first post by Emily
MY FIRST POST!
I’ve been told to write about what I am currently working on…here goes: So, Biblical scholarship is a cold, vast sea of interpretation, criticism, and grasping at straws. At the moment, I am looking at a large portion of the history of scholarship, how it pertains to the Book of Job, and why none of this is important. Fun. The problem with a lot of Biblical Scholarship is that, in efforts to be less theological and more “credible”, it often times sought historical evidence and context for the Biblical texts. In the 1800s, thanks to Emile Durkheim largely, there was a huge push for the social sciences to be more “concrete” and follow a version of the scientific method. This meant that a lot of study was seen as misguided if it couldn’t be “proven”. Blah blah blah Enlightenment effect and such. In the build up to my jaw dropping interpretation of the Post-modern meaning of the Book of Job, I am basically saying that all of this historicity is super neat, but ultimately useless. Here’s why:
A large school of thought prominent in the early 20th century was known as Source Criticism. This basically looked at, obviously, the source of the material being studied. It sought to discover meaning in the text through determining things like authorship, and date. The Book of Job is a dream for the masochistic source critic. Even after 100+ years of study we are no closer to a firm date or author than the rabbis were 1500 years ago. This is because Job gives absolutely no references or allusions to historical events or anything that could give some hint as to the time of composition. It’s author is also completely anonymous. Scholars have been spinning their wheels trying to give Job some historical context, to no avail. Scholars also have expressed a large amount of concern over the place of Job among other Ancient Near Eastern texts (which, on their own are SUPER neat, but I’m not allowed to get obsessed with them because I don’t know cuneiform.) While neat, they don’t really offer much insight into the Book of Job, aside from saying, “Look, some other people in the area had similar world views. Fancy that.” This concern with geographical context also lead to an obsession with a genre known as Wisdom Literature (Which is entirely uninteresting and not really important). So, it’s a good thing none of this matters. Because of the lack of date or historical context of Job it is most useful as a work of fiction. For this reason, a literary approach proves to be the most lucrative in the study of this text.
The Book of Job contains some of the most sophisticated poetry in the Hebrew Bible. It’s astonishing really. And it’s such a shame that so much scholarly effort has gone into, in my opinion, trivial details. Why isn’t the obsession on what the text MEANS?! Even if you are concerned with historicity why not consider that to the Ancient Israelites, it was the meaning that was important? They clearly didn’t care who “wrote” the book, or when. It was the meaning of the text that had an impact on their daily life and how they structured their religious community. I think the biggest injustice scholarship has done to the masterpiece that is the Book of Job is this need to categorize it. Date and authorship don’t really matter to me, but the biggest danger to the text, in my opinion is this need to give it a place in a genre (Wisdom Lit). For one thing, Job was a shocking text for it’s own time, as well as ours. It specifically (and likely intentionally) crossed the boundaries of genre. The use of a genre implies an ‘other’. The Book of Job cannot imply another. There is no evidence of a comparable text in any area of the ANE, and the vague similarities some could go as far as to say that Job was knowingly crossing that line, taking it one step further. Also, the application of a genre leads to a biased reading of the text. It prioritizes the group over the individual and hinders the free expression of differences. Once one lets go of these rigid historical boundaries, a deeper meaning of the text is able to be pursued. And that’s what I’m gonna do. Hopefully. I hope you have enjoyed a the ranty synopsis of the first chapter of my proposal. I took out the Hebrew so I hope it makes sense…