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Online Text for Job

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Information on Job

Edwin M. Good writes: "If we cannot say where Job originated, it is equally difficult to say when. Ezekiel referred to Job as an important person alongside Noah and Daniel (Ezek. 14:14-20). Moreover, tradition put him in the patriarchal period and made the book one of the oldest in the Bible. Modern scholars are skeptical of this claim to antiquity, but dates proposed range from the tenth to the third century B.C. The book itself is completely silent about its time, with no allusions to historical events or topical subjects (some take 12:17-19 as a depiction of the Exile). If we could be certain of the history of the Hebrew language or of the relations between one text and another, we could more confidently assign a date. Some affinities of Job 3 with Jer. 20:7-18, for example, do not allow certainty of which passage came first. Stylistic similarities between Job and Isaiah 40-55 have also been alleged. Those connections suggest a time either before the early sixth century B.C. (if Job is prior) or in the late sixth or early fifth century B.C. (if Job is later). Job 7:17-18 is almost surely a parody of Psalm 8, but no one can be sure when Psalm 8 was written. Job 3:4 is a parodistic allusion to Gen. 1:3, a creation account usually dated after the Exile in the sixth century B.C. Such evidence suggests but does not prove that Job was composed and completed after the Babylonian exile." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 408)

James King West writes: "The prose account is written in an archaic style which bears all the marks of an ancient and popular folk tale. That its hero is a virtuous Edomite is good evidence that it predates the Exile, when Jewish distrust of Edomites was most intense. The poem, by contrast, reflects the influence of Jeremiah and the speculative mood of the Exilic or post-Exilic period. If the poet influenced the thought and vocabulary of Deutero-Isaiah, as seems likely, his work could not be dated later than the middle of the sixth century B.C. Notwithstanding the contrasts between the poem and its narrative setting—most especially the patience of the legendary hero as compared with the impatient subject of the poetry—the poem would be unintelligible apart from the story. Having utilized the legend as the basis for his work, the poet himself, presumably, affixed it to the poem as prologue and epilogue." (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 393)

Samuel Sandmel writes: "Since the poem presupposes that something has preceded it to set the stage for the speeches of the characters, it is logical to assume that there must have been a preamble of some kind. But the body of the book at no point hearkens back to the details of the prologue, and hence there arises the frequent opinion that the present prologue does not completely fit the subsequent poem. In the first place, by attributing Job's misfortunes to Satan, the prologue diminishes God's responsibility. Secondly, by making Job, though a worshiper of Yahve, a resident of Uz and not a Jew, the prologue is implying that the unorthodox questioning, which would be inappropriate to a pious Jew, is now intelligible if Job was a Gentile. In the third place, Job is declared in the prologue merely to be undergoing a test, the product of a momentary divine caprice. Is human suffering the exceptional lot of those whom God decides to test? The poem will say no, for evils are assumed in the poem to be quite other than capriciously exceptional. Rather, the poem deals with what is set forth as frequent human experience. If it is true that disasters test a human being, then the poem carefully abstains from equating Job's experience with a test. It is only coincidentally that Job is tested in the poem; in the prologue, the test is the direct purpose. Job in the poem seems a real person; in the prologue he is a puppet, though a lifelike puppet. One effect of the prologue is to compromise the earnestness of the poetic discussion. An explanation for these discrepancies between poem and prologue is the suggestion that whereas the dialogues have a fixed poetic form, the prose prologue went through several stages of recounting common to folk tales. The prologue in its present form is to be regarded as younger than the poem, but as containing bits of folklore much more ancient than the poem." (The Hebrew Scriptures, pp. 277-278)

Jay G. Williams writes: "Still, though Job begins with the thought-forms and the questions of the wiseman, the book must be said to stand 'at the edge of wisdom.' It is, in fact, an impassioned assertion of the awareness that the simple moralism of most wise men is hardly enough. Proverbs is full of the kind of 'practical' advice which a father might offer to his son who is starting out to seek his fortune in the big wide world. Work hard, act and speak honestly, beware evil women and you will succeed. Job avoids all such clichés. In fact, the more one reads the book the more difficult it becomes to know just what answer is being given. Only the most superficial reader will put down the book fully convinced that he has understood it. Like Plato, who also wrote in dialogue form and who often ended his dialogues inconclusively, the authors of Job involve the reader in an intense debate which ends, not with a final Q.E.D., but with a new set of questions. If there is truth to be found in the book, therefore, it is born in th midst of struggle. Perhaps the truth is the struggle itself." (Understanding the Old Testament, pp. 267-268)

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