Friday, November 25, 2016

This week's lesson (November 19-25): intimations of hope

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. - Job 13:15, KJV 
See, he will kill me; I have no hope; but I will defend my ways to his face. - Job 13:15, NRSV
Obviously, there's some controversy about the best way to translate Job 13:15 -- a controversy that goes all the way back to the early medieval scribes known as the Masoretes.
  • If you follow the Masoretic Text (as does the King James Version), then the text says that it doesn't matter what happens; Job will continue to trust God.
  • But if you follow the Septuagint (as does the New Revised Standard Version), then the text says that it doesn't matter what happens; Job will continue to argue his innocence.
  • And yes, plenty of texts tell us to trust God regardless of circumstances . . . but judging by the earliest manuscripts (and the over-all tenor of Job's argument), this doesn't seem to be one of them.
We know about the bet between God and Satan, after all - but Job doesn't.

We know how this bet turns out - but Job doesn't.

What's more, we know this book has a happy ending - that God shows up, vindicates Job, and restores his good fortune - yes, we know this.

But Job does not.

And that makes Job's words all the more remarkable. 
  • He doesn't trust God to solve His problems; if anything, he thinks God is the source of his problems.
  • He doesn't hope God will "work all things for good"; no, he expects God to kill him.
  • In short, he doesn't expect this story to have a happy ending - but in spite of that, he doesn't give up; no, he continues to argue his case.
All of which bring us back to the question of Job's faith -- the question that lies behind the various translations of this text.
Is it a faith that trusts God for the answers?
Or is it a faith that trusts God with the questions?

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