The Book of Job and the Problem of Evil: Assignment


The next phase of the consideration of the relationship between God who is "able but not willing," or "willing but not able" to prevent suffering and evil in the world is to examine the Judeo-Christian perspective which will be done by looking at the CREATION MYTH in GENESIS and BOOK OF JOB.

This study guide was prepared in conjunction with Ms. Carol Fitzsimmons of the Saint John's College High School Religion Department.


Read the selection from the BOOK OF GENESIS. In addition to the GENESIS selection, we will watch a panel discussion of the chapters you read conducted by scriptural scholars. In order to keep focused on the discussion, note and be able to comment on the following issues. Following the panel discussion, we will apply what was said to JOB:


1. Story of the "sugar cookies"
2. If this story were the only source we had on God, what would we conclude?
3. Why would God want to keep us in the dark?
4. What is the perspective of the serpent.?
5. What does the serpent represent? see--Wisdom 2:24, John 8:44, Revelation 12:9 and 20:2
6. What is the meaning of free choice in the story, as choice relates to consequences?
7. What does Eve do, and how does she behave?
8. Can we trust God?
9. What is good and evil?
10. How can we read the creation story mimetically--what issue is thus raised?
11. Whose fault is all of this? (note the cycle of blame: Adam to Eve to serpent to_______)
12. Is mortality a blessing? (Recall the choice of Odysseus?)
13. What kind of God is in this story?
14. What does Adam and Eve gain and lose in this story? God?


The following chronology is important for dating JOB:

1. 1800--Hebrews migrate to what is today Israel (Canaan) lead by Abraham and Isaac

2. 1275--Moses freed the Hebrews from the Egyptians

3. 1250--for comparison, the approximate date of the Trojan war

4. 1004-Saul killed in the war with the Canaanites, and King David rules and construction begins on the Temple--high taxes

5. 965-Israel ruled by his son, Solomon, who despite the legends was seen as a ruthless leader; revolts grew under his son, Rehoboam.

6. 925--Civil war: Israel divided into a Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (Juda). The war lasted for 200 years. Results of the war were catastrophic: The ASSYRIANS defeated Israel, and the BABYLONIANS conquered Judah. The Temple was destroyed, and the so called "captivity" began.

7. 700--400--possible composition of JOB, which would place the poem during a time when Israel's fortune seemed low, and people must have wondered...This was the time when prophets arose warning that Yahweh would punish the people for their sins.

8. 538--Cyrus of Babylon ends the captivity and anew day seems to dawn.

9. 500-- for comparison the Golden age of Greece: Plato, Sophocles

1. Look at the provided handout, and remember there are many Internet sites on JOB.. See: Wisdom: 3. It would be useful to know what a frame story is. This device is important for creating dramatic irony, and has been used by many writers including Chaucer, Coleridge and Conrad.

2. Read the provided selection for background.


1. Note what the world "Satan" means and what is does not mean:

2. JOB 1:612----600 BC: "And the Lord said to Satan, have you noticed my servant JOB."

3. 2 SAMUEL 24:1----670 BC: "The Lord's anger against Israel flared again, and he incited David against the Israelites..."

4. ZECHARIAH 3:1--520 BC: "Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, while Satan stood at his right hand to accuse him, and the angel of the Lord said to Satan, "May the lord rebuke you Satan"

5. 1 CHRONICLES 21: 1-8---400 BC: "A Satan rose up against Israel, and he enticed David into taking a census of Israel."

6. WISDOM 2:24----100 BC: "But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world..."


1. What Job does not know is that he is being tested by God.

2. The "Satan" is not the devil, but a sort of prosecutor / secret police chief that functions in God"s court to point out to God possible problems--see Unferth / Poseidon. Satan in Zech. 3:1 is called "the accuser"

3. Themes of the work:
A. life is not comprehensible
B. integrity
C. disinterested piety (God on Job)
D. human limits
E. God is not comprehensible
F. life is not neat and the innocent suffer
G. perfect human loyalty

4. onomasticion--Greek literary form which is the precursor of the scientific method--an attempt to look to natural phenomenon to search for meaning--posing of questions to ascertain the divine behind the world--forerunner of the dialectic

5. God is the wisdom teacher--but he does not answer Job directly. Wisdom teacher does not tell all.

6. Literary expression and style:
A. lawsuit the language of the court (recall the covenant)
B. repetition of syntax structure--formal style---advances the theme in that...
[1]--the speeches of the friends become repetitive and boring--pointless debate
[2]--neither the friends or Job win; no one believes the other side
[3]--lament--the plea and the complaint

7. The ending is happy--going outside the poem, back to the frame narrative

8. How do we interpret the BOOK OF JOB?
A. variant themes
B. is there a consensus?
C.what does it mean to say the ending is happy?