Answer to Job
- I thank those who commented on the topic that I put forward.
First, I must apologize for the vagueness of my use of the term,
"Gnostic," for it can mean a different thing to different people. If
we used the term in a scholarly sense, it would indeed be
anachronistic. The phrase, "Job in the Bible" is also vague so I
would like to remedy the original question to be more precise.
However, before I revise the original question I would like to the
give the reason why I came up with the topic. Three works about
Job were mentioned in the posts. _The Book of Job_ by Stephan
Mitchell, "Answer to Job" by Carl Jung and "Job the Silent" by
Bruce Zuckerman. I have not read Mitchell's commentary on Job
nor his translation so I cannot really comment on it except from
what Gerry had written on it in the post #8712 and #8717. I also
have not read Jung's "Answer to Job" entirely so my opinion of
the book comes mainly from the posts that were posted here
and from the works of Stephan Hoeller. However, the third book
"Job the Silent" by Zuckerman is the book I am familiar with and,
in fact, it is THE book that I just finish read and gave me the idea
for the topic.
As Josh states in the post #8725 Zuckerman counter argues in
book about oft presumed characteristics about Job, namely
being patient. As stated by Josh the book of Job is consist of
different authors. The book consists of the poem that is bracket
by a prologue and an epilogue. The prose of the prologue and
the epilogue is a definite Post-Exilic composition as Hebrew of
the prose is comparable to that of Esther, Chronicles and Ezra.
The prologue also mentions Satan, which is a dead give away to
its composition being the Post-Exilic as it shows an influence of
Persian religious milieu. The poem also consists of add-ons
such as the Hymn to Wisdom (chapter 28), which many scholars
consider to be a separate work and Elihu speeches, which
some claim that it was an add-on to counter the passages in the
poem (chapter 32-37). In addition, some scholars claim that the
very confrontation between God and Job (chapter 38-42:6) is an
add-on (This is due to the fact that mainly 31:40 ends with the
phrase, "The words of Job are ended.") If we only take the
remaining chapters (3-27, 29-31), does this change the whole
scheme? Even if we added the Theophany (confrontation
between God and Job) [more on this later], it paints the picture of
Job that is some what contrary to the prevailing (orthodox) notion:
i.e. "patient" and "faithful". Zukerman discusses that in the
poem, Job makes complaint against God as though he is a
prosecutor and putting God in a trial. In fact, Zukerman states
that some words could be couched in the regal terminology. So,
as Cari asked in the post #8731, "Job is quite the chameleon,
eh? Will the real Job please stand up? ;-)," one might also ask
what is going on here? This is the interesting part of the
Zukerman's main thesis as the subtitle of his book is called "A
Study in Historical Counterpoint". Zukerman sees the book of
Job as differing points playing off each other like melody and
counter-melody in music. The "historical" aspect in this is that
these differing points came as the result of the historical
circumstances of authors. Although these points are different
and playing off each other, in the end they seemed to fit like
orchestral music. However, what impressed me the most
about the Zukerman's work is that, he labeled the poem
of Job as the part of the "historical counterpoint." For this
Zukerman took the analogy from the famous Yiddish story by I. L.
Perets called "Bontsye Shvayg" (or "Bontsche Shvayg" meaning
Bontsye the Silent"). Just as Job, Bontsye suffers in his life but
unlike Job Bontsye never complained! Not once! Not a word
thus his title, Silent. When he dies, he goes to heaven and he is
put on the trial because he created a moral dilemma in heaven
by not complaining about his suffering.
"Thus, Perets presents us with a Bontsye who, for all intents and
purpose, holds the mortgage on Heaven. Moreover, with one
distressed cry for payment, Bontsye can effectively rend the
moral fabric of that "other world" beyond all hope of repair."
(Zukerman: p. 37)
The persecuting angle (which is thought as "Satan" like figure)
cannot say anything and all the other angles agree to grant
Bontsye anything in whole universe. What did Bontsye ask for?
He asks that he will be served every morning a hot roll with fresh
butter. At that moment everyone sigh but the persecuting angle
who burst out laughing. Thus ends the story. Zukerman asserts,
sighs and laugh reveal that Bontsye never complained because
he is a fool NOT because he is very patient. Furthermore,
Zukerman states that Perets' story makes fun of a personage
like Bontsye, a "righteous sufferer" that is so common motif in
Jewish culture. Perets intended the story as a PARODY.
However, due to the historical circumstance of Jews namely the
Holocaust Perets' story became known as not a parody but as a
very essence of a righteous suffering Jew. The end of the story is
interpreted as though the persecuting angle gave out bitter
defeated sarcastic laugh. Some reworking of the story in one
play even omits the laugh at the end. These interpretation gave
notion that Bontsye only asks for a hot roll with fresh butter
because he is so humble. From this model, Zukerman
approaches the counterpoint of Job.
Zukerman asserts that the poem of Job is a PARODY of Job
legend. The righteous sufferer motif is very prevalent in the
ancient Near-Eastern culture. What the author of Job did was to
counter that notion. Not only that, the author of the poem of Job
parodied the very notion of God by questioning God's act.
However, as with "Bontsye Shvayg" the historical
circumstances changed the interpretation and many additions
were added to confirm to the original premises of the righteous
sufferer. These "historical counterpoint" may disagree on the
close inspection but if one looks at the work in general like
orchestral music, it makes sense.
That much is what Zukerman states in his book; however, I
would like go further and connect it to Gnosticism since this
discussion group is about Gnosticism. (I hope I succeed. ;)) The
key word here is as one might guessed it, PARODY. Moreover,
what is a parody? Isn't a parody a satire on a certain subject?
Isn't it a parody is make fun of the original premises and calls
into the question of its essence? What got me wondering is
another parody based on the Jewish legend. It is about the
encounter between Lilith and Elijah. In the book "Jewish
Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism and Talmudic Tradition" by
Gershom Scholem (p.72-74) Scholem writes that some
"Gnostic" sect parodied the story as told by Epiphanius in
his book Panarion. Basically in the original story (as told in the
Alphabet of Ben Sira), Lilith, a she demon, encounters Elijah and
he, being a righteous man, conquers and banishes Lilith to the
deep see; however, in Panarion, as Elijah meets Lilith she tells
him that she is his succubus that he must take care of their
demonic off springs. "The Gnostics composed a *parody*
(emphasis mine) calculated to put the prophet to shame." "
it is she who conquers him." (Scholem: p. 73). Of course, we
must take the writing of a heresologist with a grain of salt but
didn't other "Gnostics" engaged in parodies of famous
works? I can call into my mind that several creation story that
found in the Nag Hammadi Library could be classified as the
"parody" of the original account in Genesis. Can it? What the
poem of Job did or better what the author of the poem did was
call into the question of the nature of God using the parody of oft
told righteous sufferer in the Near-Eastern mythology just as
"Gnostics" call into the question of the nature of God using
This brings back the question whether the inclusion of the
confrontation between Job and God makes difference as to the
poem being a parody. For as stated by Cari Job indeed submits
to God in the end as the passage 42:6 is usually translated as,
"therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes".
However, looking at Hebrew text "'l kn `m's wnxmty
`l `pr w'pr" it could mean several things. First
m's could be
translated as 'refuse', 'reject', 'avert', 'retract' or 'regret'. nxm
sorry', 'relieved', 'suffer grief' or 'rue'. So the whole thing
mean, "therefore I regret and relieved on dust and ashes." Or
make thing complicated more the Septuagint states, " Dio
ephaulisa emauton, kai etaken hegemai de emauton gen kai
spodon." which is roughly translated "therefore, I am
myself and melt (or dissolve) I consider (regard) by myself soil
and ashes." It seems to me (and this my opinion) that Job did
not submit but he just throw up his hands after his confrontation
Saying, "what ever God!" and gave up. Job is like a person
had enough of arguing because other person is stubborn. So
even with the confrontation intact, it could still be a parody
pointing out the silliness of this God. Now, add to this about a
redeemer, which makes this as possible "Biblical Demiurgic"
concept. I am not reading the passages based upon the
(Gnostic) Christian reading such as Pneumen did in the post
#8733 with Christological speculation but just from the question
that Job proposes and the role of God, the seed of so called
"Biblical Demiurge" is there because it is a parody.
Therefore, to summarize, I would not quite call Job as a Gnostic
per se but reviving the original question, I would say that could
the author of the poem of Job minus the Chapter 28 and the
Elihu speeches show some sort of proto-gnostic (or proto-
Biblical Demiurgic) tendencies?
One interesting side note to this is that in the Old Greek version
of Job a phrase is added at the end (42:17), "and it is written
that he will rise again with those whom the Lord raises up." and
also after that, there are several verses stating the genealogy of
Job tracing him to Esau thus connecting to Jews.
- 1. Attaining pneumatic understanding (Gnosis?)
> "I see Eternal Life as allegory for a final psychological state of
> gnosis that is irreversable. If one accepts salvation as an
> allegorical process of spiritual death and rebirth, then Eternal
> implies an ultimate end to the process. I believe that the Tree ofNo. I'll elaborate further.
> Life that Yaweh denies Adam and Eve is allegory for the realization
> that such a world-changing process exists. I believe that when the
> New Testament refers to eternal life, if one accepts it as allegory,
> points to the same human condition as Gnosis. I thin that is the
> first level of Gnosis to which Job ascends."
> If I understand you correctly, you seem to be saying that Job has
> moved from the Hylic to the Psychic level of understanding.
I believe that eating from the Tree of Knowledge represents moving
from the Hylic to the Psychic level, and that eating from the Tree of
Life means moving from the Pychic to the Pneumatic level of
understanding. Adam and Eve would be the defining Hebrew (and
Gnostic!) myth where this initial leap were made.
I think it is clear that Job is already at the Psychic level at the
beginning of the Drama. He knows of God, knows of his laws, knows
what is good and evil, believes in His laws, and is unimpeachable in
his faith and moral conduct out of sincere, psychic conviction. A
Hylic would act strictly out of fear and self-gain. Job's
lamentations are based on a sincere and deeply rooted psychic
interest in justice, which drives him to confront Yaweh. A Hylic
wouldn't even think about the point of justice in the face of an
omnipotent being. He'd just duck for cover and hope that groveling
would curb further afflictions.
What we are really debating is whether this is a psychic deepening of
knowledge and faith (Lady Caritas' words) or an initial leap to a
pneumatic level of understanding (my contention).
I'll accept that I may have missed something in my definition
In order to clarify this point in a concrete way, I'll ask you to
answer the following questions:
1.1. Precisely what points to this knowledge being psychic?
1.2. In what Gnostic allegory or exposition is the Drama of ascending
from the psychic to a pneumatic understanding of the Divine descibed
1.3. If there is no such drama or exposition, upon what do you base
your conception of ascension to a pneumatic level?
2. The related question of "Gnosis" vs. "gnosis"
> years ago, in this club, we tried to outline a distinctionI'll certainly attest to the potential for confusion here. I'm
> between "Gnosis" with a capitol "G", and "gnosis", little "g",
totally missing something in this line of conversation.
2.1 Correct me if I'm wrong: gnosis = growing psychological
undertanding through affective mystical experience. Right?
That takes care of one definition. Could you elaborate on precisely
how the second one differs?
2.2 Gnosis: ?
Perhaps "pneumatic understanding" is a better term? Of course this
begs the question of what we mean by "pneumatic", and whether
pneumatic can just mean spiritual. All this seems to indicate how
important and fundamental this definition or description is. However,
it does seem to clarify what we are debating in he Job question.
3. Allegorical vs. Literal view of gnosis
>No, they undestood these things in experiential and pneumatic terms.
> I feel it is important to point out though, that it is debatable as
> to whether the Gnostics saw this salvation in such allegorical
> terms. Truely Gnostic sources are full of allegory, but they also
> seem to intend some literal points concerning spiritual function.
The allegory merely points to the source of this understanding. They
would have seen decribing these things in literal terms as an
inherently limited psychic exercise. That's why they wouldn't even
try to explain it to the Heresologists, who approached everything on
a literal psychic level.
4. Paul's conversion experience.
> ... I am leary about equating Paul's experience on4.1 I can probably guess why. That's proven to be dangerous here, so
> the road to Damascus with Gnosis.
instead I'll ask you to elaborate on why.
This is an important point and an opportunity to elaborate on the
distinction what you see between pneumatic and psychic understanding
in a more concrete way.
5. The utility of faith in the historical Jesus
> "Therefore, for some, the belief in an external Redeemersame
> sets up the groundwork for establishing a personal relationship more
> suitable for establishing an identification, affectivelt reinforcing
> Christ as a mythic intermediary figure with the Father."
> It is interesting that the Talmud states explicitly that Job is an
> allegory, and he never historically existed, while Orthodox
> Christians often comment on the supposed historical Job. By the
> token.... Christians also talk about the historical Jesus, andI realize I've proposed a motive for "creating" the life of Jesus
> equate him with Christ.
However, the writings of the apostles seems to give direct
testimonials that Jesus was a real person. There are no countervailin
I would say that a group that gets hung up on literal interpretations
of allegory, dwelling on the fact that Jesus did or did not live in
the literal sense, isn't really Gnostic . Any Gnostic would take
such an arguement about a psychic rendering of gnosis as the domain
of the Archons and realize that they are pointing towards a faith in
dogma rather than primordial experience as the source of truth.
7. Lady Caritas's post
>I really couldn't follow this letter. It didn't make any sense to me.
> "Well, I was given this link for a definition of Gnosis, and you
> approved. If I was mistaken, it is certainly not my fault."
> There are aspects on this page I find useful, and some that I find
> create confusion. Lady Cari's explination to Terje puts it quite
The article did. It was saying quite clearly that the big "G" Gnosis
refers to a universal experience independent of the Gnostic belief
system. I'm almost quoting he article here. It's pretty unambiguous,
considering that the author says it twice.
Platonic systems are one of many influences on the psychic part of
their belief system. The pneumatic part resides in the individual's
direct experience of the Divine.
8. Modern Value judgements are inevitable
> It is possible that the Gnostics would have seen an historicalThis, of course, is not a statment of fact, but a value judgement
> treatment as superficial, but they would be wrong in that respect.
based on very modern sensibilities similar to the ones you critique
below. They are based on taking a modern historical view laden with
ideological and cultural baggage to describe very different times. It
is simply too limiting an approach, especially when studying a group
that would have totally rejected the approach as "psychic".
> In fact, this is one of the failings of what Dr Wind calls "thatsome of
> ugly thing called Late Antiquities Syncratism (sic)". The fact is,
> the vogue in the Late Antiquities was really more ecclectic thansources
> syncratic (sic), and was not always so careful to understand the
> they borrowed from (much like the New Age movement today).(LOL. Dr. Wind ... You're kidding, right? )
This is not surprising considering that the praxis and beliefs of
Gnostics was not based on faith or allegiance to any one of the many
ideas of the divine that were floating around at the time, but rather
a) personal experience with the divine; b) personal instrucion from
some sort of mentor. They used whatever worked to animate and affirm
their religious experience in the psychic realm.
> We cannotWe cannot understand them unless we examine all aspects of their
> actually understand the Gnostics, without understanding the context
> in which thier ideas grew. This goes back to the problem I see with
> the "Archetype" system. Our modern perspective of some of the
> allegories can give us a very different picture than the one
> intended by the original authors, thier communication can be lost
> beneath our attempt to "archetype" them.
experience, of which their "ideas", by their own accounts, play a
secondary role. In the case of the Orthodox, who DO base their praxis
and beliefs primarily on a succession of written documents,
testimonials, and intellectual belief systems, it makes sense to
stress the philosophical and theological context. In the case of the
Gnostics, the context that is central is that of human experience?
What inspired them from wihin to reach out for Jewish, Greek, and
even Indian ideas to express their faith and outlook?
Modern ideological bias is always a danger. But this is true of any
theoretical framework we would care to use. It is inevitable.
All we can do is take care to choose the appropriate one.
So when choosing one, it is best to choose one that refers to the
same defining source of the movement's Truth to describe it. This is
a phenomenological world, of which the spiritual world is a subset.
The narrow confines of Platonic philosophy. again, are too limiting.
> "To the Gnostics themselves, the Greek/Platonic context is at worst
> superficial and at best only the tip of the iceberg. The key, for
> them, lies in understanding and identifying with the myths expressed
> in these archetypical dramas (and I believe that the creators of
> these myths are very conscious of the universal appeal of these
> drama). In other words, do the Platonists point to the same human
> experience as the writers of Job?"
> I am not aware of any human philosophy or religion that does not,
> we are dealing with it as an archetype. Human suffering is explicit8.1 I'll be more specific. A central theme in Job is Redemption
> in human existance.
through knowledge of the Divine. This theme is also central to the
Gnostics. How do the Platonists deal with redemption? How is it
different than in Job and more similar to the Gnostics?
> And besides simply the treatment of suffering, one of the criticimsthem
> of Plotinus is that it can be difficult to tell the difference
> between him and the Gnostics he attacks... even sometimes for
> Plotinus himself *lol*. Some time ago I did a post on
> Neopythagorians and how difficult it can be to seperate some of
> from the Gnostics, thier view of salvation, cosmology, etc. The8.2 Do they point to a mystical experience of the Divine as a source
> Neopythagorians are also Platonists.
of Truth, as all Gnostics do?
>I appreciate the point. You have to be careful. I'm arguing that
> How do you see salvation/redemption achieved in Gnosticism/Job in
> My point is not meant to deal with whether we can see psychological
> and archetypal connections, we can.... with any religion. My point
> is a bit more specific concerning whether reducing these motifs to
> mere archetypes is a good thing to do.
reducing it to Platonic philosophy (which I also recognize is
possible) is even more dangerous, because it does not address the
primordial experience at the center Gnosticism, and can lead to empty
arguements about secondary issues. Looking for archeypes does. The
probability of doing a bad analysis is there, but it will at least
allow us to compare personal experience to other mystics, both modern
and historical. I will allow us truly to separate the cultural
baggage from the universal.
> BTW, I am curious... you have not commented on the earlierLord
> Mesopotamian texts like "Man and his God", "I Will Praise Thee,
> of Wisdom", and the "Babylonian Theodicy" which some believe Jobwas
> taken.Later. I'm still dealing with the Gospel of Philip and some documents
from Clement of Alexandia that refer to Job in a Gnostic context. He
refers to Job as one of the elect!
> BTW, I also wanted to point out that the date of Job is HOTLYThanks. I've found others. Curiously, all the dates predate Plato.
> debated... and I thought I would post a webpage that gives an
> outline of a number of theories concerning origin etc..