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Theodicy and the Book of Job

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  1. Theodicy and the Book of Job Foundations of Theology: September 30, 2010

  2. 4:7-9, 17; 6:24-30 • Eliphaz speaking to Job • Job must have sinned to deserve his suffering as punishment • Eliphaz is defending God’s justice • View of God = (strict) judge • “Theology of (temporal) Retribution” : an “eye for an eye” (Lev 24:29-20) • Job replies that Eliphaz has no proof and he maintains his innocence

  3. 16: 2-6 • Job replies to his friends’ explanation of his suffering by stating that their theology of retribution does not fit with his experience of suffering. • He does not claim that he is completely innocent, only that he has done nothing that would warrant such severe suffering.

  4. 24: 2-12 • Job still complains of the injustice of his individual suffering, but through his experience of suffering he widens his perspective in solidarity and recognizes that the suffering of others as well (including the poor, the hungry, widows, and orphans). • He also recognizes the further injustice that the wicked seem to prosper (this is further evidence against the theology of temporal retribution).

  5. 29: 12-17; Ch. 31 • Job appeals to God • He maintains his innocence • He adds further that he has practiced justice (sedaqah) and righteous judgment (mishpat) toward the those in need; he has modeled his behavior on these same two virtues that are attributed to God (Gen 18: 19).

  6. 30: 20-26; 31: 35-37 • Job speaks to God • Job asks for a response from God to give an account or a reason for his suffering. • Job asks that his case be heard, that he have the opportunity to meet his accuser. • Job is building a case for his innocence, and the setting is comparable to a trial.

  7. 38: 1- 40:2 • God’s first speech to Job • God indicates that he has a divine plan that can be seen in nature. • God orders and has a plan for his creation (divine providence). • This plan is real, even if it is not fully understood by Job (or by any human). • (God’s providence also extends to the events of history as well, though this is not highlighted in the book of Job as it is elsewhere.)

  8. 40: 3-5 • Job’s first response to God • Job recognizes his smallness before God’s greatness • Job is silenced – “I put my hand over my mouth” (40: 4) • “The mysterious meeting of two freedoms” (Gutierrez) – Job realizes that God is radically free, and out of respect for creation, God has created humans free as well; only in the meeting of these two freedoms in gratuitous love can one understand God’s wisdom and plan

  9. 40: 6- 41: 26 • God’s second speech to Job • God reveals his just governance of the world, his power and control over even the most wild and chaotic elements of creation (exemplified by Leviathan and Behemoth)

  10. 42: 1-6 • Job’s second reply to God • Job comes to trust in God’s plan, even as he recognizes that he cannot fully understand it • Previously he had known of God by words and ideas, now he has seen God face to face – he has come recognize that everything is a gift freely given by God • Job changes his mind (better translation than “repents”) about his previous complaints

  11. Epilogue: 42: 7-17 • 3rd person narrator • God is angry with the three friends, who have not spoken rightly of God as Job has • Despite his appeals to understand God’s justice, Job is vindicated and his fortunes and family are restored

  12. How to speak of God? • Job has learned that there are two ways to speak of God amidst suffering: the language of prophecy and of contemplation • In contemplation (in seeing God face to face), Job realizes that God is radically free and cannot be constrained by any strict justice (theology of retribution) or any theological system. He meets God in love and mercy, in a realm beyond justice • But he also recognizes that this does not free him from the demands of justice (which are universal, but also a unique element of God’s covenant with Israel). • He also sees the importance of solidarity, of concern for the poor, as a way to witness to and model God’s love amidst unjust suffering.