Perspectival Knowledge in the Book of Job

Job.jpgThe book of Job is often correctly understood as a poetic treatise on Theodicy, within which various theodicies are offered up as explanations as to why Job suffers as greatly as he does. The internal theodocies almost seem to be set against one another, and this has led many to believe that the book does not give a clear answer to the problem of suffering.

However, this simply isn’t true.

As we examine Job, we see that the book argues upon the basis of assumed fixed perspectival epistemological limitations.

Briefly, these are:

1. Human Knowledge: Human knowledge is limited in three domains: (1.)Theology (cf. 42:1-6), (2.)Science (cf. 38-41), (3.)Others (i.e. their minds and hearts/intentions, etc. cf. 1:1-5, spec. v.5).

2. Angelic Knowledge: Although Satan’s lack of intimate knowledge regarding Job’s intentions in worshiping God are clearly seen in 1:6-12, he – acting as God’s agent  in judgment and Job’s spiritual growth (which I’ve argued elsewhere) – is aware of how such trouble came upon Job, and (to some limited extent) why it does. The “sons of God”, moreover, are also presented as having a superior epistemological perspective to that of Job/humanity in 38:1-7 (spec. v. 7), having been present with the Lord at the moment when the foundations of the earth were laid.

3. Divine Knowledge: Chapters 38-41 clearly present God as omniscient in Theology (implicitly) and Science, they do not explicitly show His omniscience regarding others (i.e. the minds and hearts of others), but do implicitly do so by dint of relaying to us God’s Nature as Sovereign Creator of All Things – including the minds and hearts of men. Job’s incapacity to know the heart of his children, as well as his wife and friends’ inability to empathize with him can be set in contrast to the Lord’s sovereign usage of Satan’s ill will (cf. 2:3b) and complete knowledge of the minds and hearts of others (as evidenced in His judgment upon Job’s children, and His words of rebuke for Job’s friends [cf. 42:7-9]).

These three perspectives are not superfluous details, but the very foundation upon which the theodicy of the book is built.

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One thought on “Perspectival Knowledge in the Book of Job

  1. robert sutherland says:

    You might be interested in this online commentary “Putting God on Trial: The Biblical Book of Job” (http://www.bookofjob.org) as supplementary or background material for your study of the Book of Job. It offers an alternative perspective. It is not a sin to question God, to demand answers from God. There is a time and a place for such things. It is written by a Canadian criminal defense lawyer, now a Crown prosecutor, and it explores the legal and moral dynamics of the Book of Job with particular emphasis on the distinction between causal responsibility and moral blameworthiness embedded in Job’s Oath of Innocence. It is highly praised by Job scholars (Clines, Janzen, Habel) and the Review of Biblical Literature, all of whose reviews are on the website. It is also taught in 262 US high schools in 40 states through Chapter 17 in The Bible and Its Influence. The author is an evangelical Christian, denominationally Anglican. He is also the Canadian Director for the Mortimer J. Adler Centre for the Study of the Great Ideas, a Chicago-based think tank.

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