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  • The Image of the Biblical Job, a History: Volume 3, Job in the Modern World
  • Martin Shuster
Stephen J. Vicchio. The Image of the Biblical Job, a History: Volume 3, Job in the Modern World. Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2006. 247 pages.

This book, the final volume in a three-volume monograph, represents, as Stephen Vicchio tells us in his introduction, the culmination of more than thirty years of work on the Biblical Book of Job. The first two volumes, Job in the Ancient World and Job in the Medieval World, appeared earlier this year. Beginning with Near Eastern parallels and/or precursors to the Book of Job and moving all the way through the late nineteenth century readings of the book, these three volumes represent the most sustained and most extensive treatment of the history and impact of the Book of Job in any language. Due to the difficulty of the source material (the Hebrew text of Job is not only some of the most difficult Hebrew ever written, but is also, with the conceivable exception of Hosea, some of the most corrupt) and the Herculean amount of secondary materials to be mastered, one suspects that this will remain the case for quite some time to come.

The book of Job is, among other things, largely a book about the problem of evil—the philosophical and theological problem that Leibniz famously popularized in his book Essais de Théodicée sur la bonté de Dieu, la liberté de l'homme et l'origine du mal. In one sense, then, in addition to being a history of interpretations of Job, Vicchio's book also offers insight into the various responses to the problem that have been proposed by different thinkers. For that reason, Vicchio is careful, in the first volume, to establish a solid and compelling theoretical and philosophical framework. There, he exhaustively reviews the philosophical solutions given to the problem of evil, lumping [End Page 1278] them all into either deontological or teleological responses. By the former he understands those "that look backward in time to discover the cause of innocent suffering" (e.g., 'Original Sin' or 'Free Will'), while by the latter he understands those "that look forward" (e.g. 'Divine Plan') (I: 3). In addition to the variety of philosophical responses, Vicchio also outlines several "images" of Job that have been employed through the ages: the Saintly Job, the Iconoclastic Job, the Wrestler for God, and the Christ Job. Vicchio proceeds through his massive analysis by asking two questions of each Job interpretation: first, what is the philosophical solution presented and second, what is the image of Job employed. These questions lead Vicchio on a systematic historical journey of incredible breadth and scope.

The third volume, Job in the Modern World, begins with the early seventeenth century and proceeds to the late nineteenth century. Taking seriously the maxim that "all translation is interpretation," Vicchio begins with an elaborate account of Job's translation into English, as commissioned by King James in 1604. Vicchio is to be commended here for his analysis, which in addition to mentioning the standard figures of such an account like John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, and Henry VIII (for his commissioning of the important Great Bible), he also mentions lesser-known or often-overlooked figures like Bede and Hugh Broughton.

Vicchio then proceeds to discuss interpretations of Job in seventeenth-century philosophy. Here he includes discussions of Burton, Quarles, Hobbes, Spinoza, and Pascal. What is most interesting about this chapter is the way in which the stated claims of these philosophers (e.g. to discuss Job in a historically-conscious manner or to focus on Job as a historical figure) often deteriorate into mere proof-texts for their own particular philosophies (whether it be Hobbes's political thought, with God as the Divine King or Pascal's Christian proto-existentialism, with the authors of Job as being aware of Jesus the Christ).

Following this discussion, Vicchio dedicates a whole chapter to the relationship between John Milton and Job and another chapter to the views of Job during the Enlightenment. The former is interesting largely for two reasons: first, the compelling connection that Vicchio...


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