Job Rhetorical Reading of Book Research Proposal

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Rhetorical reading of Book of Job 29-31: Social Justice at the centre of the Moral concerns of Job

The questions surrounding the meaning of the Book of Job have been a central focus of debate among scholars, theologians and critics for decades. The literature on the subject points out that there is a strong relationship between social views and perceptions and the canonized perceptions of the society of the time that influences the way that this Biblical text is analyzed and understood. As one scholar writes, "For most of the history of interpretation, the answers have been predetermined by the book's canonicity -- in other words, by the presupposition that an inspired scriptural writing must convey a coherent and authoritative religious teaching."

In terms of this view any interpretation of this work must be consistent with the norms and values with the scholarly community and society of the time. "…it must be compatible with the doctrines of the Scripture-based community that is doing the reading and interpreting. It must, in the words of Brevard Childs, "function as a normative guide within a continuing community of faith."

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However, in the contemporary age if which we live academic interrogation has become largely freed from the social and theological preconceptions that adhere to the interpretation and analysis of any text. In the age of deconstruction and phenomenological analysis there is a greater freedom to explore and interrogate the fundamental morals and values as well as the more liminal aspects of any text. Therefore, we can question the premises and the views that play a role in any canonical text or reading of that text and explore avenues that may or may not coincide with established Christian or Jewish doctrine or theory. It is this spirit of open-ended and sincere questioning that constitutes ethos and trajectory of this proposed thesis.

Research Proposal on Job Rhetorical Reading of Book of Job Assignment

Within the ambit of the above statement of intent we should take into account views of the book of Job which has been to a great extent associated with the orthodox interpretation of this book. This refers with the question of theodicy or the relationship between God man and the reality of evil.

However, also central to the Biblical story of Job is the social context and the way that society measures justice in terms of good and evil. This can be seen in the friends and characters who surround Job in the narrative and who represent the society and its normative structures and perceptions.

These characters represent as well a clear and somewhat one dimensional view of God and Justice: God punishes those who sin or who are involved in bad or nefarious actions and rewards those who do good deeds. Justice is therefore understandable and rational in the social and secular world in terms of balance and retribution for actions that are clearly good or bad in terms of the norms and mores of the society.

However this clear and unequivocal logic and rhetoric is deeply problematized and placed into question by the experience that Job undergoes. As one commentary on the Boo of Job States,

Where Job differs from his companions is on the question of God's absolute goodness and justice. His friends claim that God always rewards the good and punishes the evil, but Job knows from his own experience that it is not that simple. "He destroys both the blameless and the wicked," Job insists. "When a scourge brings sudden death, he mocks the despair of the innocent. When a land falls into the hands of the wicked, he blindfolds its judges. If it is not he, then who is it?" (9:22-24)

The above statement clearly places the issue of justice in a more complex and problematic arena of discourse. In other words, it appears that there are two forms of justice that take place in the Book of Job: justice according to the social norms and conventions of society and a more ambiguous and ambivalent from of Justice dispensed by God. This thesis will attempt to explore this apparent contradiction and go some way to resolving this seeming ambiguity in terms of a reassessment of the meaning of the social dimension of justice.

The discussion in this thesis will focus on the selected chapters; namely, Job 29-31. The analysis of this text will refer to other chapters and verses in the text but the focus will be on the rhetorical structure of the chapters 29 to 31in relation to the larger themes and arguments in the book. This aspect will be further elucidated on in the following sections of this proposal

2. Thesis statement

The central thesis that will be explored in this study is that the book of Job is a commentary on society as much as it is a moral and existential exploration of the relationship between man and God. This will also include the view that in close rhetorical analyses the text the Biblical text has both a social as well as a spiritual message to convey. However this double-sided nature of the text requires detailed explanation. This will take the form of a close rhetorical exposition of the passages in question.

An analysis of the text reveals the normative structure of society and perceptions of social, as well as divine justice. This is conveyed through the beliefs surrounding the concept of good as opposed to evil. However these normative views of Social Justice, as the entire Book of Job indicates, are not necessarily the route to enlightenment and salvation. Therefore, central to the intention of this proposed thesis is the assertion that it can be argued from an analysis of the rhetorical structure and intended meaning of the text that spiritual enlightenment and the development of a true relationship with God is established in isolation and in separation from common society. This can also be interpreted in terms of discourse that takes as its starting point the difference between the secular and the spiritual. .

The proposed thesis however is not intended to be a simplistic or dualistic analysis of the rhetoric in the text. Cognizance is taken of the fact that an analysis of this complex book must take into account the underlying and less overt interconnections between the secular and the spiritual. It should also be acknowledged that this is a complex process that is in effect both a deconstruction and re-construction of the theme of justice. These aspects will be explicated in a close analysis of the often convoluted arguments that flows throughout the text.

The above point is clarified to some extent by Alan Cooper in The Sense of the Book of Job. He states that central to the book is "… the relationship between divine providence and the suffering of the innocent…The crux of the matter is the affliction of the innocent Job…"

This can for example be seen in the first few verses of Chapter 29 of the text.

How I long for the months gone by, for the days when God watched over me, when his lamp shone on my head and by his light I walked through darkness!

Oh, for the days when I was in my prime, when God's intimate friendship blessed my house, when the Almighty was still with me. (29: lines 2-5)

This nostalgia for a time when there was a positive relationship with God is a central part of the moral and spiritual confusion that is further exacerbated by the negative reaction of society and friends.

While the existential and spiritual conflict and relationship between the character of Job and the figure of God is the focus of attention, there is also debate between Job and his 'friends'; which refers to the views of society and its ideals of social justice and which is also reflected in the way that this society perceives and Judges Job. Furthermore, it will also be suggested in the thesis that social and divine justice is not a distinct separation as a superficial reading of the text might suggest.

3. Literature Review

There are a plethora of articles, books and commentaries on this biblical text. While background and broad overviews of the various theoretical interpretations of the text are obviously important, it was felt that the literature review for this thesis should focus more an analyses of the rhetorical arguments as well as the social aspects of these arguments; while at the same time not forgetting the central theological debate on the subject of both social and divine justice. To this end the research focused in literature that pertained to a more in-depth analysis and which attempted to question accepted convention and interpretations. .

A number of intriguing perceptions and interpretations of the text are to be found in The Sense of the Book of Job by Alan Cooper, (1997). For example, this study refers to the writings Maimonides who presents the view of Job from the perspective of amphibolous theological language.

The notion of [God's] providence is not the same as the notion of our… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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"Job Rhetorical Reading of Book."  October 30, 2010.  Accessed April 14, 2021.