A dilemma over Deuteronomy and Job

(RiderOnTheClouds) #1

So a link to this article showed up on the Facebook feed of Biblical scholar James McGrath:

The article explains that the book of Job is basically a critique of the Deuteronomistic covenant, the covenant which basically says ‘obey this, or else’. An unpopular opinion I (as a Divine Command Theorist) have is that I actually like a system of punishment and reward, for it incentivises us to do good. But anyway, the point I am making is that faced with two apparently contradictory texts, ought one text be discarded? (I would choose Job, even though it is one of my favourite parts of scripture) Or is there another solution?

(Larry Bunce) #2

The odds are that the early church fathers who established the cannon of scripture were aware of the seeming contradictions between the different books they selected, and could resolve them in their minds. One thing that is established in the Bible is that no human is able to live without sin, so that even the most righteous human who ever lived is not exempt from God’s wrath. Jesus said that we can’t earn our own way into heaven, but that God loves us, and will accept us, faults and all.
God’s law gives us a guide for how to live. If we followed every one of them, we would avoid a lot of stress in our lives. but as Christians we can relax and not worry about being sent to hell for the slightest infraction.
Somewhere along the way people started to believe that if we followed every rule to the letter, that God would make us rich and spare us from suffering in this life. The book of Job refutes this belief, (the basis of the protestant work ethic) which evidently is not just a modern one. I would definitely keep the book of Job, but I don’t see that it refutes the Law.


I read a lot about Job in a theological study many years ago in preparation for Lay ministry in the Church of England. It does seem to me that Job protests his innocence against his friends who have a simple equation that God brings suffering to bad people as a matter of judgement and therefore his suffering means he must have done something to deserve it. While there may be a natural outworking of divine justice in various instances it is not true that all suffering is a result of wrong doing as the story and dialogue shows. Something Jesus also attested to on a couple of occasions.

(Phil) #4

On thing I learned from Walton’s book on how to read Job, was that it is about God, not Job.

(Quinn) #5

I have never heard of it like that before. In my opinion and in my studies I see the book of Job as a parody of how justice is seen in the secular world in how good things happen to good people and so on. It plays onto the fact the despite Job being good bad things happen to him. It goes into the problem of evil and from what I get out of it is that these things are beyond our understanding and that we need to trust God in all things. I feel Job and a lot of the text of the Law don’t go into conflict as Job isn’t really attacking the Laws of Moses but is giving a play about how bad things still happen to good people. There is no need to take out the text of Job. That would be the same rash argument of saying we need to get rid of James due to it contradicting Paul’s letters, it makes no sense in doing so since both texts teach something that God wants us to know.

(Phil) #6

Welcome to the forum, Quinn. Good thoughts. Job is one of my favorite books. Your bio left me in suspense, and I look forward to learning more of your story.

(Christy Hemphill) #7

LOL. Good luck with the Bible.

Or you could accept that there are a lot of things we have to hold in tension.