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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

History of Interpretation.

1.

The Testament of Job (1st cent. BCE?) is characterized by zeal against idols, extensive speculation about Satan, cosmological dualism, interest in women, burial customs, magic, mysticism, angelic glossolalia, and patience. The author diverges from the biblical story in a number of ways: (1) Job destroys Satan's idol and incurs his wrath, but when Satan disguises himself to trick Job, an angel reveals his identity; (2) Job's possessions and virtuous deeds are magnified in haggadic fashion (i.e. with sermonic or pious exposition); (3) Job's wife, Sitis, demonstrates her loyalty by begging for bread and selling her hair to obtain food; (4) Satan concedes defeat in the conflict with Job; (5) Bildad poses ‘difficult questions’ and Zophar offers royal physicians to Job, who relies on the one who made physicians; (6) Sitis expresses concern for her children who have not received proper burial, and Job tells her that God took them; (7) God condemns the friends for not speaking the truth ‘about Job’; (8) Job's daughters inherit magical items and a gift of glossolalia; and (9) Job is transported into heaven by means of chariots.

2.

The author of the Epistle of James emphasizes Job's patience, but ᾽Abot de Rabbi Nathan accuses Job of sinning in his heart and Rashi faulted Job for excessive talking. According to Glatzer (1969 ), later Jewish interpreters called Job a rebel (Ibn Ezra, Nachmanides), a dualist (Sforno), a pious man searching for truth (Saadia Gaon), one who lacked love (Maimonides), an Aristotelian denier of providence (Gersonides), one who confused God's work with Satan's (Simeon ben Semah Duran), a determinist (Joseph Albo), one who failed to pacify Satan, a scapegoat, an isolationist (the Zohar), one who suffered as a sign of divine love (the Zohar, Moses ben Hayyim). A Jewish legend states that God turned Job over to Satan, called Samael, to keep him occupied while the Jews escaped from Egypt; then God rescued Job from the enemy at the last moment.

3.

The early church emphasized Job's suffering as a moral lesson and included readings from the book of Job in the liturgy of the dead. Gregory the Great wrote thirty-five books of sermons on Job, and Augustine read the book as an example of grace. Thomas Aquinas used the book as a starting-point for discussing the metaphysical problem of divine providence (Damico and Yaffe 1989 ). Calvin wrote 159 sermons on the book of Job, mostly polemical defences of providence (Dekker 1952 ). In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the emphasis fell on Job as a rebel. Voltaire viewed Job as a representative of the human condition (Hausen 1972 ).

4.

Modern critics also tend to view the book in the light of prevailing intellectual or religious sentiment. Carl Jung (1954 ) used psychology as the key to interpreting the book. In his view, the marriage of the powerful but unreflective deity to ḥokmâ (wisdom) resulted in the cross, an attempt to provide a more reasoned response to the problem of evil. Jack Kahn (1975 ) draws on psychiatry to trace the process of grief through which Job passed. Goethe's Faust and Archibald MacLeish's J. B. ( 1956 ) approach the problem of evil from a literary perspective, whereas Girard (1987 ) stresses the universal desire to establish order through identifying and murdering a scapegoat, and Gutiérrez (1987 ) identifies the problem as that of speaking properly about God in the midst of poverty.

5.

A philosopher emphasizes Job's bitterness of spirit (Wilcox 1989 ); artists depict Job's suffering in the light of Greek mythology (William Blake) and the holocaust (Fronius 1980); and a Yiddish interpreter uses Goethe's Faust as a lens through which to view Job positively (Zhitlowsky 1919 ). A contemporary novelist and survivor of the Nazi concentration camps likens the Jewish fate under Hitler to Job's affliction (Elie Wiesel) but is opposed by a humanist who contrasts Job's survival with the victims of Auschwitz and Dachau (Rubenstein). Existentialists use Job as an example of the human situation (Camus, Kafka), and a Marxist philosopher sees him as an exemplary rebel against theism and the abuse of power by religious establishments (Ernst Bloch).

6.

Within the circles of biblical scholarship, interpreters provide various literary readings of the book: a feminist, a vegetarian, a materialist, a NT ideological critique (Clines 1989 ). An older reading of the book as drama has been revived (Alonso-Schökel 1977 ), together with a shift to viewing it as comedy. The modern silencing of ancient dissent in the Roman Catholic liturgy (Rouillard 1983 )—in which only affirmative passages are read publicly—and interpretation (Tilley 1989 ) has evoked dismay. A contemporary poet has provided a fresh translation, removing its sting by omitting crucial verses (Mitchell 1987). In short, interpreters of the book of Job have used it as a convenient means of putting forth their own understandings of reality.

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