“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!” (Job 38:4-5).
I have some serious reservations about the book of Job. Not the kind of reservations that keep me up at night, but the kind that cause me to squint whenever someone recites the story to me in order to illustrate the incomprehensible mystery of God’s ways and the folly of attempting to understand the divine will.
Whenever I’m given this sort of gloss on Job, I resist it, because the upshot is inevitably, “You’ve got to accept injustice because, really, it’s for a purpose you can’t understand.” Some people can accept this. I can’t. It seems to me that there’s something there that needs dealing with. I’ve come back to Job periodically in my studies and in conversations, but I’d yet to encounter anything that really challenged the traditional interpretation of the text; all of the commentary I’d come across seemed to merely be trying to provide a new spin on the same old argument. It was all the same to me—it was neither provocative nor enlightening. Until recently, that is. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that when you’re interpreting a text, you’re not doing it in a vacuum; you’re working from within a paradigm. And paradigms can change.
I re-discovered Job not too long ago by reading it from within two different paradigms—Jungian and Kantian—which fundamentally altered my understanding of what the book could mean and what it could be saying about the nature of God. (So that there’s no mistake, I want to make it clear from the outset that this isn’t an attempt to proselytize. I’m going to be exploring philosophical interpretations of a text which happens to be religious. I’m intentionally abstaining from endorsing anything apart from having an open mind.)
Sometimes, looking at something from a new perspective, one incommensurate with any others you’d previously considered, can change your life. Even if you don’t necessarily adopt the perspective as your own, being able to understand it can be a catalyst for growth and understanding, for change.
That’s what this all comes down to.
But I don’t want to get too ahead of myself. Before we really get started wrestling with this text, what we need is a barebones refresher of what happened to Job, to make sure we’re on the same page. So, here goes: Continue reading