Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Not Exactly What I'd Call Unanimity

A week ago Monday, several scholars and about 35 to 40 abnormally interested and interesting people tried to sort out a couple of issues concerning the Book of Job. I start my series of reports with an short overview of the focus of the meeting: Loren Fisher's work on the Book.

Loren summarized his previously published views that the Book of Job is best understood as two works. He argued that Job 3:1-26:14 (with a few possible intrusions), which he calls Job II or Rebel Job, was written in response to a much older Job account, Job I (most of the rest of the Book). Job II is, according to Loren, a very strong statement against orthodox believes including, but not limited to, the belief that the universe is just. So offensive was this idea to the "powers that be" at that time that ancient scribes integrated this nearly atheistic Job's work into the older story to make it acceptable to both king and priest. I'll provide more details as to when and how in the next post in this series. Loren further argued that Rebel Job provides the proper standard for judging the rest of Job, the rest of the Hebrew Bible, indeed, all religious works and beliefs in general. I find this idea most agreeable. Sure orthodoxy won, but it need not continue winning. There are other consequences of this understanding of Rebel Job that I'll also touch on in the next post.

To put is mildly, not everyone agreed! A few seemed to me to miss the point but most of those who understood Loren correctly felt that he was wrong, exegetically, theologically or both. And, with one possible exception, the other speakers who made formal presentations, (Ziony Zevit [the possible exception], Jack Sanders, Jack Wilcox and George Pixley) even as they recognized the composite nature of the book, appeared to side with the orthodox Job I. Now, that is a bit of a characterization that I will try to fix in future posts. Everyone had high praise for Loren's beautiful and well documented translations of Job and for his use of material from the ancient Near East.

Over the next few days, I will offer more details of Loren's opening and closing presentations and some of his other remarks and the presentations of Loren's friends. In a concluding post, likely sometime next week, I will give my own minority report as Loren might call it, in which I will summarize my own view on the these matters. While I am largely in agreement with my teacher, Loren, I do have a quibble here and there. I will also make a couple of observations on why I think any of these matters. And I do think it matters. I may post a few pictures from the conference along the way.


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