Interpreters classic and modern have subjected the Book of Job to all sorts of injustice: allegory and historical-critical concerns that both undermine its dramatic presentation. Refusing to think of it as a drama has disabled our ability to read it as multi-faceted literary masterpiece, and refusing to reading through the drama, with its foreshadowing and complex characters, has truncated our ability to think about it theologically.
As I show, most interpreters I think get Job wrong, or at least don’t fully reckon with its details. Why does Satan disappear after chapter 2? Why is God answering out of a whirlwind so harshly? Why does God say Job has actually spoken rightly of him? Whether classical, modern, Calvinist or Free Will theist, all fail to understand its dynamics. While they all uncover some of message (for instance, God is transcendent and good so trust him), they fail to understand the anomalies in the narrative. It is a lofty claim, but I think it is the case.
The purpose of Job is not even a theodicy: justifying he ways of God in the face of evil. It seems more like, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, an “anthropodicy.” It is the possibility of God’s faithful loving altruistically in the face of tragedy. As Meister Eckhart says, true “love has no why.” In the end, Job teaches us to love God as God loves, which is not for what we get out of God, but because love is beautiful. It is not a theodicy. It is a pedagogy.
Here is the expanded manuscript of the on hour lecture I was invited to give at Thorneloe University for the course Religious Studies 2166: Evil and Sin, on January 28, 2016. Click the link below.