The Book of Job raises stark questions about the nature and meaning of innocent suffering and the relationship of the human to the divine, yet it is also one of the Bible's most obscure and paradoxical books, one that defies interpretation even today. Mark Larrimore provides a panoramic history of this remarkable book, traversing centuries and traditions to examine how Job's trials and his challenge to God have been used and understood in diverse contexts, from commentary and liturgy to philosophy and art.
Larrimore traces Job's obscure origins and his reception and use in the Midrash, burial liturgies, and folklore, and by figures such as Gregory the Great, Maimonides, John Calvin, Immanuel Kant, William Blake, Margarete Susman, and Elie Wiesel. He chronicles the many ways the Book of Job's interpreters have linked it to other biblical texts; to legends, allegory, and negative and positive theologies; as well as to their own individual and collective experiences. Larrimore revives old questions and provides illuminating new contexts for contemporary ones. Was Job a Jew or a gentile? Was his story history or fable? What is meant by the "patience of Job," and does Job exhibit it? Why does God speak yet not engage Job's questions?
Offering rare insights into this iconic and enduring book, Larrimore reveals how Job has come to be viewed as the Bible's answer to the problem of evil and the perennial question of why a God who supposedly loves justice permits bad things to happen to good people.
"Is there such a thing as disinterested faith? Will people go on believing in God if they are not rewarded--indeed, if they are unjustly punished? And why should they be faithful to a God who allows the wicked to triumph and the innocent to suffer? Mark Larrimore . . . chronicl[es] the answers given to that riddle by commentators from the midrash--the rabbinical meditations that were first compiled in the third century--down to Elie Wiesel."--Joan Acocella, New Yorker
"Larrimore gets a lot into a comparatively small space. He examines the retellings of the Job story in the Testament of Job and the Talmud, summarizes Gregory's massively important Christian typology of Job, the Moralia, and discusses how medieval writers from Maimonides to Thomas view the book as a philosophical disputation on providence."--Peter J. Leithart, First Things
"Larrimore is particularly good at helping us understand ancient and medieval readings of Job."--David Wolf, Prospect
"This is an excellent resource for those interested in digging deeper into biblical sources, the Book of Job itself, or the history of biblical interpretation."--John Jaeger, Library Journal
"Princeton University's excellent series on the lives--meaning the changing interpretations--of great religious books continues with this study of the knottiest of all Biblical texts, a key work in Western culture's eternal debate over why bad things happen to good people. . . . [Larrimore] is subtle and superbly thorough as he navigates his way not just through Jewish, Christian and secular readings but also the uncertainties about the text and the misconceptions that have grown up around it."--Brian Bethune, Maclean's Magazine
"Manage[s] to condense a vast amount of material into [a] handy-sized compendium."--Gareth J. Medway, Magonia Blog
Table of Contents:
List of Figures vii
Chapter 1 Job in the Ancient Interpreters 25
Chapter 2 Job in Disputation 78
Chapter 3 Job Enacted 116
Chapter 4 Job in Theodicy 154
Chapter 5 Job in Exile 195
Index Locorum 269
Subject Index 273