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2015 Reads > TS: The Inevitable Comparison to Job

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Barak Raguan (shiningheart) | 40 comments I'm in no way an expert on theology, or the bible, but I did read the book of Job, and I did read a few things about it, so here goes.
First, for those who are not familiar with it, here's a concise, true to form, totally not adapted, original language synopsis of it.
So Job is this really nice dude and a very devout person. He loves God, he prays, he calls every week, he sends presents, the whole shebang.
One day God is being all "Job is so great!" and "I heart Job", and "Job's so awesome". So he asks Satan: "Ain't Job swell?". But Satan's like: "meh". Satan says: "Well, that's no big whopper, God. Look how nice you've been to him! You've given him his health, a big family, lots of cash, success, and friends! Of course he loves you. But I bet if push come to shove and the shit hits the fan, he'll be like, 'Pfft, screw you, God.'"
Side note: this is actually Satan's only appearance in the Old Testament.
So God decides to test this theory. He decides, to put it bluntly, to rain down a shitstorm on Job, and he starts allowing Satan to do all sorts of terrible things to Job. He kills off his children, takes his wealth, gives him boils, etc. etc. But Job remains faithful, refusing to curse God.
Actually, when told that his children have died, he replies with what I think is one of the most powerful passages in the Bible: "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." (This sentence is the lynchpin of the Jewish burial ceremony)
So Job's friends are all: "You for sure must be a terrible sinner, or else God wouldn't fuck you over like this." And Job tells them: "Fuck off. No just God would cause me to suffer like this. Not all suffering is deserved - sometimes shit just happens."
Finally, God makes an appearance. Job asks: "What did I ever do to you to deserve this kind of treatment, yo?". To which God replies in a fantastic monologue, which basically shuts down Job's argument, and which has sparked an infinite number of philosophical debates. He basically says: "Where were you when I created the Earth? When I set everything in place and in motion? Where were you when I created the heavens, and dammed the seas? Do you know what lies beyond death? Do you know where light dwells?" And on and on.
Until finally, Job cracks and says: "I understand now how much I don't understand. God is bigger than me and my life. His outlook and his plan are so much bigger than me to make my plight irrelevant. I should just worship him and do my best, and accept my fate."
And then God restores to him wealth, health and he marries and has a bunch more kids, and they all live happily ever after the end.

So there it is, the story of Job. Which is why, I think, The Sparrow draws an inevitable comparison with the biblical tale. I mean, here we have a devout priest, one who loves God wholeheartedly (or comes to love God in the initial part of the novel), who then faces a crisis of faith. And now he asks himself how he can still believe in God if he has been treated so harshly despite being so faithful.

What do you all think?


message 2: by Tassie Dave, S&L Historian (last edited Jan 20, 2015 04:27PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tassie Dave | 3533 comments Mod
The thing I take from the story of Job is.

Job is a pussy who forgives too easily and needs to grow a set and move on.
Satan is a douche bag and God is a dick. ;-)

Emilio at least does blame god and moves on to a different life, while still believing. He does forgive but certainly never forgets.


Joanna Chaplin | 1175 comments First off, Barak, thank you for making a thread about what I consider one of the main theme of the book: Why does a powerful, just, and loving God permit suffering, especially in a way that seems undeserved to us? As a rereader, I'm kind of ashamed that I was too lazy and/or nervous to start a thread about it in some shape. I'm nervous to discuss it to the full extent of what I believe about the issue.


message 4: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 3949 comments I once read a book, "Answer to Job," which postulated that at the moment God was berating him, Job was morally superior to God. And as God slowly figured this out he realized that he would have to regain that moral superiority by suffering even more. Hence he came as Jesus.

I found the book interesting, not as a believer - I'm not conventionally Christian although I do have Deist leanings. Rather, I liked the idea of a God who isn't completely sure what to do with his creation and is kind of learning on the job. Perhaps omniscient but certainly not omnipotent.

In terms of the book, this would mean that God is trying for a net benefit, but not the benefit of all the people involved. He uses them and lets them suffer horribly in order to achieve a greater good. Not all that comforting to those being used, though.


message 5: by Joe Informatico (last edited Jan 20, 2015 11:18PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joe Informatico (joeinformatico) | 888 comments Tassie Dave wrote: "The thing I take from the story of Job is:

Job is a pussy who forgives too easily and needs to grow a set and move on. Satan is a douche bag and God is a dick. ;-)"


No, it's God who wimps out. If he really wanted that diatribe to stick, he should have left Job in the gutter instead of restoring him.

I understand the larger point though. To the question "How does a just, loving God allow evil?", the divine responses that shut down the argument immediately are "It's beyond your limited comprehension, mere mortal" or "Who said I was just and loving?"


Rob Secundus (quintessential_defenestration) | 1035 comments Job we're pretty certain has multiple authors, who all think different things about god, suffering, evil, etc, and are writing to "fix" the text. Iirc the satan frame and job's restoration are two additions.

So yeah, in another thread I tried to argue that the sparrow says contradicting things about God and our relationship to such a being. Which makes the Job comparison even more apt.

I think in both the only way to resolve things, Job or Sparrow, is to be comfortable accepting the contradictions.


message 7: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 3949 comments Rob Secundus wrote: "So yeah, in another thread I tried to argue that the sparrow says contradicting things about God and our relationship to such a being. "

Since the author was going through a crisis of faith at the time herself, I would tend to agree. She found a religion (Judaism) that she liked enough to convert. Sandoz wound up...hmm, sequel spoilers... (view spoiler)


message 8: by Art (last edited Jan 21, 2015 11:28AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Art | 190 comments An example of a coincidence and faith.

My church has a text book which gives an old testament verse and a new testament verse for every day of the year. These are used either in prayer or for personal reflection. Because it is just one verse it is usually pretty open to interpretation but the verses do seem to have an uncanny knack of being very appropriate to the day they are for.

So here's where The Sparrow and this thread come in. I finished this book (the last 100 pages) on Sunday and since then have been thinking about it a lot. I have just picked up the text book and out of curiosity flicked to see what it had to say for last Sunday. It was from Job!

"Naked I came from my mother's womb, naked I shall depart" -Job 1:21a


Tina (javabird) | 690 comments

Since the author was going through a crisis of faith at the time herself..."


I would be interested in knowing more. Do you have a link? Wikipedia doesn't really say much.


message 10: by Tina (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tina (javabird) | 690 comments Barak wrote: "I'm in no way an expert on theology, or the bible, but I did read the book of Job, and I did read a few things about it, so here goes.
First, for those who are not familiar with it, here's a concis..."


Interesting, but you forgot to mention Job's three friends who try to "comfort" him by basically trying to correct his attitude.


message 11: by Eric (last edited Jan 22, 2015 09:41AM) (new)

Eric Mesa (djotaku) | 617 comments I was raised in Christianity and Job never made any sense to me. Both Youth Pastors and the regular Pastors always focused on what an awesome dude Job was for going through so much shit and never cursing God. Therefore, nothing you're going through should ever be a reason for cursing God. They never really dealt with how effed up it would be for God to essentially take a bet with Satan (or really, just The Tempter).

As I've gotten older and learned more, I basically chalk it up to a culture we cannot possibly comprehend because we didn't grow up in the Middle East in the BC time period. Two quick things that stand out:

1) God and his rival argue about something and humans end up effed. Weird in the context of modern Christanity/Judaism/Islam which only sees God as answering prayers - never actually talking to us, messing with us etc. But back then we're talking the world of Egyptian mythology, proto-greek mythology, etc - that stuff is quite common back then.

2) I'm OK with God allowing him to become poor and then rich again. I've always had a problem with losing kids and then getting more kids. Money is fungible, kids aren't. As a parent, if I lost my daughter I wouldn't be happy if I got another as a replacement. But I've read that even as recently as the 1700s (Western world) when infant/child mortality was high - people did see kids as somewhat interchangeable because to do otherwise would mean they'd constantly be wracked by grief.


message 12: by John (Taloni) (last edited Jan 22, 2015 10:08AM) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 3949 comments Tina wrote: "Do you have a link? Wikipedia doesn't really say much."

It's in the back of both books, the author's discussion of the work.


message 13: by Tassie Dave, S&L Historian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tassie Dave | 3533 comments Mod
John wrote: "Tina wrote: "Do you have a link? Wikipedia doesn't really say much."

It's in the back of both books, the author's discussion of the work."


It is in neither of my books.

She does discuss it on her web site in an interview about the book.
http://www.marydoriarussell.net/about...

Here is the relevant section: (view spoiler)


Julian Arce | 71 comments Just a quick note. The book of Job actually mentions an "accussing angel" or something like that. It is a "good guy" whose job is to find faults on people.

It is common for people or translations to assume he is the devil, but Judaism doesn't have a concept of an evil entity, since that goes agains the idea of an all-powerfull God.


Rob Secundus (quintessential_defenestration) | 1035 comments I'm sorry, but that's extremely misleading. It's not that people assume a connection, it's that the character of the accuser morphed into the satan-figure we're all familiar with over time, and got mixed up with other developing Jewish thought about evil and, yes, devils. The word satan literarily comes from Job. Judaism was not some static unchanging thing over millennia, and as time went on it certainly was not *unified* on issues of the supernatural.


Rob Secundus (quintessential_defenestration) | 1035 comments (Even that notion you're describing of one omnipotent God isn't something static. Early Judaism pretty much assumed that other, lesser, evil gods existed. The Egyptians didn't worship false gods. They worshipped paltry gods, in comparison to Yahweh. Eventually, paltry shifted to nonexistent.)


message 17: by Dharmakirti (last edited Jan 27, 2015 01:02PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dharmakirti | 942 comments Rob Secundus' posts above made me think of Elaine Pagels' Origin of Satan.

From the Introduction:
"Rereading biblical and extra-biblical accounts of angels, I learned first of all what many scholars have pointed out: that while angels often appear in the Hebrew Bible, Satan, along with other fallen angels or demonic beings, is virtually absent. But among certain first-century Jewish groups, prominently including the Essenes (who saw themselves as allied with angels)and the followers of Jesus, the figure variously called Satan, Beelzebub, or Belial also began to take on central importance. While the gospel of Mark, for example, mentions angels only in the opening frame (1:13) and in the final verses of the original manuscript (16:5-7), Mark deviates from mainstream Jewish tradition by introducing “the evil” into the crucial opening scene of the gospel, and goes on to characterize Jesus’ ministry as involving continual struggle between God’s spirit and the demons, who belong, apparently, to Satan’s “kingdom” (see Mark 3:23-27). Such visions have been incorporated into Christian tradition and have served, among other things, to confirm for Christians their own identification with God and to demonize their opponents—first other Jews, then pagans, and
later dissident Christians called heretics."
Pagels, Elaine H. The Origin of Satan. New York: Random House, 1995


Here is an interesting interview that the Christian Science Monitor did with Ms. Pagels last year. http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/chapte...


message 18: by Eric (new)

Eric Mesa (djotaku) | 617 comments Dharmakirti wrote: "Rob Secundus' posts above made me think of Elaine Pagels' Origin of Satan.

From the Introduction:
"Rereading biblical and extra-biblical accounts of angels, I learned first of all wha..."


The older I get the more I realize that of the Big Three, almost no one knows what's actually in the books. They know the traditions and add-ons.


Julian Arce | 71 comments Rob Secundus wrote: "I'm sorry, but that's extremely misleading. It's not that people assume a connection, it's that the character of the accuser morphed into the satan-figure we're all familiar with over time, and got..."

I know this from conversations and personal jewish friends, but here are the results from a rather quick web search

http://www.patheos.com/Library/Judais...

Quotes: "In the biblical and First Temple periods, evil was not even discussed, based on the assumption that God is just."

"Influenced indirectly by Hellenistic thought and literature during the Second Temple period, the Book of Job was the first individual, critical response to the doctrine of retribution in the Torah. The author clearly expresses a tension between theodicy, an undying faith in God's justice despite terrible personal tragedy, and an active protest in which God is put on trial."

"In the Rabbinic period between 70-500 C.E., the rabbis constructed a theodicy by arguing that God created every human being with a yetser tov or "good urge," and the yetser ha-ra, "bad urge." They asserted that both urges were necessary because the bad urge provided individuals with the libido or energy that they needed to use for productive purposes like building houses, marriage, having children, and conducting business"

http://www.jewishanswers.org/ask-the-...

"In Christianity, Satan is an enemy of G-d, an opposing force, and something very bad. In Christianity, Satan has a level of power that is considered almost equal to that of G-d... However, in Judaism Satan is an agent of G-d, created by G-d for a specific purpose, and something very good. Satan is simply an agent of G-d, just as all the other angels are simply agents of G-d. "

"This applies only to passages referring to Satan as a proper name – the angelic being. The word Satan is actually used many times in the Tanakh, and it means an adversary, obstacle or stumbling block."

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/art...

"Term used in the Bible with the general connotation of "adversary," being applied (1) to an enemy in war (I Kings v. 18 [A. V. 4]; xi. 14, 23, 25), from which use is developed the concept of a traitor in battle (I Sam. xxix. 4); (2) to an accuser before the judgment-seat (Ps. cix. 6); and (3) to any opponent (II Sam. xix. 23 [A. V. 22]). The word is likewise used to denote an antagonist who puts obstacles in the way, as in Num. xxii. "

"Such a view is found, however, in the prologue to the Book of Job, where Satan appears, together with other celestial beings or "sons of God... characterize Satan as that member of the divine council who watches over human activity, but with the evil purpose of searching out men's sins and appearing as their accuser. He is, therefore, the celestial prosecutor, who sees only iniquity... Yet it is also evident from the prologue that Satan has no power of independent action, but requires the permission of God, which he may not transgress."


Rob Secundus (quintessential_defenestration) | 1035 comments Excellent sources, dharma and Julian! This is exactly what I was talking about-- the satan of 2015 is not the satan of 1 AD is not the satan if the book of Job, and the Judaism of 2015's beliefs are not those of 1AD are not those of the book of Job. Good stuff.

My only problem is that it treats Job as a single work by one author-- but perhaps he multiple author understanding has not crossed over from secular and Christian scholarship into Jewish scholarship.


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