Sunday, April 08, 2007

Convocation of Job Session III

This is the third in my series on the Convocation on Job. You can find a link list to the various posts in the series with my report on the first session. I've been having a difficult conversation with my Ba. My original plan was to report on each of the five sessions as objectively as possible without introducing interpretive elements that were not otherwise made clear in the session. For this reason, I did not note the extent to which Sanders, in session II, sought to emasculate Loren Fisher's Rebel Job. As I began work on session III with John Wilcox, it became clear that I would need to enter into the discussion in a way that I had hoped to avoid at this point. You'll see why as this unfolds.

Session III was presided over by your faithful reporter and featured a paper by John Wilcox. Wilcox was quite ill on the day of the conference so his wife, Nancy Hough, read his paper. Her reading was extremely good and it was hard to believe that she had had so little time to prepare. Having spared his voice, Wilcox was able to participate in the discussion that followed.

Wilcox began by noting a few points that he saw as agreement with Loren Fisher's view of Job. The Wisdom Hymn and the Elihu speeches do not "add anything to the book." While I'm not sure this is Loren's position, I am sure he would agree that they do not add anything to his Job II. He agreed with Loren that Job's "friends are mistaken; Job wins the debate, and orthodoxy is defeated. God does not always reward the righteous, protect the weak, or punish the wicked.[emphasis added]" Wilcox took this point of supposed agreement to speculate that this is what Loren means when he says there is not justice, that the god of the friends is dead, that god does not exist, that there are two gods, one dead. Then he said, ". . . these seem to me troubling ways to express the point, and ways I cannot justify from the Joban text." He further agreed that orthodoxy is "cruel." And it is here that I must step in. By my understanding, Wilcox is correct that Loren sees "orthodoxy" as defeated in Job II and that god does not "reward the righteous, protect the weak, or punish the wicked." But, Wilcox' formulation raises two problems. First is Wilcox' use for the word "always." "Not always" implies that god does sometimes do these things. But by Loren's reading, Job II, the Rebel Job, argues, I think successfully, that god is not involved in such things at all. It is for this reason that the defeat of orthodoxy is beyond the idea that god does not always act as he should. When Loren says there is no justice, that the god of the friends is dead, that god does not exist, that there are two gods, one dead, he means it exactly for Job II. So by limiting the definition of "orthodoxy," Wilcox suggested much greater agreement than really exists.

With this in mind, one can now begin to understand the remainder of Wilcox' remarks. He indicated that the book as a whole better supports his view of Loren's conclusions as well as Loren's Job II does. He offered a couple of examples. Wilcox told us that the theophony supports Loren's views. In fact, he thinks the theophony makes no sense without the dialogue with the friends. He admitted that this may missed Loren's point. He also indicated that the epilogue helps Loren's point. He noted that one of the reactions that one might have to a plight like Job's is to provide comfort. And according to Wilcox, that's exactly what the friends and family in the epilogue do. Wilcox thinks that one should interpret the epilogue "in a way that fits what comes before it." But if Loren is correct, only in the final form, or near final form, of the book does the dialogue with the friends "come before it."

Wilcox expressed deep concern about what he sees as the extreme bitterness of Job (I and and II or just II?) and told us, "Fisher, like MacLeish before him, fails to appreciate the difficulty of the transformation required of Job at the end." He expressed concern that Loren does not provide help to his Job II. He claimed that such help is indeed provided by the theophany.

Wilcox asked why god "blasts" Job in the theophany when, if one reads only Job I, Job has not said much to upset him. He noted and dismissed Loren's response, "even the orthodox Job goes too far in his demands on his God. This is especially true in chapters 29-31." Here I must intervene again. As will be seen in my last post in this series, I think Wilcox may have a point. But it is not a point about Job II. It is rather a point about Job I and the compositional history of the book as a whole.

Wilcox finished with what he described as lesser issues. These included Loren's placement of Job 27 and 29-31 (call for a trial) in Job I. I'll only take up the first of these. As Wilcox noted, there has been a scholarly debate about Job 27:8-23. Is it a third speech of Zophar or is it a speech of Job as the plain reading of the text would lead us to believe. Loren thinks it is properly attributed to an orthodox Job (Job I). Wilcox, and he is not alone, thinks it is a third speech of Zophar. His conclusion, like many others in Wilcox' paper, rests in considerable part on his interest in reading the Book of Job as a whole rather than seeing it as composite, its parts in conflict each with the other. It is interesting that Wilcox made the following point, ". . . what Job says in the prologue is not quite what the friends say in the dialogues, or what Job/Zophar says in the troublesome part of Chapter 27." Without judging the merits of this claim, if it is indeed the case, than it seems supportive of the idea that Job 3:1-26:14 should be read as a unit separate from most of the prologue and Job 27 if not the total remainder of the book.

While the discussion was lively, I think Loren himself made the most important point, "You have given us an excellent account of Job I."


Post a Comment

<< Home