2010-05-25

The book of Job

I've neglected to write anything here recently. Perhaps I should save some of the more self-contained comments I write in other places, to give people a better chance to tell me how mistaken I am. Here's my reaction to a recent Slacktivist post:

I've tried several times to read the Book of Job, but always had to give up about a third way in. The prose set-up is readable enough, but then the speeches start, and they make my eyes glaze over. The only content I can get from them is "a really, really verbose shouting match". The speakers assert their position with great eloquence, repetition, and doubtless masterful poetry in the original language. But while there is much asserting going on, essentially no arguments are presented. And I've not found a line where anyone even pretends to address a point their opponent has made.

The friends repeatedly implore Job to step down and make peace with God again and then everything will be alright (despite, as told in the prologue, that everything went bad while Job was behaving examplary), mixed with alternately chiding Job for complaining and hinting that it must all, somehow, be his own fault. Job, in turn, does not attempt to clear up this misunderstanding but prefers to switch between heaping big flowery loquacious abuse on God and heaping big flowery loquacious abuse on his friends for their (admittedly inexpert) attempts to cheer him up.

This goes on at least until about chapter twenty-something, at which time I admit defeat and put down the bible in exasperation.

If it's a play one could at least try to defend it as a magnificently tongue-in-cheek satire on how different religious viewpoints simply cannot communicate in any meaningful way, because they fail to listen to each other. But that somehow sounds a bit too modern of a morale.

I think I even prefer Plato. Yes, everyone Socrates speaks to is a strawman, but at least they're strawmen who pretend to care what Socrates is saying, and vice versa.

[Original comment thread].

2 comments:

  1. The interpretation about different religious viewpoints not communicating is interesting. I haven't heard anyone think that before. Of course, the reason for most of what you say of Job is that most of the Bible is predicated on faith, which is essentially belief without evidence. Jehovah demands that through most of the Bible, so it's unsurprising this lesson (job) to believers would have Job's friends expecting it from him.

    It's among the least reliable & consistent ways to approach belief. Yet, many religions demand it. Perhaps, it's because they can't bear the painful power of scrutiny.

    Nick P
    schneier blog reader

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