Needle's Eye & Satan's Bait: Is Job Really Blameless?
Who is Job?
Not only Yahweh but Job himself is presented in multiple ways in the Book of Job, as evidenced by the many different lights in which he is characterized in commentaries ever since. The Book of Job, it might be argued, is the Rashomon of Judeo-Christianity, a Rorschach test onto which the beliefs of the viewer are inevitably projected.
This began before the Bible existed. It is there in (what became) the New Testament, in which James refers to Job’s steadfastness and patience (whence the common saying “the patience of Job”—though Job is manifestly not patient), and Paul quotes Eliphaz, one of the three friends whom we are told Yahweh cursed for speaking wrongly of Him (oops).
The hugely influential conformist Christian Luther described Job as a saint, but also a sinner—thereby demonstrating that Job spans the entire spectrum of human character. (Job himself acknowledges that he has sinned, even while insisting that he is innocent, a contradiction reconciled only by the matter of degree, i.e., he has sinned, but nothing commensurate with what Yahweh has inflicted upon him.)
Is the book of Job a complex mosaic of theological nuance that points deftly and artistically to the inescapability of paradox when attempting to reduce God to a linguistic framework? Or is it a creative clusterfuck of sensibilities that betrays the rank confusion of its author(s) and of subsequent editors, redactors, and translators?
Most likely, it is both.
The bottom line about Job is: does he serve God for nothing, i.e., without thought of worldly reward or status (there was little idea of an afterlife for Job or his friends, so any reward has to be in this life). Or does he only serve God because he gets something for it in return?
Behind or underneath this question—so it seems to me—is a still deeper one: does Job—do we—relate to Reality in its highest, best, and eternal aspects, as something separate from ourselves, or as something that we know we cannot ever be, and do not wish to be, separate from?
“Piety” is when God’s interests become indistinguishable from our own—not conceptually (or moralistically) but experientially, i.e., when we cannot discern the difference because there is none. To be real is to want only Reality and what Reality wants (which of course is what Reality gets).
The alternative is a kind of self-erasure through subjugation to an idea of some external principle (even if infinite and eternal) called “God,” based on a belief (or even acceptance) that it is God, and we are merely men.
This is not to be a servant of God, rather a slave to belief, and presumably a quietly (or unconsciously) resentful one, as all slaves are resentful, since a slave serves only because he has no choice about it (if he doesn’t want to be killed or cast out).
It is tautological to say that wisdom involves facing and accepting Reality. The same goes surely for God.
Said differently, the only reasonable value of a mental construct “God” is as a marker, place-keeper, and measure for our willingness to conform to (face up to and accept) what is Reality.
This may begin with what is outside of us (that we do not like), but it must quickly end up on the inside, all the way to the very core of us.
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