Doug Green on Job

Doug Green, another member of faculty from Westminster Theological Seminary, is guest lecturing on Job now. This is some of his speculation. Let me stress, speculation, on Job. Here are my notes…

Questions of authorship and date are pretty irrelevant (Doug Green has shifted in his thinking on this). Job seems to be an ancient story, and the text of Job in our Bible seems to be the “God ordained” version of the text… the question he asks is: What is it about Job that encouraged or invited its readers to consider it worthy of its spot in the Bible?

How did they discern that it was actually scripture. What is it about the book that when we read it we say “it’s Biblical” – this question was settled long before any modern councils (or post AD councils) – Israel valued Job the same way it valued Torah and Prophets.

Theologically it doesn’t “become” Scripture. It is Scripture. But it takes people to discern that. The path to canonicity for the “writings” was more rocky than the law and the prophets. In the redemptive historical tradition in which he stands is that the Bible is an unfolding story of redemption (ie following Geerhardus Vos). The Bible is the product of, and gets its shape from, the great narrative of redemption. At its core the Bible is a history book – the history of a covenentally structured relationship. This relationship has an ethical dimension to it.

The Bible tells a story to people living in a story and tells them how to live in that story.

The Psalms are not just a hymn book, but a prophetic book and a redemptive history of Israel…

Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon – don’t seem to be reflections on redemptive history but on a creation theology. The first verse of these books all have a hook on them to redemptive history. The beginning of these books says “make a connection between these books and Solomon” – there’s something that connects them to this figure from Israel’s history. Could there be a post-exilic use of Solomon to make a point for post-exilic Israel? Doug hasn’t found the connection yet. I reckon it might be something to do with this

Job is an anomaly. He’s not Jewish, he’s not connected to Israel in any particular way, and yet the book is both now, and historically, part of Scripture.

Job is a blameless and upright man. He contends for his innocence in chapter 31.

The Satan in Job is not the devil, but rather the leader of the opposition.

Job’s friends appear to be applying Deuteronomic theology to Job (if you’re righteous God will reward you, if you’re suffering you’ve done something wrong). They work backwards from his suffering to prove that he is not blameless and righteous.

Job steadfastly maintains his innocence and calls for his day in the celestial court. Job eventually earns YHWH’s rebuke. But initially YHWH comes down on Job’s side (between Job and his friends). Nothing in the book suggests that Job is anything but blameless or innocent (this doesn’t mean sinless). He’s sacrificing, so he’s probably atoning for sin…

Job’s life moves through three stages – from the good, to the bad, to the better. That’s the Bible’s redemptive story in a nutshell.

Job’s recovery from his calamity involves a metaphorical resurrection from death. It’s proto-resurrection language. The concept of exile and the concept of death are closely related concepts. For example, the Garden of Eden – on the day you eat this you will die – he didn’t die, but he did get exiled. This opens up interesting readings of Ruth also – if exile = death and return = resurrection…

The transition from the bad to the better is summarised in 42:10 – the Hebrew should best be translated “The Lord turned/repented the captivity of Job” – elsewhere in the Old Testament this phrase is used with reference to Israel’s return from exile (Deuteronomy 30:1-3). This (Deuteronomy 30) is how Israel’s story will end. The language is picked up and used throughout the prophets to describe Israel’s return/restoration from exile.

By using this same language to describe Job’s return from his conditions is the author/redactor encouraging us to read Job as a parable of the righteous remnant of Israel as they join naughty Israel in exile. Does it answer the problem of why the righteous are lumped in with the unrighteous?

Is it expressing Israel’s hope of a blessed return from exile.

Objections to this treatment of Job are based on the Hebrew words in question – it’s only elsewhere used to discuss the treatment of nations, this is the only use of the word with regards to an individual.

Doug wants to avoid illegitimate totality transfer – but he thinks the original readers were more likely to draw parallels between this use of language and its common use with regards to national restoration.

Job’s description as a “servant of YHWH” could possibly, possibly, be a link with Isaiah’s suffering servant…

Job’s speeches throughout the book contain syntactical and lexical similarities to the suffering servant language in Isaiah.

Are our current readings of Job to sober – we’re trained as moderns to read very carefully and with discipline. Ancient Jewish readers draw connections between texts that we think are a little too long a bow to draw. They read with much more abandon…

Is there anything in the text that links Job to the suffering servants or to exiled Israel. Reading Job either as a type of the suffering righteous member of Israel in exile has been dismissed by sober “enlightened” readers who want one particular meaning or interpretation. Some have said this view doesn’t account for the richness of Job.

But are there enough things in Job that suggest we should read it in line with the Suffering Servant and Israel’s exilic context. The Targum (early Jewish interpretation) depicts Job as a Torah keeping Israelite. Perhaps even a righteous Israelite.

This pulls Job into the great narrative of redemptive history – like the latter part of Isaiah, and Daniel – books that are commentaries on the conundrums of exile – the suffering of righteous members Israel. It’s a reading that turns into an additional commentary, not just a generic commentary on suffering, but on this non-covenental treatment of the righteous members of Israel. Who should have expected to remain in the land…

Doug concludes: There is a huge circle in his argument – the assumption of redemptive history filtering through Scripture effects the way he reads Job. It’s not necessarily developed by the text itself without this framework.

But if it’s right – Job isn’t purely a “wisdom book” it has a connection to the history of Israel’s redemption. It’s a theological account of Israel’s experience. It can be read as a parable of the experience of the righteous suffering in Israel. It gets pulled into the orbit of the Suffering Servant prophecy. It takes on a prophetic nature when read in dialogue with Isaiah (eg Isaiah 53) we can now draw a connection between Job and Jesus. Christian readings are always Christotellic (directed to Christ) – not Christ under every rock, but a story that ends up with Christ. Christ is the archetypal innocent sufferer.

Christological ramifications – the incomprehensible sufferings of the righteous, the question of why the righteous suffer sits unanswered until Christ comes.

Job has this intriguing role as intercessory for his friends – “go to Job, he will pray for you”… there’s a hint that the suffering servant’s job is to mediate for the unrighteous.

One of the intriguing things at the end of Job is that the three daughters are named, and the sons are not… another striking thing about the three daughters is that they get an inheritance. Normally this happens when the sons are dead. But in this ending of Job (a picture of the age to come – perhaps) the daughters are named, and inherit alongside the sons. Job, the feminist. It’s an intriguing “age to come” ending.

He calls Psalm 44 “Job’s Psalm”…


Al Bain says:

What did he make of 42:7?

Dave Thurston says:

Nathan, hi I agree with Mr Green – I didn’t see it in the discussion but another interesting point is that the troubles that come on Job are the curses of Deuteronomy.