Discipleship and Imagination: Christian Tradition and Truth

By David Brown | Go to book overview

4 Job and Innocent Suffering

AS already noted, our concern here will not be so much with the so-called problem of evil and its more technical philosophical or theological resolution, as with religious attitudes, with how believers have chosen to face the onslaught of unmerited suffering, and in particular with what the practice of discipleship has meant in such a context. The Book of Job represents one such response, but it is by no means the only possible reaction. Throughout much, if not most, of subsequent Jewish and Christian history Job has in fact functioned less as a text with a specific meaning and more as a handle for investigating alternative responses. More recent Christian writing has tried to reinstate a presumed original intention, but that has in my view brought impoverishment rather than enrichment. To see why, I propose to trace the discussion historically, from the canonical Job through The Testament of Job, Gregory the Great, Aquinas, Calvin, and Blake. What I hope to demonstrate is that these later and often much despised interpretations do sometimes constitute significant advances on the canonical text, and that the Christian community today is the poorer if in its response to innocent suffering it is not allowed to build upon these rewritings of Job's story. However, first we need to set the canonical work in its own context of revolt against earlier approaches.


Setting the Context: Alternative Responses

In order to set the canonical book in its proper context we need first to look, more generally, at how the issue of suffering is viewed in the Old Testament. Though there are some references to an

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Discipleship and Imagination: Christian Tradition and Truth
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Discipleship and Imagination iii
  • Preface v
  • Abbreviations vi
  • Contents vii
  • List of Plates viii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part One Appropriating Christ for the Present 5
  • 1: Valuing and Prostituting Women 11
  • 2: Pattern and Particular 62
  • 3: Heaven and the Defeat of the Beast 102
  • Part Two the Impact of Changing Experience 173
  • 4: Job and Innocent Suffering 177
  • 5: Mary and Virgin Promise 226
  • Part Three Truth and Authority 289
  • 6: Apostolicity and Conflict 293
  • 7: Posing Pilate's Question 343
  • Index 425
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