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Kenneth Seeskin JOB AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL In its classical form, the problem of evil is easy to state. God is omniscient , omnipotent, and omnibenevolent. Therefore if innocent suffering occurs, God must know about it, be able to prevent it, and desire to prevent it. Since whatever God desires comes to pass, the existence of innocent suffering is incompatible with the existence of God. It follows diat to uphold belief in God, one must eidier deny diat innocent suffering occurs or show that it is needed to accomplish a greater good. The Book ofJob takes up the issue of innocent suffering right from the start. No one who has read it can fail to be moved by die depth of its wisdom or the majesty of its rhetoric. Its poetry rivals that of die Psalms. But diis impression is matched by an equally vivid sense of disquiet. It is notjust that God refuses to offer ajustification ofJob's calamities. It is that for all its probing, the book never advances our understanding ofdie problem of evil in the form in which I have presented it. There are elaborate speeches and equally elaborate replies, but in no case does the book put forward an argument, much less an argument formulated in so abstract a way. Most of die speeches, including those of die comforters, are a mixture of wisdom, poetry, and folly, with the reader never quite sure which is which. Another troubling feature is the matter of plot. If instead of doing philosophy, die book offered a narrative, our sense of disquiet would be less pronounced. But widi die exception of die epilogue and prologue, there is nothing approaching a story line. A problem, the suffering of a righteous man, is talked to deadi. God appears; but for all dieir beauty, His words are as enigmatic as any in the book. Job repents, is rewarded, 226 Kenneth Seeskin227 and die book ends. Unlike the story ofdie Fall, diere is no allegory whose meaning would allow us to reach a general conclusion about the causes of innocent suffering. Not surprisingly, me text has generated extensive debate. Some people think die prologue is a later addition because it exonerates God. In contrast to the rest ofthe book, die prologue allows us to see why God has permitted Job to suffer: He wants to show that Satan's skeptical view of human piety (1:9-10) is mistaken. Adding to diis hypodiesis is die fact that die wager between God and Satan is never mentioned again. Omers diink that die epilogue is a later addition because it provides die book widi a happy ending. Still others think diat editorial changes have been made in die body ofdie text to mollifyJob's anger. Zophar's third speech is missing . A popular explanation is that lines from mis speech were transferred to die mourn of Job to make the hero's position more acceptable to religious audiences (e.g., 24:18-25, 27:13-23). Similar considerations apply to die hymn to the inscrutability ofGod in chapter 28. The speeches of Elihu have long puzzled scholars, in part because they repeat the views of the odier comforters, in part because diey also prepare the way for the speeches of God. There are even problems with translation. It has not escaped die notice of biblical scholars that die Septuagint's Job is not nearly the rebel who emerges from the lines ofdie Hebrew text.1 Allowing diemselves linguistic and editorial liberties, die Greek translators created a character who is much less willing to challenge God. I prefer to leave questions about textual authenticity to odiers. Note, however, that even if die dieories of multiple authorship are true, it does not follow diat die text we have is a hodgepodge. Godiic cadiedrals took as much as 200 years to construct. In that time, there were thousands ofartists at work and in all likelihood, a series ofdesign changes. But diis information is compatible with die claim mat die resulting structure is a unified work of art. So too, with the book ofJob. Aesthetic questions about die organization of the parts cannot be decided by historical arguments. Yet...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 226-241
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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