Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Convocation of Job Session IV

This is the fourth 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. This session featured a paper by George Pixley. Pixley, now Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico, spent his academic career in Latin America and most of his scholarly publications, including a commentary on Job are in Spanish. Tom Trotter presided over this session.

Pixley's paper was titled "A Credible Reading." His paper presented a reading of the book that he claimed is one of "several possible but differing and contradictory readings." In the single reference to Loren Fisher's proposals, he told us that his reading "does not exclude the possibility that a book contains the combination of two different book . . . but if a coherent reading of the whole can be made that will certainly be preferable to supposing a division in the book." I bite my tongue for now.

Pixley seeks a reading that is relevant to the pastoral task. He sees the book as a drama. There are two levels. On the "higher" level, the players are God and the accuser (the Satan). On the "lower" level, the players are Job, his wife, friends and "an upstart intruder (Elihu)." The lower lever players cannot see the higher level action.

One of the more interesting sections of his paper likens Job's fate to the "disappeared" of Latin America during military dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

I will quote Pixley's conclusion at length,

Job is convinced: "I have uttered what I did not understand” (42:3). Henceforth, he will cease and desist. Somewhat overdramatically he says, “Therefore I will reject (what?) and repent (of what?)" My suggestion is that Job is now convinced that, although he was always right about his innocence, it makes no sense to pursue the issue. He repents of his insistence on a trial and rejects his public pressures on God. God’s private confessions have convinced him that in the final account God is on the side of the right and the good and that it is necessary to accept the ambiguities of creation and the rule of the creator.

Job is satisfied but God is not. There is still the issue of Job’s friends with which to deal. So God speaks to Eliphaz, "My wrath is kindled against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of what is right, as my servant Job has" (42:7). Now this is a public confession on God’s part, at least to these three men. Job was right when he accused God of pursuing him without cause, and the three friends were wrong in suspecting great sins on his part, thus falsely accusing him and betraying their friendship. So Job does get some satisfaction for his demands, after all, after he desisted in maintaining his insistence.

And, finally, "the Lord restored the fortunes of Job" (42:10-l7). We set aside the LXX conclusion and stay with the MT. Here God straightens out what can be straightened. This is a preparation for liberation theology. It seems to me that God must by his actions be inviting Job and his friends to join him in the task to "enderezar los entuertos," in don Quijote’s words. To put right what is twisted. Some twisted things cannot be straightened out. Job’s sons and daughters are dead, and dead they shall remain. But it is possible to restore Job’s health and to raise up other sons and daughters. And then, one would hope, God, Job and the three friends will seek other "entuertos" to "enderezar."

If Loren thought Wilcox' reading was "an excellent account of Job I," he surely thought something similar of Pixley's. In the context of the focus of the conference, Pixley's comments were interesting but to a large extent irrelevant. His only direct challenge to Loren's position was his claim that "a coherent reading of the whole" is "preferable" to reading the book as a composite. I suppose that this is true enough for anyone who seeks to suppress the Rebel Job in the way that Loren understands him. After all, if Loren is correct, that is exactly what those who combined Job I and II sought to do. I'll have more to say about this issue later. However, I will point out now that if Loren is correct, then the nature of the "dialogue" between the composite parts is central to understanding the book as a whole and cannot be brushed aside so easily.


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