Job: Authorship and Dating

It is hard to determine the authorship because it is hard to make connections to Job from the Biblical-canonical writers. The question to answer is: How did Moses and the other OT authors get the book of Job? But first, dating:

When was it written?

Here are the options we have for the dating (of the writing, not the historical events themselves):

  1. Super early date: time of the actual historical occurrence of Job (during the patriarchal period)
  2. Early date: time of Moses (Matthew Henry suggests during the Israelite wilderness wandering)
  3. Middle date: time of Solomon (a popular idea, e.g. Garrett, Longman, etc)
  4. Late date: time of post-exile Israel

The factors to consider:

  1. Linguistics: Hebrew. translating the book is a nightmare because it contains lots of rare words and hard constructions. It is probably archaic Hebrew—the oldest Hebrew. This puts it early, around the time of the Pentateuch. So the date must be either really early or early (not middle or late).
  2. Historical Context: Gen 11:1, the Chaldeans are the same people as in Job's time. Again, this implies an earlier date.

When did the (actual historical) events of Job take place?

Answer: Super early, during patriarchal period, post-flood, but before national Israel. Why? Six reasons.

  1. Job's age: 140 years is consistent with patriarchs.
  2. Job uses a unit of measurement that is not used later in history.
  3. Job's wealth is calculated not by coin or weight (as in the time of Solomon) but by livestock (as in the patriarchs [c.f. Jacob's wealth in animals]).
  4. Job's reputation must be early. Ezekiel appeals to him as a legend, and that can't happen without time, not in the Ancient Near East (ANE).
  5. “Shaddai” is used, which is an early term for God.
  6. There is no mention of tabernacle, Israel, priesthood, no worship system or central place for worship.

But is this just historical fiction?

Longman suggests these things didn't really happen. But they did. 2 reasons:

  1. Within the book of Job there are specific claims to things happening and people speaking. "Job said," etc. He really said it. The details are specific to who says what, when, and why they say it. This specificity is very different from ancient fictional tales which were more obviously telling a “universal” story.
  2. Why would Ezekiel (and the NT [Paul and James]) appeal to a story that doesn't exist? James appeals to us to trust God...because of Job. So he must be real.

If it really happened, how is Job's story consistent with the canon?

Via the author...Elihu. See below.

Who wrote it?--Elihu

The Bible uses cameo appearances for authors (e.g. John and Mark). The only people who get nice intros in the book of Job are Job himself and Elihu (in Job 32). Job didn't write it, obviously, so that leaves Elihu. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar are not Hebrew names—Elihu and Job are the only two Hebrew names in the book. Elihu means "He is my God"; Job means "enemy."

Elihu is a Buzite, which pops up in Gen 22:21—“Buz". They are Abraham's family; Abraham’s a Buzite. He's of the family of Ram (“Abram” = father of Ram). Elihu and Abram are therefore related. That is why he has a Hebrew name. Plus, he's the only one who doesn't talk to God at the end of the book. But maybe He did meet God and maybe God told him the entire thing (and that's how we get the parallelism and structure of the entire book).

Elihu would've crosses paths with Abraham (they are nomadic after all) and he would've told him that story. Abraham would take that information and preserve it. Maybe it wasn't codified until Moses' time, but we know for sure it began with Elihu.1

Job is the first book, so it is the introduction to the Bible. It gives you the hermeneutical approach to the Bible. And Job doesn't have the creation story in it, so Moses writes Genesis. "If you don't know Job well you don't know why you need the Bible and you don't know what Job is about. …It shows you what they were thinking, what they were asking, and it shows you why the Bible was written."

  1. Klein would say that we are falling for the obvious signs, but he is too intellectual to fall for those. But the easiest explanation is best, and why can't the author put those signs in and us read them correctly now?