Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Job

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. And that man was pure and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. (Job 1:1)

Today is a small post. I am just back from vacation and what I do to make a living is piled quite high. I should be back in full swing tomorrow.

The basic story of Job is familiar to many. Chapters 1 and 2 describe how Job's sufferings came to be, and chapter 42 describes his restoration. A quick scan of the intervening chapters lets us know that Job had three friends who came to visit him in his distress. Reading deeper causes our eyes to glaze over. I can remember the first time that I listened to J. S. Bach's Air of G String. It was boring. How could anyone possibly write music that moved so slowly? All the notes were long and only the scant punctuated pluck of the double bass strings gave any sense of rhythm. You certainly couldn't dance to its strains. Over the years, it has become a favorite and as I listen, I look forward to certain very dramatic and passionate moments. The same is true of Job. It is a very dramatic book, but it moves at the pace of a culture wherein men will sit for seven days saying nothing.

So this series is going to cover all 42 chapters. You will get to know Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu like you never thought possible. You will learn the literary style of the author. You will learn about compassion and the ways of God. In short, Job will become a most valuable book and one that you will be glad to know.

The book of Job is quite possibly the oldest book in the Bible. The events that it records are not the oldest, but the literary forms and its language suggest great age. The Net Bible has these introductory notes:

The Book of Job is one of the major books of wisdom literature in the Bible. But it is a different kind of wisdom. Whereas the Book of Proverbs is a collection of the short wisdom sayings, Job is a thorough analysis of the relationship between suffering and divine justice put in a dramatic poetic form. There are a number of treatises on this subject in the ancient Near East, but none of them are as thorough and masterful as Job. ... While the book has fascinated readers for ages, it is a difficult book, difficult to translate and difficult to study. Most of it is written in poetic parallelism. But it is often very cryptic, it is written with unusual grammatical constructions, and it makes use of a large number of very rare words. All this has led some scholars to question if it was originally written in Hebrew or some other related Semitic dialect or language first. There is no indication of who the author was. It is even possible that the work may have been refined over the years; but there is no evidence for this either. The book uses a variety of genres (laments, hymns, proverbs, and oracles) in the various speeches of the participants. This all adds to the richness of the material. And while it is a poetic drama using cycles of speeches, there is no reason to doubt that the events represented here do not go back to a real situation and preserve the various arguments.

I would encourage you to start reading the book. Tomorrow, I will get into the study proper. Before I leave, I want to offer the following two syllogisms as a clue to understanding logic of Job's friends. Those of you who have studied logic will see through them right away. In any case, I leave them as a simple puzzle which I will answer later:

All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Is Socrates mortal?

All men are mortal.
Aristotle died.
Is Aristotle as man?

Wednesday: Introducing Job.

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

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