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Reviewed by:
  • Job and the Disruption of Identity: Reading Beyond Barth
  • Paul Dafydd Jones
Job and the Disruption of Identity: Reading Beyond Barth, by Susannah Ticciati. London/New York: T&T Clark, 2005. 204 pp. $79.95.

This book displays the talents of a genuinely interdisciplinary thinker. On one level, Ticciati operates as textual scholar, using themes such as "integrity" and "disruption" to cast new light on the book of Job. On another level, Ticciati evidences interest in recent Protestant approaches to the Hebrew Bible, being particularly intrigued by Karl Barth's attempt to read Job not as theodicy, but rather as an extended reflection on obedience. Finally, Ticciati works as a theologian for whom textual industry yields constructive reward. Negatively, she indicts Barth's reading of Job as one-dimensional: an overbearing interest in God's salvific intervention forestalls an appreciation of the interactive and processive relationship between Job and God. Positively, she argues that Job must be read as a narrative in which Job progressively understands and constitutes himself within the context of human society, creation as a whole, and his covenantal relationship with God. This interpretation, she suggests—perhaps a touch obliquely—has value for the contemporary world.

Following a useful introduction, the first part of the book considers Barth on obedience. While Ticciati applauds Barth's insights, she views his dependence upon binary oppositions (veiling/unveiling, history/eschatology, election/rejection) as blocking due attention to the text's account of a life-in-process. Put differently: Barth's interpretation is compromised by a "monotheological" [End Page 219] (p. 31) bias, which neglects Job's development before God. Part two offers a close analysis of Job in terms of "integrity." Arguing that the prose envelope of Job positions its protagonist within an irreducibly social, symbolic, and religious context, Ticciati reads the poetic section of Job in a "psycho-philosophical" idiom. The poem shows Job's identity as constituted by disruptions and reformations, with obedience before God played out diachronically. In the midst of travail, Job discerns the "arbitrariness" of God's establishment of the law, beyond the restrictive Deuteronomic covenantalism of his friends; he discovers his singular individuality (and the pain that accompanies it); he confronts the alterity that defines both his own person and God Godself. Most importantly, in the Whirlwind Speeches, Job learns that the law is subsequent to "God's gratuitous act of creation—[God's] election of Job 'for naught'" (p. 111). In part three, sticking close to the original Hebrew, Ticciati identifies Job as a prophetic figure engaged in a legal debate with God. This identification once more shows the adequacy of "integrity" as an interpretive category, for Job discovers himself as elect. Finally, Ticciati returns to the theological issues of part one. Rejecting again Barth's (putative) tendency to dichotomize the historical and the eschatological, Ticciati commends Job as descriptive of a human life in the process of being transformed. In the disruption of his identity by God, Job beholds his own singularity and election; he realizes that "self is the process of its probing" (p. 167); he understands that he lives in medias res, encompassed by the historical and the eschatological, by the human and the divine. This discussion allows Ticciati to gesture towards a "historical ontology" (pp. 170ff ) that discerns ongoing transformation as basic to human being, creation as a whole, and the divine life itself.

Although the nuances of this text cannot be adequately considered in a brief review (I will, in particular, defer comment on Ticciati's handling of the Hebrew and her perhaps controversial emphasis on the role of covenant in Job), there is no doubt as to its importance. On one level, categories such as "disruption," "integrity," and election illumine the enigmatic world of Job. These terms, imaginatively formulated and deftly employed, help to explain the thorny relationship between prose and poem; they also support nicely the contention that Job ought not to be read as mere theodicy. On another level, Ticciati's constructive claims seem both timely and appealing. While her "psycho-philosophical" idiom proves off-putting on occasion—mention of "Job's Bipolar conception of self," for example, seems excessive—it grounds a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 219-222
Launched on MUSE
2009-02-13
Open Access
No
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