Well, as promised I’m going to try to talk about my upcoming oral final exam, an Old Testament homily for my late-vocations class that I’m taking. We were given the task of selecting a OT lection (reading section from the liturgical rubrics) and give an approximately 10 minute homily on that topic. I’ve selected to give a homily on Job 2:1-10, and I might note that being Orthodox we’re using the Septuagint (for that is their Scriptural canon) and the book of Job differs considerably (it’s 400 lines shorter but is longer in some places). The Job 2:1-10 reading is significantly extended in the Septuagint. Many of the changes are not very consequential. However, the final chapter differs in some surprising ways, which indeed might affect one’s interpretations of the story.
Job 2:1-10 (LXX) is the text that I’m primarily concerned about for the homily. It reads:
Now it happened, when it was the set day and the angels of God came to present themselves before the Lord, the slanderer also came among them. And the Lord said to the slanderer, “Where are you coming from?” Then the slanderer said before the Lord, “I have come, after traversing what lies beneath heaven and waking about everything.” Then the Lord said, “So did you notice my attendant Iob — that there is no one of those on the earth like him, an innocent, genuine, blameless, religious man, staying away from all wrong? And he still maintains his innocence, though you said to destroy his possessions for no reason.” Then the slanderer continued and said to the Lord. “Skin for skin, whatever a person has he will use to pay for his life. However, stretch out your hand, and touch his bones and his flesh; surely he will blessa you to your face!” Then the Lord said to the slanderer, “Very well, I am handing him over to you; only spare his life.”
So the slanderer went out from the Lord, and he struck Iob with a grievous festering sore from his feet to his head. And he tooka potsherd, so that he could scrape away the pus, and sat on the rubbish heap outside the city.
Then after a long time had passed, his wife said to him, “How long will you persist and say, ‘Look I will hang on a little longer, while I wait for the hope of my deliverance’ for look, your sons and daughters, my womb’s birth pangs and labors, for whom I wearied myself with hardships in vain. And you? You sit in the refuse of worms as you spend the night in the open air. As for me, I am one that wanders about and a hired servant — from place to place and house to house, waiting for when the sun will set, so I can rest from the distresses and griefs that now beset me. Now say some word to the Lord and die!” But Iob look up and said to her, “You have spoken like one of the foolish women. If we received the good things from the Lord’s hand, shall we not bear the bad?” In all these things that happened to him Iob did not sin at all with his lips before God.”
a –> Hebrew: a euphemism
If you compare to a the later Masoretic text this passage is much shorter. His wife says merely: “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” and then he replies basically as above.
Job 42:16-17 (ESV) reads:
And after this Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, four generations. And Job died, an old man, and full of days.
Job 42:16-19 (LXX/NETS) reads:
Now Iob lived after his calamity one hundred and seventy years, and all the years he lived were two hundred and forty eight years. And it is written that he will rise again with those the Lord raises up. This man is interpreted from the Syriac book as living in the land of Ausitis, on the borders of Idumea and Arabia, and previously his name was Iobab; now he took and Arabian wife and fathered a son, whose name was Ennon, and he in turn had as a father Zare, a son of the sons of Esau, and as mother Bosorra, so that he was the fifth from Abraam. And these are the kings who reigned in Edom, which country he too ruled: first Balak the son of Boer, and the name of his city was Dennaba, and after Balak, Iobab, who is called Iob, and after him Hasom, who was a leader from the Thaimanite country, and after him Hadad son of Barad, who cut down Madiami the plain of Moab, and the name of his city was Geththaim. Now the firnds who came to him were: Eliphaz, of the sons of Esau, king of the Thaimanites, Baldad, the tyrant of the Sauchites, Sophar, the king of the Minites.
These differences do in fact change the meaning and interpretation of the text somewhat. (Note the NETS translation transliterates the Greek, which lacks a “J” so Job -> Iob and there is no “H” and Abraham -> Abraam). Note as well the emphasized text in the above (emphasis mine). Remember, the LXX Septuagint pre-dates Jesus and Christianity by almost a century and was a translation prepared by 70 (hence the name LXX) rabbis for their Greek rulers and other Greeks for scholarly study.
Anyhow, I digress from the topic at hand (not to say it isn’t interesting in its own light). Anyhow, as I mentioned this morning, last night during my plane travels I took many notes and jotted down thoughts and ideas for my homily. I find I have written too much for one blog post. However, this piece might be interesting for discussion. More will follow on subsequent nights perhaps.
When one considers why was this lection chosen for a Holy week reading as part of the liturgical crescendo aiming toward Pascha (Easter), a number of reasons pop up. Two important ones are that Job is typologically connected with Christ (or more plainly Job is a “type” of Christ). He is the innocent sufferer whom is ultimately redeemed by God. I might add that possibly his wife is a type of Eve, and Pascha liturgical reflections definitely point out that the Resurrection rescues Adam from death (it doesn’t hurt that when Job’s wife tempts him, he does not waver). The second reason is perhaps more important, if not less clear to the casual observer.
In much of the Old Testament, and for that matter as a standard response by many people, there is a sort of moral or ethical algebra or balance which we find righteous. In short, we expect good things to happen to good people and evil for evil. This is both as a juridical matter and as a purely ethical one. Karma, fair play, and so on these are all fairly human and instinctive ideas. We might call this the natural moral algebra. Throughout the Old Testament and especially in for example Jeremiah and the books of the 12 (minor) prophets the idea that Israel and the Hebrews failing to keep right with God had a consequence of exile and slavery. Do wrong, suffer consequence. Yet Job, Christ reject this algebra. Job suffers not on account of his wrongdoing for he is blameless. Much of the text of Job follows his three friends who are convinced in the rightness of this moral algebra and discuss how Job must have sinned because he is now suffering. Jesus as well, in his teaching and his life acts in opposition to this algebra. Love those who hate you. Turn the other cheek. The list goes on. If you review Jesus life and teachings from the point of view of where he stands regarding acceptance of rejection of the natural ethical algebra as noted above, it seems obvious the answer is an emphatic and consistent rejection of the same.
The book Job itself can be seen as an early example of an exploration of theodicy. One question I have not explored or considered is that theodicy is often interpreted in the light of the natural moral algebra. How that plays out having rejected that algebra is a question worth asking.