Job as proto-apocalypse: Proposing a unifying genre

Timothy Jay Johnson, Marquette University


The book of Job is commonly considered part of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament's collection of wisdom literature. However, such a genre classification is problematic and has subsequently led scholarship to propose alternatives to wisdom. This dissertation argues that the book of Job contains sufficient evidence to suggest that an early form of apocalypse can better function as the governing genre for Job. In chapter one, I show why the conventional genre association with wisdom and Job is not the most appropriate, and I critique several of scholarship's alternative genre hypotheses. I conclude that wisdom and the other proposed alternative genres are unable to unify the story of Job. In chapter two, I compare the literary features of Job to those typically affiliated with an apocalypse, by employing the "Master Paradigm" produced by the Society of Biblical Literature's Apocalypse Study Group. I demonstrate that Job does contain several apocalyptic characteristics, the most basic of which are revelations. Recognizing that Job lacks explicitly eschatological features, I review in chapter three interpretations of Job in later tradition. Tradition clearly indicates that the story of Job exhibits apocalyptic characteristics. For example, the Septuagint translation of Job depicts Job as resurrected and the Testament of Job accents the role of the Satan. In chapter four I test my hypothesis by giving an apocalyptic reading to Job. I show that the Satan's challenge to God is actually a self-curse. If Job does not curse God to his face, as the Satan asserts, then something terrible will happen to the Satan. Thus, the Satan attempts through all of the characters, except God, to force Job to confess of some unknown sin. The plot of the story then centers on whether or not Job will persevere to the end. Finally, chapter five details how traditional themes such as "the problem of evil" and "retribution" are subsumed under my reading. I also briefly address issues of social and literary setting arguing that the Babylonian captivity is a likely social setting and that Job may serve as a good example of von Rad's theory that apocalypses emerged from wisdom.

Recommended Citation

Johnson, Timothy Jay, "Job as proto-apocalypse: Proposing a unifying genre" (2004). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3133742.