Monday, June 20, 2016

About that prologue...

The prologue of the book of Job is shaped like a fairy tale in order to prevent us from using it as the Archimedean point from which to set the book in motion and speculate on God and the world. The fairy-tale quality is not merely there as a container of content, but the form itself signals theological criticism of what is presented: the unreal perspective embodied in the prologue remains fictional and the prologue is very aware of this.

What do these thoughts imply for the theology of the book Job? We gain the impression that the book of Job, read from the perspective of the prologue, embodies all the characteristics of negative theology. All affirmative speech about God is called into question by the prologue. The prologue suspends the logic of the friends’ theology in the dialogues, it suspends the finality of the divine speeches, and it even suspends its own logic to a certain degree. The prologue thus successively lays out all possible solutions to the reason for Job’s suffering: theological speculation as contained in the dialogues, divine revelation as contained in the monologues of God, even metaphysical constructions as presented in the prologue. All these options must be discarded as solutions to the Job problem.

By using a sophisticated system of literary checks and balances between the prologue, the dialogues and the divine speeches, the book of Job does not answer the problem that stands at its center. Instead, by criticizing each of its own answers, it thrusts the problem back at its readers. This process of giving back the problem is a process of theological education that is designed to reject any objectified speech about God, which turns God into an object of reflection or projection. Who or what God may be is outside of human grasp—this is the message of the book of Job.— Job's Journey, page 23 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
Wow! That's a mouthful. I'm still digesting what he's saying here, but the one thing that stands out more than anything else is the danger of making God an object instead of a being. Easy to do in academic settings, isn't it? It's a continual temptation to me, at least.

This is a great little book! I'm loving it. What about you?
</idle musing>

1 comment:

Tim Bulkeley said...

This sounds like a really good, if slow (in a good way), read. It seems to be only available as paper, which is expensive for me by the time shipping is added, so I may wait till the libraries in Auckland get it.