In an earlier post on theodicy, the justification of God’s ways to man, I said I’d describe my sermon on the book of Job, published in the Humanist. In that earlier post, I explained how I came to write my essay. I consider that famous story as a unified work of literature rather than selecting verses here and there from which to draw lessons.
I’m not a Biblical scholar, and I don’t read the Bible in its ancient Hebrew. I’m limited to reading the various English translations. I have read articles and books on Job and on the general subject of theodicy. One enjoyable, informative book is William Safire’s The First Dissident, in which the New York Times columnist explained that contrary to Job’s reputation as patient, he strongly protested against the Lord’s rule, and that the Lord did not respond honestly to him. Reading this book gave me the idea and the courage to assemble my thoughts. Lincoln’s famous Second Inaugural Address deals with the subject of God’s ways, and I recommend it to everyone. It’s shorter than this post.
The authors of the Bible’s books are not known to us. Scholars believe that Job as it has come down to us had several authors. There is a prose introduction that describes a series of calamities that befall Job. There is a poem in which Job’s three friends try to comfort him in his suffering. A fourth friend shows up to repeat and muddle some of these discussions. God responds in a famous theophany, His longest speech in the Bible. There is a coda tacked on at the end that restores Job to his original condition. Although scholars believe that each of these parts had its own author or authors, there must have been some final compiler or editor, and the work remained stable after his work. Thus someone believed that the work belonged together as one, and that in that form they provided a consistent and important message for readers. At this time, the work must have expressed ideas that seemed important to its guardians, and they worked to maintain the text. A key purpose of the entire Bible was to explain God to the Jewish people, and a modern reader might well expect to learn something about God’s character, activities, powers, and thoughts. As Lincoln said, however, God’s ways are inscrutable to us. Continue reading