Monday, February 17, 2014

Job 38: A Brief Annotated Bibliography

A few days ago, I told a friend that he really shouldn't bookmark "Frankly Speaking."

So why would a blogger like me tell a friend that he'd be better off to stay away? Because, I told him, these days I'm using the blog as sort of a digital filing cabinet. What I've tucked away in draft form for a long time, I'm now posting for whatever it might be worth to someone else. As you'll see, this post fits that category.

What follows here is an annotated list of resources on the Book of Job in general, and on chapter 38 in particular. This is a bit spade work I took on several years ago while a student at Yale Divinity School. My goal was to provide a summary of and categorize a number of articles, book chapters, and commentaries. With that, here's what I came up with . . .

A. Journal Articles/Book Chapters I Found Helpful

1. Fox, Michael V. "Job 38 and God's Rhetoric," Semeia 19. Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1981.

The author begins by arguing, in general, for the exegetical goal of identifying a text's authorial intent (ala E. D. Hirsch). The second half of this article shows how, in Job 38, the rhetorical style of God's questions has the effect of drawing in the listener. The result is that Job is able to "accept the speaker's claims out of his own consciousness rather than having the information imposed on him from the outside" (58). For what it's worth, this article points to an important question regarding the rhetorical purpose of the divine speeches at the end of Job. Do the divine speeches have the effect of obliterating proud Job? Or do they function to reorient the mind of confused Job? This question often comes up in the secondary literature. Also, the remainder of Semeia number 19 is dedicated to the study of Job 38 in the light of Paul Ricour's hermeneutics. As it turns out, the other articles in this volume do not have much at all to do with the exegesis of Job 38. That's why they aren't listed in this bibliography.

2. Jamieson-Drake, David W. "Literary Structure, Genre and Interpretation in Job 38." In The Listening Heart, edited by Kenneth G. Hoglund. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1987: 217-35.

A detailed, penetrating analysis of the literary structure of Job 38. Some fine points on how the form of this text complements its function in the larger context of the Book of Job. Provides a table that shows the close verbal parallels between Job 38 and Psalms 104 and 147.

3. Vall, Gregory. "'From Whose Womb Did the Ice Come Forth?' Procreation Images in Job 38:28-29." Catholic Biblical Quarterly 57 (1995): 504-13.

Vall convincingly argues that the correct answer to God's first question in Job 38:28 is, "No, the rain has no father" (512). Further, "the three questions in our text should be answered as follows: 'No one begat the dew drops. The ice came forth from no one's womb. No one gave birth to the rime.'" (p. 512). The point of the text is that God is "directly responsible for bringing about these forms of water (cf. the verses immediately preceding our passage, 38:25-27), but his mode of bringing them about has no true analogue in the realm of human (much less animal) procreation" (p. 513). A splendid piece of exegetical work!

4. Wilcox, Karl G. "Who Is This . . . ? A Reading of Job 38:2" Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 78 (1998): 85-95.

Alas, the YDS copy of JSOT 78 could not be found. But, according to Old Testament Abstracts, here's what this articles is about: "Takes the third-person construction of Job 38:2 into account in order to show that it is Elihu that God judges as darkening counsel at the beginning of Job 38 and not Job. This reading argues that Elihu is judged at 38:2, and that the narrative supports God's final assessment of Job as one who has spoken the thing that is right. Job's repentance is viewed as an acknowledgment that while Job has been correct in his attempt to justify himself, he has erred in his demand that God must justify himself to man. In condemning Job, Elihu assumes the divine prerogative; consequently Elihu's justification of God results in a divine condemnation and exclusion from the closing sacrifices made by Job for the three friends."

B. Journal Articles/Book Chapters that were Interesting, but not as Helpful

1. Allison, Dale C. "What Was the Star that Guided the Magi?" Bible Review 9 (1993): 20-24, 63.

Takes Job 38:7 to be "synonymous parallelism" (i.e. morning stars = sons of God, or angels) which serves to advance the author's theory that the star that led the magi to the place where Jesus was born was an angel. The article is better and more convincing than you might imagine.

2. Cornelius, Izak. "The Sun Epiphany in Job 38:12-15 and the Iconography of the Gods in the Ancient Near East -- The Palestinian Connection." Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages 16 (1990): 25-43.

Asserts that Palestinian iconography was the link between the iconographies of Egypt and Mesopotamia. Throws light on Job 38:12-15 by comparing its description of God with representations of the divine in art of that place and period.

3. Fox, Michael V. "Egyptian Onomastica and Biblical Wisdom." Vetus Testamentum 36 (1986): 302-10.

Argues, contra A. Alt and G. von Rad, that in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia there were no genuine onomastica (i.e., lists of nouns which would summarize a certain field of study like geography or zoology). The so-called Egyptian onomastica did not function as lexicons or encyclopedias, but as primers for those who were learning to write. At any rate, "There is no evidence for a 'science of lists' in ancient Israel" (308). Thus--and here's the exegetical point--such lists do not provide source material for passages like Job 38 or 1 Kings 5:10-14.

C. Four Big Modern Commentaries on the Book of Job

1. Gordis, Robert. The Book of Job. New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1978. xxxiii + 602 pp.

Wow! Contains the Hebrew text and an English translation of the entire Book of Job. Too, in the comments sections, quotations from the text are in Hebrew (i.e., not transliterated). The arrangement of the commentary is also very nice. For each section of Job, the Hebrew text and English translation are followed by notes, each note beginning with the chapter and verse numbers. Using this commentary, one could work through the text by translating one verse, comparing the translation by Gordis, reading his comment, and so on. Also, for quick reference, one can easily find the author’s comments on a particular verse. On Job 38, the Hebrew text, translation, and commentary amount to approximately sixteen pages. At the end of the book, there is a section (75 pp.) of 42 "Studies on the Language, Structure and Contents of Job." Here one will find such entries as "Special Note 33-The First Speech of The Lord (38:1-40:2)" (pp. 563-65). If price were no object, I would buy this one without thinking twice.

2. Habel, Norman C. The Book of Job. Old Testament Library. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1985. 586 pp.

Sets out to provide "a literary and theological study of the text" (p. 9). Notwithstanding the alleged pre-history of the text, Habel treats the Book of Job as a literary unit. Offers a translation plus, I. Textual Notes, II. Design, and III. Message in Context. On Job 38, these four sections add up to about 25 pages. Does not offer a lot by way of comparative Semitics (like Pope), but will be much more helpful for those interested in literary and theological analysis.

3. Hartley, J. E. The Book of Job. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1988. xiv + 591 pp.

This commentary stands in the tradition of evangelicalism. Though conservative, it acknowledges and explains other points of view. Very well researched. As with all the commentaries in this series, this work is heavily footnoted, which is bothersome to people like me who want to read everything the author has to say. Provides a ton of good bibliography.

4. Pope, Marvin H. Job. Anchor Bible. Garden City, NJ: Doubleday, 1965. 409 pp.

A series of detailed notes which follow the author’s translation of the text. Translation and Notes on Job 38 take up sixteen pages of smaller print. The strength of this commentary is its philological analysis. On the other hand, if you’re looking to see something on the literary qualities, rhetoric, and theological import of the text, you’ll have to look elsewhere. For a good overview of the entire Book of Job, see the "Summary of the Content of Job," pp. xv-xxiii. As with the other sections of introduction, this is very helpful.