Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 5 (2004-2005) - Review

Yohan Pyeon, You Have Not Spoken What Is Right About Me: Intertextuality and the Book of Job (Studies in Biblical Literature, 45; New York: Peter Lang, 2003). Pp. xvi + 239. Cloth. $ 69.95. ISBN 0820456527.

“This book represents, with only minor changes, a doctoral thesis submitted to Claremont Graduate University in January 2001.” The book is neatly packaged, and the author makes his methodology clear. He informs the reader what he is going to do, and he follows his plan in every chapter. So it is easy to read and to see how he arrives at his conclusions. If you accept his presuppositions on the unity of the book of Job and other things such as his dating of the book (“between the fifth and the third centuries B.C.E.” p 48) plus his dating of other texts used in the book of Job, most of his conclusions will follow.

Professor N. H. Tur-Sinai wrote several books on Job, and some of these books disagreed with each other. Not many books on Job agree with each other. Therefore it will not surprise Professor Pyeon that my conclusions about Job are different than his (My book is Who Hears the Cries of the Innocent). One of my students, from my tenure at the Claremont Graduate University, wrote to me recently that my book on Job was interesting, but he had a better way. So here we go again.

During the last few years many so-called new methodologies have been developed for the study of the Hebrew Bible. There is a New Literary Criticism, another method that makes use of the social sciences, Intertextuality, and several more. As a student I was taught to use every possible method. We approached a text from every angle; we were historians and we did not develop a single methodology.

One of my problems with this book can be illustrated by looking at the title and the subtitle. The title comes from Job 42:7 and the author is aware that this verse contains a difficult problem. When Yahweh says, “You have not spoken what is right about me,” to what text is this statement related? Pyeon relates it to “the disputation between Job and his friends in Job 3-14.” (p 213) So if this is the case, Yahweh is saying that the three “friends” with their orthodox theology are wrong and the rebel Job is correct. To me this makes no sense, and this illustrates the difficulty in using the method of Intertextuality. I think there are two books of Job: the ancient story or folktale, Job I, and the rebel Job, Job II (Job 3-26). The three “friends” of the prologue and epilogue of Job I are not to be confused with the three “friends” in Job II. No one in Job II appears in the epilogue of Job I. This is why H. L. Ginsberg (Conservative Judaism, 1967) thought that the three “friends” in the prologue must have gone along with Job’s wife in 2:9 who urged Job “to curse God and die.” This was their mistake. From Pyeon’s point of view the “friends” in Job 3-14 are not wrong, but they have made the mistake of trying to use old traditions in a new situation. This seems to be a weak argument. The rebel Job certainly thinks that the words of the “friends” are false (Believe it or not, the innocent have perished in many settings [4:7]). Given my point of view there are many places where I could not agree on the way he states things. He says, “Job is at odds with his former self (p 83).” But when I compare Job 1-2 with 3, I would say that the rebel Job of chapter 3 is not at all like the Job of the prologue. This sort of thing makes this review difficult.

Since I have just translated Job, Pyeon’s translation is interesting to me. My translation needs more work (like for the rest of my life), and his needs more work. I am embarrassed by leaving out some words, and he also has some typos ( In 10:8 he has the word “nit.” I don’t understand.). I do have some suggestions concerning the translation: 1) The Hebrew word for “heart” should be translated as “mind” in 9:4; 12:3, and 24. 2) There should be some consistency in dealing with the names of God: either translate them or give them as names. 3) 12:6c is not “Those who carry God in their hands!” but “Whom Eloah carried in his hand.” 4) The negative does not work for him in 13:20a (according to his own discussion, p. 200). He has, “Yet two things you should not do with me!” I read this, “O El, do only two things for me.” 5) His 10:18 and 19 reads: “Then, why did you bring me out from the womb? / I perish and eyes will not see me. /As I was never born, I would be, / Carried from the womb to tomb.” I would read: “Why did you bring me from the womb? / I would have expired; / Not an eye would have seen me. / That which I was not, I would have been; / From womb to tomb, I would have been carried.” These examples show that our task is endless.

I thank Professor Pyeon for his book. I have learned something of recent work on the book of Job. Also this has sent me back, once again, to correct my own work.

Loren Fisher
Willits, CA