s) are you reading? How do “they” describe these issues rather than how you perceive them. Seriously Daniel, if you have read a number of CE books (what are they?). If not, can I at least give you a few recommendations because how CE’s describe the beauty and wonder of this world is very different than the ugly dog-eat-dog world you give.

    3. Evolution disparages biblical accounts. It separates the theology of the cross from the history of the cross (by the way Daniel, who in the world is doing this or says this?). Who denies the history of the cross? Who is denying the historical fact of Christ dying on the cross as you suggest Daniel? You lost me on this one . . .

    4. They deny the historical reality of Adam and Eve. Actually, there are many CE’s who believe in a historical Adam and Eve and there are people who deny the historical reality of Adam and Eve who don’t believe in evolution. Again, you seem to suggest that one thing leads to another. Can you at least talk to us on this list on what some of us believe versus a supposed charicature of what “most” of us are supposed to believe? I have some of the same problems with science that you do even if we understand some of Genesis differently. I hold theology and history in tension with each other the same as you do Daniel (even though you seem to assume that even Christian evolutionists must drive a wedge between history and theology (which many of us don’t!).

    Lastly, when it comes to reading the book of Genesis correctly, do you agree with Ken Ham’s interpretation? If not, why not? And if you do, let’s have a Bible study on the book of Genesis :-)

  • Bev Mitchell

    Craig,

    My apologies for misunderstanding/misplacing you. One of the various downsides to this format for conversations I think. But, without it we probably would not be able to talk at all.

    You say,

    “I am not seminary trained, yet I study a lot. I work in the church with lay people and try to be honest with how to handle scripture. By the way, I believe in free will, that Job is probably not historical, and I accept evolution. I also have trouble figuring out the Book of Job.”

    Well, that pretty much describes me too. Except that I tend to put my views out there well before I have ever read enough stuff. But then, that happy day will never arrive. :)

    In preparation for what RJS may be challenging us with next, I have reviewed what Greg Boyd has to say about Job (and he gives numerous good references to boot – sigh!). His “Satan and the Problem of Evil” has a great bit on Job in his chapter entitled “Praying in the Whirlwind”. It at least gives another set of biblical but different ideas to think about with respect to your good questions in (53). I must admit to leaning in his direction quite strongly.

    Blessings,

    Bev

  • Craig Wright

    Bev, thanks for responding. I have Boyd’s book, “Satan and the Problem of Evil” and his “Is God to Blame?”. I have run off articles by Boyd for the class I teach at church. We all have to live with a tension on this whole subject, but the Book of Job still remains a big puzzle.

  • http://www.mannsword.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    CGC,

    Thanks for taking the time to read my essay. Let me try therefore to respond to your four points:

    1. (and 2.) I don’t know what you believe. Therefore my comments don’t pertain to you. However, I have dialogued with many CEs, especially at Biologos, and know what they believe. In short, I have been deeply troubled by the compromises they have made to the Christian faith to bring it into alignment with evolution. Almost to a person, they have endorsed NOMA that maintains that evolution and the Bible occupy non-overlapping domains of interest. And therefore, there can be no conflict between the two. This is a ruse by CEs and the Natl. Institute of Science to promote evolution among Christians.

    3. According to NOMA, the Bible is concerned about the spiritual world and Darwin the physical. Consequently, the Bible’s teachings about the physical world reflect errant ANE cosmology. But that’s OK since the Bible’s concerns are spiritual and not physical. In contrast, I’ve tried to argue that the spiritual depends on the physical – the theology of the Cross depends upon the history of the Cross. Although CEs do not explicitly deny the history or theology of the Cross, their hermeneutical system does so by creating skepticism regarding the Bible’s teachings on the physical world.

    4. While I’m glad to hear that you do believe in an historical Adam, you leave me to wonder whether or not you are consistent with your presuppositions that have brought you to mesh evolution with the Biblical revelation. Frankly, I don’t believe that you can marry these two Masters. If your presuppositions are at odds with your conclusions, one set will have to give way. You will end by hating the one set and loving the other (Matthew 6:23-24). I think that Karl Giberson’s example is reflective of the outcome of this marriage.


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