Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 17 (2017) - Review

Dell, Katharine, and Will Kynes (eds.), Reading Job Intertextually (LHBOTS, 574; New York: Bloombury T & T Clark, 2013). Pp. 344. Hardcover. US$140.00. ISBN 978-0-567-48552-6.

Intertextuality has become a fashionable concept employed in biblical studies in recent decades, and this edited volume is a collective attempt to apply this concept to the book of Job. In addition to the introductory chapter by the editors, this book opens with an essay by J. Barton, who gives an overview of the diverse use of intertextuality in Hebrew Bible research. He differentiates two versions of intertextuality, “hard” and “soft.” The former considers intertextuality as a theoretical mindset about texts in general and the latter a method for interpreting texts in a particular way. He observes that the soft version is more readily espoused by biblical scholars even though he appears to be critical of the common practice of turning a theory into a method among the guild. Barton also points out that the dichotomy between diachronic and synchronic approaches of intertextuality is misleading. The editors strongly support his observation and most contributors echo its validity in their essays.

There are four main sections in this edited volume. Each of the first three sections comprises five to six essays that deal with the intertextual dialogue between Job and the Pentateuch, the Prophets, and the Writings respectively. The fourth section, which extends the discussion beyond the Hebrew Bible, contains six essays, each of which explores the intertextual reading between Job and a text outside the Tanakh. Even though the book is arranged in such a way, discussion in each essay is not strictly confined to the category in which it is assigned. For example, J. Crenshaw's essay (“Divine Discipline in Job 5:17–18, Proverbs 3:11–12, Deuteronomy 32:39, and Beyond,” pp. 178–89), which is placed under “Part II: Job in Dialogue with the Writings,” singles out the image of God as disciplinarian in Job 5:17–18 and employs this concept as a thematic thread in discussing the intertextual interplay between Job and Proverbs as well as Deuteronomy, Sirach, and even the epistle to the Hebrews. M. Lyons's essay (“‘I Also Could Talk as You Do’ [16:4]: The Function of Intratextual Quotation and Allusion in Job,” pp. 169–77), which is placed under the same section, is not concerned with the intertextual dialogue between Job and the Writings at all. This essay instead examines the various functions of intratextual allusions within the book of Job.

In the introduction, the editors claim that “Job is now widely considered the product of the postexilic period” (p. xvi). Although none of the contributors argues for a specific date for the final form of Job, it seems fair to say that none of them challenge this assumption, which sets the diachronic orientation for the intertextual relationship between Job and other Hebrew Bible texts. Some contributors are sensitive to the hypothesis that Job was composed in stages. For example, although Will Kynes (“Job and Isaiah 40–55: Intertextualities in Dialogue,” pp. 94–105) argues that Isa 40–55 was a pretext for Job, he states that “the date of Job is by no means a fixed point.” Paul Joyce (“‘Even if Noah, Daniel, and Job Were in It…’ [Ezekiel 14:11]: The Case of Job and Ezekiel,” pp. 118–28) contends that Ezekiel likely preceded the final form of Job. However, he also claims that the existence of an earlier folktale about Job is a possibility, and both Ezekiel and Job might have drawn from that tradition. M. Witte (“Does the Torah Keep Its Promise? Job's Critical Intertextual Dialogue with Deuteronomy,” pp. 54–65) is probably the most aggressive in this regard. He begins by delineating different redactional layers of Job and then moves on to examine how these various layers respond to the theology of Deuteronomy. According to his analysis, Job in the basic layer is critical of Deuteronomy but the layer that contains the Elihu speeches and the final redaction that contains Job's hymns of creation both attempt to counter that challenge.

A few essays in this collection adopt primarily the diachronic approach and are interested in how Job reuses some earlier texts. For example, E. Greenstein (“Parody as a Challenge to Tradition: The Use of Deuteronomy 32 in the Book of Job,” pp. 66–78) discovers almost a dozen parallel passages in Job and the Song of Moses in Deut 32. Although he does not claim that all of them have interpretive significance, he argues that “the density of the Song's use in Job enhances the power and significance of the instances of parody” (p. 69). According to Greenstein, while Bildad and Eliphaz allude to the Song of Moses to serve as a source of wisdom, Job draws on it in order to parody traditional wisdom. In another essay, J. Burnight (“The ‘Reversal’ of Heilsgeschichte in Job 3”) observes that Job's opening outcry in Job 3 makes use of terms and motifs “that are evocative of key periods in the nation's history” (p. 30). He argues that many expressions in that chapter can be interpreted as a reversal of traditional salvific acts toward the Israelites and Judah. He believes that the Joban poet has in mind an audience familiar to these traditions and thus reuses them to pursue certain rhetorical effects.

Some essays are simply not concerned with the relative dating of Job and the other text under study. For example, J. Nogalski (“Job and Joel: Divergent Voices on a Common Theme,” pp. 129–41) performs a comparative analysis of the ways in which the verb שׁוּב functions differently within Job 8–10 and Joel. According to his study, the same verb, in various forms, conveys a sense of threat and death in Job 9–10 on the one hand but hope in Joel on the other. His conclusion is that reading Job and Joel together strengthens the characterization of Bildad, Job and Joel who are all obsessed with their own competing theological paradigms. Likewise, R. Schultz (“Job and Ecclesiastes: Intertextuality and a Protesting Pair,” pp. 190–203) compares similar use of key expressions in Job and Ecclesiastes and examines the relationship between their respective ideologies. He concludes that both books express the same viewpoint regarding various theological and anthropological topics, even though they offer divergent emphases.

One distinctive feature that the editors claim for this volume is that the intertextual relationship between Job and some extra-canonical texts is also the object of examination. For instance, S. Ticciati (“An Intertextual Reading of Job in Relation to the Anti-Pelagian Augustine,” pp. 259–271) brings Job and Augustine's anti-Pelagian writings into dialogue. She argues against the common perception that Augustine uses Job as a proof text and demonstrates the presence of deeper resonances between the worldviews of the two texts. She also shows that when Job is interpreted in the light of Augustine's writings, the reader is invited to see the divine speeches as a token of grace. According to Ticciati, this is a new meaning that one would not make initially without the intertextual reading. In another essay, J. McCann (“The Book of Job and Marjorie Kemper's ‘God's Goodness,’” pp. 285–296) introduces “God's Goodness,” a short story written by the philosopher/novelist Marjorie Kemper and examines how this novel makes use of Job. McCann also invites C. Newsom as his conversation partner and shows how the intertextual reading brings out the idea: “God's possibilities in the universe” (p. 291). He concludes with a brief discussion on how the topics of “hope” and “humility,” both of which he claims are present in Kemper's “God's Goodness” and Job, would have impacted the reader.

Those readers who seek to gain deeper exegetical insights of Job from a purely diachronic perspective may not be able to benefit from this volume extensively. However, for those readers who are fascinated by the horizon opened up when Job is read synchronically with other texts, their desire would surely find fulfillment from many essays in this collective work.

Edward Ho, Richmond Hill, ON