The Book of Job: philosopher's edition

It is the year 0001 P.A.  In your travels, you come across an ancient scroll.  Brushing off the dust, you see its name:  The Tanakh.  

You hope it may be wise, or at least helping and friendly.  Upon reading this old text you immediately call your philosophy friends.  Turns out they've read it too!  

And so it is decided:  meet at Eva's and let's discuss the wisdom writings of the Hebrew Bible. 

Whether they're inspired by it, or driven to revolt, Western philosophers are indebted to Judaism. But what does the Old Testament actually say? 

This is part of a series in which we attempt cooperative readings of religious writings with fresh eyes.  Last time we read Ecclesiastes and it was very successful in terms of opening a space for insights coming from diverse perspectives.   Let's keep it going.


Required reading: The Book of Job

Victor Hugo once suggested that if all the world’s literary efforts were to be destroyed, and he could save but a solitary sample, it would be “Job.”




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  • Kai K.

    I was very happy to have talked with all of you. I look forward to joining in on future discussions :)

    3 · August 23

    • Brian

      Glad you came out - it was nice talking with you both:)

      August 24

  • Brian

    "Fortunately, my friend is not looking for clarification from any world-famous philosopher he turns to an unprofessional thinker who once possessed the world's glories but later withdrew from life - in other words, he falls back on Job, who does not posture on a rostrum and make reassuring gestures to vouch for the truth of his propositions but sits back on the hearth and scrapes himself with a potsherd and without interrupting this activity causally drops clues and comments. He believes that here he has found what he sought, and in his view truth sounds more glorious and gratifying and true in this little circle of Job and his wife and three friends than in a Greek symposium." - Repetition, Kierkegaard

    August 24

    • Imran M.

      These quotes are all just so lovely.

      August 24

  • Betty G.

    That was an intense discussion as moving as the text itself. Thank you, philosophers!

    2 · August 23

  • Chad B.

    Satan is "the adversary," taken in the legal sense as a prosecuting attorney who brings people to trial before God. But here Job is put to trial for alleged future crimes. His suffering is therefore senseless. But in order to be just, suffering must make sense. (As a correlate, we might even say that justice attempts to make sense out of suffering.) Thus it is better to lose faith in God than for God to lose faith in you (as Job's wife seems to immediately understand).

    P.S. The epilogue to Moby-Dick begins: "And I only am escaped alone to tell thee."

    1 · August 20

    • Chad B.

      I'll see your Socrates and raise you another Moby-Dick: Leviathan! http://verbaamericana...­

      1 · August 22

    • Chad B.

      One more for good measure: Ahab (as the character who is demanding justice and trying to hold God accountable for his suffering) is Job. But Ahab's anguish is so deep and so long that he is unable to imagine life any other way. It becomes a burden and a destiny, and it transforms him into a martyr (as a kind of anti-Christ).

      August 23

    • Brian

      Excellent. Maimonides also wrote on Job. Of course many others

      August 23

  • Brian

    November 15:
    My Silent Confident: If I did not have Job! It is impossible to describe all the shades of meaning and how manifold the meaning is that he has for me. I do not read him as one reads another book, with the eyes, but I lay the book , as it were, on my heart and read it with the eyes of the heart, in a clairvoyance interpreting the specific points in the most diverse ways. Just as the child puts his schoolbook under his pillow to sure he has not forgotten his lesson when he makes up in the morning, so I take the book to bed with me at night. Every word by him is food and clothing and healing for my wretched soul. Now a word by him arouses me from my lethargy and awakens new relentlessness; now it clams the sterile raging within me, stops the dreadfulness in the mute nausea of my passion.

    August 23

    • Brian

      Have you really read Job? Read him, read him again and again. I do not even have the heart to write one single outcry from him in a letter to you, even though I find my joy in transcribing over and over everything he has said, sometimes is Danish script and sometimes in Latin script, sometimes in one format and sometimes in another. Every transcription of this kind is laid upon my sick heart as God's-hand-plaster.­ Indeed, on whom did God lay his hand as on Job! But quote him - that I cannot do. That would be wanting to put on my own pittance, wanting to make his words my own in the presence of another. When I am alone, I do it, appropriate everything, but as soon as anyone comes, I know very well what a young man is supposed to do when the elderly are speaking.

      August 23

    • Brian

      [Kierkegaard, Repetition]

      August 23

  • A former member
    A former member

    I honestly cannot wait for this

    August 22

    • Brian

      Me either. I'm so glad to be finally reading Job. It's great stuff

      1 · August 22

    • A former member
      A former member

      Yes I really like this book, best book in the Bible by far

      August 22

  • Chad B.

    Job is put to trial by God, but also by his friends. The friends' crime is that they try to make sense of Job's situation (according to a particular dogmatic theory of God) and thereby end up (in a paradoxically God-like fashion) doubting Job.

    Isn't it "better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer" (Blackstone)? Of course all of the perpetrators pay reparations (doubling of wealth, etc. and burnt offerings), but none are punished. They are held to a civil rather than a criminal liability. Does justice here demand punishment?

    Punishment is one way of restoring justice, of bringing order to one's suffering; forgiveness is another. Does Job forgive God? Does that presume God's fallibility? Or has Job simply been silenced by God's assertion of power? If the latter, how can Job live happily, without feeling like his existence has been undermined?

    1 · August 22

  • Brian

    The most honest book in the Bible. -Spinoza

    August 21

  • Teig S.

    May the discussion on one of the best pieces of writing on the reason why we suffer begin! And, as always, I hope to bring a bit of unusual interpretation to the table:)

    3 · August 18

  • Brian

    "Any god worth worshiping should prefer honest anger to hypocritical praise" I.E., we neednt pretend piety means believing all things happen for a reason only God can understand

    1 · July 28

  • MB

    Hey, did you mention which iteration we are reading or does it not matter? Thank you!

    July 22

    • Brian

      Hi MB. Doesn't really matter. I've been preferring NIV. Do you have a preference?

      July 22

    • MB

      Oh no. Didn't know if it mattered. Thank you!

      July 28

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