More suffering

I was rereading this post tonight, when a thought occurred to me. The thought’s not going to mean much unless you go read the old post, so I’m putting it below the fold.

Job suffered more than Jesus did. Going along the thought toward the end of that old post, wouldn’t suffering on the level of Job’s have been more the sort of thing that we’d expect for someone suffering for all of humanity, past, present and future? Wouldn’t it be more in line with scriptural precedent for Jesus to have suffered like Job did? Rather than having to torture some passage about “piercing” as though it were a prophecy of crucifixion, Christians trying to demonstrate prophecies about Jesus could point to the Book of Job and say “look!”

I can imagine it now, with Christ amassing a following, starting his church in defiance of the Pharisees, marrying and starting a family, and ultimately making it to the apex of his life when God starts taking things away from him–first his followers, then his children, then his wife, then his health (but not so much that he is actually close to dying, to joining his family in the afterlife). Finally, his former friends betray him, the Pharisees force him to recant his message and deny his teachings before the masses, then betray him again to the Romans. Finally as he rots, broken and bullied and impotent in a Roman dungeon, Jesus looks toward the sky through a barred window. Job had the patience of a saint, but Jesus has the patience of a man, and he cries out–“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” And unlike Job, he curses God, unable to remain loyal when he has lost so much. That’s the kind of suffering that I’d expect from someone who’s suffering for everyone. It seems like ending the Jesus story with him losing faith, committing the unforgivable sin–with God denying God–would be the more poignant and powerful resolution.

More and more, it seems like God just doesn’t understand good writing.

6 Responses to More suffering

  1. Call me Paul says:

    I’m not sure you understand the Book of Job, as anyone who uses the old saw, “the patience of Job” does not. Job was a sinner, and was punished for it until he understood his sin, repented of it, and changed his ways. After which, he was rewarded handsomely. It just took him a fuck of a long time to figure it all out. In the end, none of the four friends who tried to show him the error of his ways got it right either, and God had to come down Himself, and tell the man what it was he’d done wrong. The whole “patience of Job” thing depends upon the idea that he was being punished unjustly, but (according to the narrative) that just wasn’t the case.Of course, like Jesus, Job is just a character in a story, in a book. I kinda liken The Bible to Aesop’s Fables. Everybody knows that foxes and storks don’t really talk, but there’s a moral message to be had from the story anyway. Just so, in The Bible, God, Job, and Jesus are fictional characters used to convey a moral message. You know: “obey your parents, or get stoned.”Wait, that didn’t come out right…

  2. Doubting Tom says:

    I’ll admit that most of my knowledge of Job comes from second- and third-hand references, but this is certainly a different interpretation than the one I’ve heard before. And taking just the first chapter at face value, that interpretation has to contend with passages like these:1:1: “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.”1:8: “And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?”The interpretation I’ve always heard, and I may change my mind after I read the book (can’t guarantee I’ll finish it tonight, though), is that God says to Satan (whose role in this era of Judaism was pretty interesting, from what I understand) “hey, Satan, take a look at my servant Job. Isn’t he awesome? He loves me this much.” Then Satan says, “well, sure, because you’ve given him all kinds of stuff, and you protect him. If you took all that stuff away, he’d hate your guts. He only loves you for your blessings.” Then God says, “okay, you’ve got yourself a wager. Take away all my blessings, and we’ll see whether or not he still loves me.” And then Satan does just that. Job gets pretty angry, says some mean-but-true stuff to God, but never quite gives up his love for the big guy. And so God gives him an even better family to make up for the one he lost. And everything ends up happy and so forth. But I’ll take a closer look at the story, keeping what you’ve said in mind.

  3. Call me Paul says:

    It’s a long, long book. Keep in mind as you read it that the three friends and one stranger who go on at length about what they believe Job has done wrong are really nothing more than literary devices to allow certain things to happen in the narrative. And the whole first chapter? I believe that’s what you would call a “smokescreen.” It was almost certainly tacked on to the story much later.If you accept the first chapter, you pretty much have to come to the conclusion that God is big dick. If you start with the premise that the original writers didn’t want you to come to that conclusion, that might free you up to think about the story in a different way.I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

  4. Doubting Tom says:

    If you accept the first chapter, you pretty much have to come to the conclusion that God is big dick.Well, um, yeah. I kind of came to that conclusion from the other chapters of the Old Testament. But whenever I crack open the “Good” book, I try to keep in mind what I know about the changes that were made and the likely original purposes of the various books, so I’ll add this bit about Job to the mental framework. Incidentally, do you have a source for the “tacked-on” bit? I’ve read quite a lot about changes to the New Testament, but almost nothing about changes to the Old, and I’d be curious to find out more.

  5. Dunc says:

    More and more, it seems like God just doesn’t understand good writing. He would really benefit from the services of a decent editor too…Just so, in The Bible, God, Job, and Jesus are fictional characters used to convey a moral message. You know: “obey your parents, or get stoned.”I’ve never been that big on obedience, but I’m fine with your proposed alternative. ;)OT: have you heard that Rhology is trolling ERV on ScienceBlogs now? Same old stuff…

  6. Call me Paul says:

    Just read the Wikipedia article on the book of Job. While it seems comprehensive, I feel it misses the mark. Of course, I’m no theologian, or even religious at all, but the moral of the story of Job has always been kinda obvious to me.Maybe I’m just plain wrong. Let me know when you finish the book, and I’ll lay out my thoughts on it for you.

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