Job: Introduction to the Content and Function in the Canon

Job is not myth

Tremper Longman says the storyline of Job is unnecessary for the biblical narrative and canon, so it may as well be myth. But,

  1. In the ANE mythological texts there are no proper names. The main characters are meant to emulate the story of every man—they are meant to be literary figures who can apply to anyone.
  2. In mythological texts there are no narratives, only dialogue. But Job begins and ends with a congruent narrative.
  3. Mythological texts are short…really short. Job's argumentation is much deeper.

Theology of Job and its Biblical-Theological Impact

Since Job functions as a prologue, a prequel, to the Bible, we need to find out how Job begins the whole story, both biblically and theologically.

Function of the Prequel

The book of Job revolves around 2 court-room scenes: the heavenly and the earthly. The heavenly scene isn't putting Job on trial; it's putting God on trial—except God is the one challenging himself. The question is about God's righteousness—is He right about Job? if Job passes the test, God is right. The next court-room is on earth, where the larger discussion occurs. The person on trial appears to be Job, but really, it's about God (again), because Job's guilt/innocence affects God and His overall trial.

The Divine-Retribution principle is the ancient principle that if you sin, God will punish you (what goes around comes around). More-or-less, this is the foundation for all the arguments in Job. But we find out that man's wisdom uses this DR principle to argue for either man's innocence or God's innocence. Not both. This forms an impasse because it seems to us an either/or equation. All the questions of righteousness in Job are tied into this conundrum.

God afflicts Job for the express purpose of drawing out of him the deepest questions possible, so that He could reveal how much we need His revelation. Humans can't figure it (or Him) out (Job 28:28). The best we can do is the DR principle, which is bogus.

Scholars say God doesn't answer Job, but He does, through the wishes of Job. And God replaces the DR principle with the wisdom of God in the Gospel, which is greater than man's wisdom, the wisdom which can never discern Truth in the world. Man just can't figure things out. This is why, at the end of the book, Job has to repent (Job 42:6). Because Job was wrong. And the Gospel then, is the way God really set up the world. The irony is thick in the book, because Job doesn't know. And this is what makes it a good prequel, because now you know what to look for in the rest of the Bible (namely: God's rightness in His wisdom and His Gospel).

The book sets up the answer to the DR principle: that God and man can both be right. Job just wants his day in the heavenly court, and that is where God shows Him the rest of the story. At the end of the book of Job, he dies. God's answer is in Genesis 1-3, where Man falls because of His own error, but God makes people right in Gen 3:15 by promising salvation—this is the gospel which says God and Man can be both right.

David, in Ps 8, upholds God's concern for man while Job casts it away in bitter anger (Job 7:20). God weaves this picture in the storyline of the Bible that He is just and yet right—and has plans to make man right. In Ezekiel, in exile, God appeals to Job, because Job knows God is right. Therefore, God can use him to condemn Israel. God will be right in the end, and that is why they are in exile for their sin.

Moving toward the NT, the Gospel is presented in 1 Cor 1-2 as "foolishness" relative to Gentiles. But Christ, in the Gospel, becomes not only wisdom but righteousness. Right in the middle of this passage, Paul quotes Job because the foolish are revolving around their own wisdom where no man will be made right. And even though man can't see the wisdom of God, He will make it all right—and this is His power and wisdom.

In Romans, God makes Christ both "just and the justifier." Everything that Job wanted to see is described in Romans. Rom 8, the height of the NT, introduces the climax to Job's story. Rom 8:1 is the answer: we have peace with God, not because we deserve it or have earned it, but because of Christ and His accomplishment in the Gospel. And therefore, we are protected from the one who accuses us. Rom 8:31: "If God is for us, who could be against us." Who is this "Who"? It’s Satan, and since Romans 8 is also set in the court-room setting (e.g., Rom 8:33, "justifies”), it is the theological climax and closure of the central questions of Job.

So who can make a charge against Job? No one. Because God is righteous and Job’s been justified. Everything that Job wished for he gets. The way the world really works isn't as men see it, it's as God sees it, and that has massive repercussions. Job's day in court is everything he had hoped.

Also, in Phil 1:19 (cross reference is Job 13:16)1, Paul affirms Job's wish for his day in court. The wish of the prequel (Job) becomes actualized in the storyline of the Bible. The Bible is Job's wishes granted.

Also, James says in James 5:11 Job was suffering and didn't have hope. He shows that ”The endurance of Job" and "the purpose (telos) of the Lord" are parallel. What was the telos, the goal of all that suffering? What was it culminating in? "How the Lord was compassionate and merciful”…what? How did Job find that out if at the end of his suffering he just dies? Does that prove God's compassion? Or, does Job's getting all his stuff back prove that? No, the telos is bigger. It's about Job's wishes. He wished for raising the dead, for seeing God, for communication with God, for representation, and ultimately, for righteousness. This telos is about the eschatological salvation of Job—in the end he gets everything he wished for and He learned that God was actually very compassionate and merciful because He saw God's perspective.

James uses this to encourage modern believers by telling those who suffer to look at life through God's wisdom. Sounds like James 1:5—wisdom. We must ask for wisdom to see this. Suffering is a window, and it doesn't disturb the fact that God is still right and that you, in the end, will be made right. We are working here with God's rightness. God set up a situation in the world where the DR principle would fail so that His glory in the Gospel would shine.

We tell people that suffering is going to help us be more like Christ (which is true) and it will make us better, and it won't last long, and such, but to a sufferer that’s lame. Another camp of people say the Gospel solves suffering, but we don't know how. This is where Job comes in. We cannot let suffering cloud what is really going on—that God is right and He will make us right. And this drives the entire storyline of the Bible. God will be right and He will make us right, in the power of Christ for the glory of God.

Themes of Job

Therefore, the main themes are righteousness, wisdom, suffering, and justification.

  1. An entire book on intertextuality is devoted to this cross-reference.