• Reading Job Following the Psalms

    Will Kynes (see profile)
    Bible. Job, Bible. Psalms, Bible, Canon (Literature), Intertextuality
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    Book chapter
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    In the order of the Ketuvim in Baba Bathra 14b, the book of Job is preceded by the Psalms and followed by the “Wisdom” books Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. The connections between Job and the latter books have been discussed extensively, but its affinities with the Psalms have been largely overlooked. In The Prayers of Job and David, Ambrose writes, “Many indeed have complained over human weakness and frailty, but the holy Job and holy David have done so in a fashion superior to the rest.” Calvin similarly interprets Job through the person of David, often using the example of David to criticize the words which escape Job’s mouth “without advisement.” With the rise of higher criticism, and with it the categorization of Job as a “Wisdom” book, this emphasis on the proper faithful response to suffering was eclipsed by the more abstract concerns of theodicy and the retributive principle. However, connections between Job and the Psalms were not ignored altogether. For example, Claus Westermann argued that Job follows the structure of a psalmic lament, and Katharine Dell adumbrated Job’s consistent “misuse of forms,” many of which appear in the Psalms. An intertextual approach to the two books reveals even more connections between them, as allusions to the Psalms litter Job’s dialogue with his friends. These intertextual connections suggest that, though reading Job as “Wisdom” has taught us much about its meaning, the personal theological resonance between Job and the Psalms recognized by Ambrose and Calvin should also inform our understanding of the book. The rabbinic tradition, which placed the Psalms before Job, reflects this reading strategy, in which the prayers of Israel become a lens through which to understand Job’s struggle to hold onto faith in the midst of suffering. Thus, Job does not merely follow the Psalms in the traditional order, the book also follows the models for relation with God the Psalms depict, pressing them to their breaking point.
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    2 years ago
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