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Job 19:26: A Resurrection Passage?

Job 19:26: A Resurrection Passage? March 28, 2009

Hello Friends,

 

Thanks for the the invitation to participate on this fantastic site.   I’m also grateful for the warm reception.  For my first contribution, I would like to share some ideas regarding an important biblical passage for LDS students of the Old Testament.

 

Recently I had an individual seek my opinion regarding the legitimacy of the use of Job 19:26 as a biblical reference to physical resurrection.  This issue is an interesting one for LDS religious educators, since this specific verse appears as one of the scripture mastery passages assigned to seminary students to commit to memory. 

 

As a reminder, the KJV translates the passage as “and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”

 

Unfortunately, this translation is highly problematic.   Aside from the fact that I freely acknowledge that I have no idea what is going on contextually in this portion of Job, from a strict grammatical perspective, it is impossible to justifying the KJ translation, “in my flesh shall I see God.”

 

The Hebrew construct rendered as “in my flesh” derives from the preposition min, followed by the masculine singular noun basar “flesh” with the first person common singular pronominal suffix.  So, “my flesh” is clearly correct. The challenge derives from a proper interpretation of the preposition min, which the KJV renders as “in.”

 

This preposition can function locational, meaning a description of the place where something originates, as in the English word, “from” however, the more basic sense appears as an ablative nuance which refers to a movement away from a specified beginning point, for example Exodus 12:42: “bring them out of (min) the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:42).

 

In the Bible, the Hebrew expression min plus basar appears 17 times (with or without a pronominal suffix): Gen. 2:23; Ex. 29:34; Lev. 7:17; Lev. 7:18; Lev. 7:21; Lev. 11:8; Lev. 11:11; Lev. 15:2; Deut. 14:8; Deut. 28:55; Is. 58:7; Ezek. 11:19; Ezek. 36:26; Job 19:22; Job 19:26; Job 31:31; Eccl. 11:10.

 

From these passages, one of the closest linguistic parallels to Job 19:26 is Ezekiel 36:26.  In accordance with the KJV, it is clear from context that we should render the expression min (out of) plus basar (flesh) in this passage as “I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh.”

 

One could hardly take away the stony heart from your flesh, and besides, the beginning of the verse establishes the fact that God is working within the human body.  Hence, Ezekiel 36:26 provides an important example of the most basic grammatical sense of the preposition min as an ablative grammatical form, i.e. “out of.”

 

As a reflection of the primary meaning connected with the preposition min, Job appears in 19:26 describing the fact that his flesh/skin will be removed and then, when he is out of his flesh, he will see God.  Any effort to interpret the meaning of this passage as something beyond its most basic sense is going to require some serious justification and textual manipulation.

 

The implications for this observation are important for LDS students of the Bible and should not in my opinion be obscured.  As Latter-day Saints, we should recognize that any attempt on our part to interpret Job 19:26 as biblical proof for resurrection is going to understandably meet with serious opposition.

 

I simply cannot see anyway to justify an argument that the author intended to suggest that Job will see God when Job is once again in his flesh.

 

Clearly the correct understanding does not present any challenges for LDS theology.  Job’s statement that he will see God after death when Job no longer possesses his flesh may simply reflect an older theological view that is more consistent with the somewhat limited understanding concerning this issue given Alma in the BofM:

 

“As soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life” (Alma 40:11).

 

As Latter-day Saints, the Restoration has clearly provided us with a more detailed understanding of the doctrine of physical resurrection than what appears in antiquity. 

 

I would not petition for Job 19:26 to be removed from the scripture mastery list assigned to LDS seminary students (and even if I did, I’m fully aware that no one in a position of authority would possibly care or even pay attention to my suggestion). I simply maintain that in this day of information accessibility, inevitably some believing members will encounter how fundamentally at odds the standard LDS interpretation of Job 19:26 is from the passage’s actual, literal meaning.

 

From what I’ve witnessed, it’s far better to acknowledge these issues, rather than to attempt to cover them up with weak arguments. Especially something like the literal meaning of Job 19:26, which presents absolutely no challenges whatsoever for LDS theology and in fact works well with the perspective witnessed in Alma 40:11.


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