Job’s Concept of God

This is blog entry is my response to an article to the following article:

“I think this question is important, as the author(s) of Job seem to have a multifaceted approach to theology–one of necessity but also of indifference towards it. Is it just so easy to lump the author(s) of Job in with the authors of Genesis? Can we say, wholly that the authors of the books which make up the Bible had the same strong belief in God? I don’t think it’s that easy. So this is my question to my fellow Bibliobloggers: Did the author(s) of Job believe in a God? If you believe so, in what way do you think they viewed God? What sort of believer would we say the author(s) of Job is (are)? If not, what drove them to write the narrative?”-Tom Verenna

I think there is a gulf between the authors of Job and the authors of Genesis. I have described Genesis as being relatively un-theological. Job by contrast asks more sophisticated questions of the gods[1]. You know Abraham may bargain with gods for the lives of Sodom, but there is no real questioning of the god’s character. I think even today, its concepts are a more sober reflection on the human condition than offered by the evangelical church. This is especially true if you omit the intro and conclusion chapters, which may be a later addition.

While I don’t think any of the contributors is atheist [2], I do think that Job could be rendered in largely atheist terms. In Job, god is an unpredictable and mysterious being. I think this it shares with the older concepts of god too. But the difference is Job’s god isn’t interacting with Job. In Genesis gods are constantly interacting with the characters, giving them advice, commands and making deals. They are very personal deities. You could replace god with fate, existence, or some other impersonal term for the stream of causality and much of Job’s message would still be intelligible: Life is unfair; there is no guarantee to prosperity except the prosperity that comes with living in the self-confidence of being wise; the universe is governed by a mysterious and powerful force whose objectives cannot be comprehended. Is not all of this true?

The tale is marred in my opinion, by the added end and introduction. By giving the audience the means to know what Job does not: God’s motive in this caper and subsequent repayment for the damage done. The message in Job is under cut. It now says, “You can know God’s motives, we’ll tell you, he is playing a weird game with his tribe in heaven.” And you may have heard devout people use this to console the grieving, “God is testing you”. And of course all suffering gets repaid, so I suppose had Job died penniless, we would know he really had angered God.

I think Job intended to say that if we shout into expanse of the sky to ask “why?” we should not expect an answer. I find that very non-theist.

[1] Genesis doesn’t have the cast of divinities many other similar collections of tales do, but there are multiple heavenly beings referenced, and they are sometimes called the sons of God. so while one of them is the unquestioned boss, there does seem to be a little tribe of these beings in existence. I don’t think the relationship of the beings to God is clearly explained in the bible, so I wonder if the other beings could or should be considered God’s peers.

[2] Gods not just being a theological concept but a concept for understanding the fundamental forces of the cosmos. I would imagine the explanation for physical phenomenon were gods.