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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: June ::
Job
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1114  Monday, 20 June 2005

[1]     From:   JD Markel <
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        Date:   Saturday, 18 Jun 2005 17:14:41 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1107 Job

[2]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Sunday, 19 Jun 2005 02:48:13 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1107 Job

[3]     From:   Matthew Baynham <
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        Date:   Monday, 20 Jun 2005 10:55:25 GMT
        Subj:   Job


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           JD Markel <
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Date:           Saturday, 18 Jun 2005 17:14:41 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 16.1107 Job
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1107 Job

Job is the Bible's "Why Bad Things Happen to Good People."  Often framed
as an allegory for patience, it mediates questions difficult today, such
as what are the benefits in putting faith in God?  Why do the righteous
suffer?  Dramatically the Job story can be expanded to query whether the
Job-figure is really so righteous as Job.  Are his or her hardships
suffered not a little self-inflicted or not undeserved?

The OT isn't particularly concerned with eschatology and it has no hell
with a torturing Satan to fear.  Satan in Job is a tester of souls, not
a ruler over them in the negative afterlife.

The issues are difficult but the OT doesn't avoid the tough ones.
Still, Job questions faith and was written with characters who were not
Jewish, which may have been a way to allow the discussion without
inciting clerics who would adamantly oppose any discussion of the
sensitive topics.

Job's happy ending does appear slapped on, again maybe due to the
sensitivity of the topic, and I've read others who have argued this.
Nevertheless Job could have been but was not censored and the ideas are
presented as appropriate to consider, the quickie happy ending hardly
negating close consideration of the chapters before.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Sunday, 19 Jun 2005 02:48:13 -0400
Subject: 16.1107 Job
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1107 Job

Anyone with a genuine interest in the Book of Job would do well to get a
copy of William Safire's book, "The First Dissident" (Random House
1992).  Safire believes the author was a contemporary of Aeschylus, and
possibly influenced by him.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Matthew Baynham <
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Date:           Monday, 20 Jun 2005 10:55:25 GMT
Subject:        Job

Thanks to Hardy for his apology, though I hadn't even noticed the change
and it would only have made me smile if I had. The differences between
American English and English English are fun. As for pedantic, my last
College Principal (actually a very nice woman) could not cope with the
standard British abbreviation of Maths and so would always write Math.s!
How much easier if she'd just been happy with the American version.

To serious matters, though: my OT/Hebrew Scriptures scholarship is a bit
rusty, but I'm pretty sure that that Job's Satan is usually considered a
relatively late (ie exilic or post-exilic) import into Judaism.
Meanwhile, the Christian view of Satan was originally taken from even
later inter-testamental Jewish Apocalyptic, which had developed the idea
of Satan further. Certainly the Christian reading of this later Satan
into the serpent of the Genesis account is considered a distortion by
some scripture scholars. I would have thought that it's probably less of
a problem to read this Satan into the Job account: there is at least a
continuity between the two.

More to the point, though, in Shakespeare terms, the orthodox Christian
understanding of the limits of Christian dualism owes something to the
Job account. One of my stock questions for students is about Macbeth
1.3, when the First Witch says of the sailor she is going to persecute
(apparently for nearly two years!): 'Though his bark cannot be lost,/
Yet it shall be tempest-tost.'

Given all the power she has, why can't the bark be lost? I think because
in orthodox Christian understanding (as opposed, possibly, to the
folk-religion of Shakespeare's time), the powers of evil do not have the
power of life and death: they can tempt and try, but they can't kill.
The power to kill (and to make alive) is God's alone. This idea is read
more or less straight from Job, where God forbids Satan to kill Job
(and, yes, might be said to ignore the deaths of those dear to Job,
apparently through Satan's agency). It is a key aspect of Christian
orthodoxy's attempt to argue that Christianity contains no ultimate dualism.

Matthew Baynham

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