Tradition and Interpretation

By G. W. Anderson | Go to book overview
but that its theme is rather the existential question, 'Why do I suffer?', and that a most important element in it is the Lament. His careful study of the literary character and meaning of Job is valuable, but it needs to be read in the light of Fohrer's critical review. H. Gese thinks that the existence of the Babylonian poem about a righteous sufferer (ludlul bēl nēmeki) and of related Sumerian texts makes it possible to speak of a distinct category (Gattung) of literature, which includes first an account of the suffering; secondly a lamentation; and thirdly the divine response in healing the sufferer. The scheme presupposes a connection between an act and its consequence, contrary to the beliefs of the earlier Sumerian cult, and its origin is to be sought among the Sumerian wise men. Gese believes that the popular story about Job, which was the basis of the present book, belongs to that category. The later writer, who used the old story but substituted his own poem for the middle section, thus took over the old scheme, but he changed it in such a way as to present ideas that contradicted those of tradition. The connection between an act and its consequence is broken, and Yahweh appears as one who is not bound by it. The poet consciously takes the same step that was taken, perhaps unconsciously, by those who added to Proverbs the sayings about Yahweh's freedom and power. Gese's interpretation of Job is thus related to his understanding of Proverbs, which was considered in § II. It remains interesting and stimulating, even though the amount of material available may not suffice to justify him in postulating the existence of a distinct literary category.Finally, von Rad ( 1955) suggests that Job 38 may be dependent on a document like the list of various phenomena in the Egyptian Onomasticon of Amenope; and a similar kind of learning is found in the questions asked in Papyrus Anastasi I. Other Jewish works that perhaps have the same background are Ps. 148, Ecclus. 43, and the Song of the Three Holy Children.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
(SVT iii = NOTH M., and THOMAS D. W. (eds.), Wisdom in Israel and in the Ancient Near East ( Rowley Festschrift), Leiden, 1955).

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