In This Article Job

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Dictionary Treatments
  • Bibliographies
  • Surveys
  • Collections
  • Linguistics
  • Genre
  • Job and Ancient Near Eastern Parallels
  • The Prose Framework of the Book

Biblical Studies Job
by
Carol Newsom
  • LAST REVIEWED: 18 June 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 13 September 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0065

Introduction

The book of Job is one of the wisdom writings in the Hebrew Bible. In the Jewish canon it is placed with the Kethubim (“Writings”), and in the Christian canons with the Poetical Books. Unlike other biblical wisdom texts, it does not take the form of an instruction or a proverb collection. Uniquely, it is a set of poetic dialogues (first between Job and his friends, then between Job and God), which are framed by a prose tale about the legendary figure of Job. Although the date of the composition of the book is uncertain, most consider it likely to be from the early postexilic period. The book shows considerable familiarity with ancient Near Eastern literary and mythic traditions, and indeed, Job himself is not presented as an Israelite. The literary quality of the book is exceptionally high, with poetry that is difficult and sophisticated. Undoubtedly the author was a member of a learned scribal intelligentsia. Within the book, issues concerning the nature of piety, the enigma of innocent suffering, the nature of God, and the existence (or not) of a moral order in the world are examined from a variety of perspectives. Job not only has elicited extensive theological commentary but has also inspired significant artistic and literary work throughout the ages.

General Overviews

Introductions to Israelite wisdom literature contain substantial chapters on the book of Job. Crenshaw 1998 is a well-balanced and comprehensive survey of the major issues. Perdue 2008 also includes treatment of theological themes and a consideration of the social location of the book.

  • Crenshaw, James L. Old Testament Wisdom: An Introduction. Rev. ed. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1998.

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    Crenshaw presents an accessible and fairly comprehensive introduction to the constituent parts of the book and its major features. See pp. 89–115.

  • Perdue, Leo G. The Sword and the Stylus: An Introduction to Wisdom in the Age of Empire. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008.

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    Perdue offers a lucid discussion of the probable historical and geographic context of the book, its literary structure, and its parallels among Babylonian texts. He also discusses select theological themes, as well as what the book may reveal about the social location of the sages. See pp. 117–151.

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