The Cruel God: Job's Search for the Meaning of Suffering

By Margaret Brackenbury Crook | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE
A Lifting of the Veil

Having come so far with the Poet and his commentators, dare we go a little further? Are we able, in some measure, to lift the veil from the fortunes of the great book when it passes from the Poet's keeping into the hands of his students, and, from them, to the world at large?

We have ventured to place the emergence of the Book of Job in the earlier half of the fifth century B.C. In those years, descendants of the exiles, from Susa in the east to the coast- lands and the islands of the undefined west, shared an emotional crisis. The dread reflections in which men indulged, the piercing questions they raised, were seized upon by the Poet and immortalized in the figure of the bravely searching Job.

When the master dies, or ceases to lead his school, his students, who have known the great work as it came into being and contributed to the debate that evoked it, have a consuming desire to possess a copy of the scroll upon which it was written. It is not beyond the range of possibility that a few of them managed to obtain a copy for themselves and held it, a beloved heirloom, for their sons and grandsons.

The Poet's students would be sons of scholars and merchants, men of substance, as the students in the schools of Sumer had been two thousand years earlier.1 Education in the ancient world was the privilege of those who moved in the upper circles of society, for the simple reason that it was costly. A work as large as the Book of Job might have a limited circulation among students wealthy enough to employ a copyist or sufficiently eager to make a copy for themselves. It would then circulate among men whose literary judgment carried weight, whose libraries were the depositories of valuable works.

Did a son or grandson of one of the Poet's students place the Book of Job in the hands of the Elder Elihu? Certainly Elihu writes as though he had given a first reading to a book that he

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