Date of Award

Summer 2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Theology

First Advisor

Burns, Joshua

Second Advisor

Dempsey, Deirdre

Third Advisor

Orlov, Andrei

Abstract

Job is one of the most difficult books in Hebrew Scripture: in language, poetic rhetoric, subject matter, and literary form. Many scholars understand the book as skeptical literature, as the poetry, the bulk of the book, refutes any justification of God’s activity in history. The matter is acute, as these scholars recognize the poetry’s parodic allusions to Hebrew Scripture and mythological traditions. The poet’s protagonist charges God with immoral conduct, judges the human experience morally incoherent, and despairs of vindication in an afterlife. The whirlwind rebukes Job, Job seems to repent, and the epilogue indicates that God in fact does reward Job; but none of these features give a satisfactory answer to Job’s problems, and neither is their significance obvious.In this dissertation, I analyze the juxtaposition of mythological structures in the book’s chief perspectives: the friends, Job, the whirlwind, and the prose. The author derives these mythological structures from key source texts in Hebrew Scripture, and his characters thereby represent various, mutually exclusive Hebrew religious traditions in a parable. The friends allude to Deuteronomy and convenient mythological structures, including their refutation of the storm-god motif as inadequate to divine transcendence. Job uses the motif to negate their sanguine cosmology and to reveal the dark implications of equating history with God’s perfect will. Job tries to salvage the cosmos’s moral coherence by speculating about a celestial arbiter figure or a post-mortem reward for the righteous. These themes unite in Job’s climactic confession of 19:25. Dramatically, Job indicates it must be one or the other. Literarily, the poet alludes to Hebrew Scripture’s portrayal of God as creator and redeemer and thereby makes post-mortem reward the necessary condition of affirming those traditions. The Whirlwind affirms creation’s goodness and freedom. Divine power respects this freedom, as part of God’s creative process: humans’ proper use of freedom participates in realizing their potential. The insight adapts Second Isaiah’s reflections on divine power. Against Isaiah, the Whirlwind’s Leviathan and the prologue’s ‘the Satan’ adapt the divine antagonism theme. Job thus presents proto-apocalyptic cosmology and anthropology as the answer to the riddle of Hebrew Scripture.

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