John T. Willis

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Setting the Stage for the Book of Job--Part II

A primary responsibility to understand and interpret the book of Job is to attempt to respect and follow the presentation of the book of Job by this work's redactor=editor=COMPOSER=AUTHOR. This naturally elicits three major considerations.

1. It is well-known that there are several extant ancient Near Eastern works which contain striking similarities to the book of Job, especially: the Sumerian composition: "Man and His God: A Sumerian Variation on the 'Job' Motif;" the Babylonian text: "I Will Praise the Lord of Wisdom;" and the Babylonian Theodicy. One English translation of these works may be found in James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd edition, 1969. [Of course, there are several other English translations of these works, so you ought to be able to read them in English and study them easily]. In my opinion, ideas and terms and expressions and metaphors and the like PROBABLY influenced the author of the Book of Job. But, it is pretty clear that the author of the Book of Job did not "take over" and "reproduce" these works so as to produce his own Book of Job. I think these words of Carol A. Newsom in the New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, Volume 4 (1996), pages 329 and 333 are generally representative of the current scholarly view on this matter: "Although these texts offer some parallels to the description of suffering one finds in Job, their importance for understanding the literary tradition to which Job belongs has been overrated." "Although it is possible that the author of Job knew and drew upon the Babylonian Theodicy itself, it is more likely that the relationship is indirect."

2. An understanding of the NATURE or GENRE of the Book of Job is very important. There are books in the Old and New Testaments which PRESENT "historical narrative" materials, like 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, Acts. Again, there are books in the Old Testament which PRESENT "prophetic works," like Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc. These works occasionally have a short "historical narrative" section [for example, Isaiah 36-37], but essentially these works are NOT "historical narrative" materials, but "prophetic works" with oracles of various types. Again, there are books in the New Testament which PRESENT "epistles," like Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, James, etc. These works may very occasionally refer to a "historical" event, but essentially they are not "historical narrative" materials; rather, they are "epistles," letters to various churches.
The Book of Job belongs to a different kind of GENRE or NATURE. The composer=author of the Book of Job PRESENTS this book as a DEBATE between different speakers and thinkers. Carol A. Newsom calls this a DIALOGUE. Such terms [including m own] are semantic. BUT, the Book of Job is NOT a "historical narrative."
The intention of the Book of Job is NOT to report: (1) certain specific biographical individuals like Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, Elihu, etc.; (2) certain geographical locations like the land of Uz, Teman, Shua, etc.; (3) the DATE of Job's historical time chronologically. These matters are NOT issues in the Book of Job.
Rather, the intention of the composer=author of the Book of Job is to TEACH a great truth to his audience [to us]. This is a DIDACTIC book in the form of a DEBATE, or perhaps a DIALOGUE.

3. The composer=author of the Book of Job PRESENTS his work in a certain way. Following his "line of thought," one may "structure" or "outline" this book in this way theologically. [This is my READ of the Book of Job in OUTLINE].

I. The Story of Job and His Losses. Job 1-3. [NOTE: Many scholars argue that the first section is Job 1-2 BECAUSE chapters 1-2 are in prose, while chapter 3 is in poetry. But in my opinion, Job 3 is an inseparable part of chapters 1-2. See my outline below. As a similar kind of situation, think of 1 Samuel 1-2. 1 Samuel 1:1-28is in prose; 1 Samuel 2:1-10 is in poetry; 2 Samuel 2:11-36 is in prose. Is 1 Samuel 2:1-10 part of the "flow" of the story PRESENTED by the composer=author of 1-2 Samuel or not? In my opinion, 1 Samuel 2:1-10 is a vital part of 1 Samuel 1-2. Similarly, I am convinced that Job 3 is a vital part of Job 1-3).
a. An Introduction to Job. This individual is wealthy, healthy, and wise. Job 1:1-5.
b. Job Loses his WEALTH. Job 1:6-22.
c. Job Loses his HEALTH. Job 2:1-13.
d. Job Loses his WISDOM. Job 3. [Now, this idea in chapter 3 may irritate some of you or differ from this idea, but be patient, and I will try to explain why I think this is the case in a later blog].

II. The Debate between Job and His Three Friends: Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Job 4-31.
A. The First Series of the Debate. Job 4-14.
1. Eliphaz--4-5; Job's Response--6-7.
2. Bildad--8; Job's Response--9-10.
3. Zophar--11; Job's Response--12-14.
B. The Second Series of the Debate. Job 15-21.
1. Eliphaz--15; Job's Response--16-17.
2. Bildad--18; Job's Response--19.
3. Zophar--20; Job's Response--21.
C. The Third Series of the Debate. Job 22-31.
1. Eliphaz--22; Job's Response--23-24.
2. Bildad--25; Job's Response--26-31. [NOTE: There is NO SPEECH of Zophar in the Third Series of the Debate. Many scholars propose that one should "reconstruct" Zophar's speech from certain sections of "Job's Response" in chapters 26-31. In my opinion, this is incorrect. Later, I will try to explain WHY I think Zophar did not respond in the third series of the debate].

III. The Speech [Speeches] of Elihu. Job 32-37.
A. The Composer's=Author's Introduction. Job 32:1-5.
B. Elihu's Attitude toward Job. Job 32:6-33:7.
C. Elihu's Arguments. Job 33:8-37:24.

IV. The Two Speeches of God. Job 38:1-42:6.
A. God's First Speech--38:1-40:2; Job's Response--40:3-5.
B. God's Second Speech--40:6-41:34; Job's Response--42:1-6.

V. The Conclusion. God Restores Job to His Former Condition. Job 42:7-17.

I hope this will keep this outline before you. I will be using this throughout this study of the Book of Job.

How do you respond to the thoughts concerning these Introductory Ideas about the Book of Job thus far? We will have more Introductory Ideas later. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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