Pseudepigrapha Saturday: Testament of Job

Introduction to the Text:

I posted about this book previously. So, here is my previous introduction:

The Testament of Job (henceforth TJob) is a tale about the life of Job. Unlike the book of Job in the LXX (Greek translation called the Septuagint) or MT (Masoretic Text also known as the Hebrew Bible), TJob recasts the story as Job telling his children about his life while he is on his deathbed. This stylistic choice influenced scholars to consider it to be a “testament” on four premises: a deathbed scene; celebration of virtues; moral exhortations; death, burial, and lamentation. TJob, though, modifies this testament genre by treating a character from wisdom literature rather than one from the Torah. According to R. P. Spittler, this indicates that TJob is more haggadic in nature than hortatory. Or, to put in simpler words, TJob is more interested presenting a narrative story than exhorting the audience. In this respect, TJob is more akin to 21st century novels than many other Pseudepigraphal testaments.

Written between the 1st century B.C.E. and C.E. in Egypt, it is “a valuable monument to the rich variety of hellenistic Jewish piety” (836). Of course, another large value of TJob is how it reflects cultural standards and societal expectations, and how it uses other biblical literature.

Last time I read TJob, I considered the cultural expectations present in the book. Today, I will consider one aspect of the anthropology of the Testament of Job, that is an aspect of the nature of man as present in the book.

Opening Act and Follow-Up:

In TJob, Job becomes afflicted because he obeys God’s command to destroy a temple of Satan. Regarding the idol temple, God says: “his is the power of the devil, by whom human nature is deceived” (TJob 3:3). The key, opening act is that “human nature is deceived”. It suggests rather explicitly that there is a clear human nature lacking ambiguity. In this case, pure human nature is oriented towards God. Anything which steps outside of it is an example of corruptness. Following, I will consider a few more example of what constitutes human nature in TJob.

Chapters 9-15 focus on the good works of Job’s household and those around him. Although nothing directly relates to human nature, such praise Job’s generosity, outreach, and kindness sets him as an exemplar of undisturbed human nature. Human nature is open towards neighbors and foreigners, offers support to the broken, and, regardless of the amount of good works, remains completely and wholly humble. TJob 15:6-9 considers the question of humility: “Possibly, my sons may have sinned before the Lord through boasting by saying with disdain, ‘We are sons of this rich man, and these goods are ours. Why then do we also serve?’ ” For pride is an abomination before God. And again, I offered up a select calf on the altar of God, lest my sons may have though evil things in their heart toward God” (TJob 15:6-9). Human nature is, thus, humble toward God and not prideful. Before considering what ties together these views of human nature, I will provide one more example.

In 25:9-10, Sitis, Job’s wife, encourages him to “speak some word against the Lord and die”. While her statement, and Job’s response in calling her a senseless woman, has garnered much discussion, the question prior to Job’s response should be emphasized. After providing reason for not cursing the Lord, he raises a question: “Do you not see the devil standing behind you and unsettling your reasoning so that he might deceive me too?” (TJob 26:6a). Yet again, the question of deceit arises. Recall that earlier TJob indicates deceit from the devil is a corruption of human nature. Furthermore, when we realize that in antiquity there was not so much distinction between action and thought as in modern times, it becomes evident that speech is just as much a part of human nature as is humility, for it comes from the same place. Therefore, human nature speaks praises of God rather than blasphemes.

What connects all of this information? At the core of each example is a deity focused world. Unlike the 21st century where the I seems not to have a Thou, solely You(s) – or more simply that modern views of human nature tend to lack relationship to a deity, and only focus on other people and self -, the TJob reflects a culture in which socio-religious praxis, or actualized beliefs, were integral to their conceptions of what constituted humans and, consequently, proper human nature. In this case, pure human nature is totally oriented towards God.

R. P. Spittler.”Testament of Job”. J. H. Charlesworth, editor. Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, volume I. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1983.

“Reading David and Goliath in Greek and Hebrew” by Benjamin J. M. Johnson

ReadingDavidandGoliathinGreekandHebrewBenjamin J. M. Johnson. Reading David and Goliath in Greek and Hebrew. Forschungen zum Alten Testament 2. Reihe 82. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2015, xiv + 275 pp., 79,00 €  (sewn paper).

Benjamin J. M. Johnson (PhD at University of Durham) analyzes the nuances of the LXX translation of 1 Samuel 16-18 in order to understand the unique focuses of the LXX as a literary document in its own right. Through Robert Altar’s definition of literary analysis (Revised ed. New York: Basic Books, 2011, p. 13), Johnson examines the minor contours of the LXX in the Goliath story. His methodology employs three parameters: 1 Reigns 16-18 is a Greek literary text in its own right, the MT and 4QSama are used when the assist in discerning what the translator is attempting to communicate, and the final product “is interpreted as a final literary communication with reference to how it has communicated its source” (20). As lately I havebeen indulging myself in some of Robert Altar’s commentaries and translations, I have come to greatly appreciate his focus on the literary artistry of the Hebrew Bible. Consequently, I admire Johnson’s focus on reading 1 Samuel/Reigns 16-18 as its own work of art. His methodology should be employed in other reading of Septuagint texts because it avoids an a priori assumption of the MT’s value over the LXX.

Chapters 2-4 each analysis 1 Reigns 16-18, Chapter 5 analyzes the Hebrew reading to draw out how it compares to the Greek reading, and Chapter 6 summarizes the previous analyses.

One feature I appreciate about Chapters 2-4 is reflective of his methodology: he still discusses the Vorlage, MT, and 4QSama. Although the majority of Greek and Hebrew comparative linguistic analysis takes place within the footnotes, it still establishes his work as a valuable place to begin any sort of research about the MT. Another major strength is Johnson’s discussion of verbal variation. In utilizing the MT to elucidate the LXX, he notes that translator switches “from imperfect to aorist verbs [in 17:34-36] despite the consistent chain of weqatal forms in the Hebrew” (94). This translation changes the narrative texture to one in which foreshadows the battle between Goliath and David. Although such an issue is often absent to the average reader of the LXX, Johnson’s ability to elucidate and put reason to the translators choice draws out the translators theological focus within his own time period. Perhaps translation choices like Johnson draws out in 1 Reigns 17:34-36 will help to expand our understanding of other LXX translations.

One critique I have of Johnson’s work is that he doesn’t focus enough on a more contextualized reading of the LXX. Although he draws on non-biblical authors, it only comprises roughly 12% of the primary source material. Johnson does notes that the LXX should be read at a literary text in its own right; however, in order to do so it is important to interact with contemporary Greek literary texts, texts potentially informative of the translators choices. Choices may have been merely linguistic or culturally dependent. Regardless, more interaction with contemporary Greek literature would greatly strengthen his work.

In conclusion, I highly recommend Johnson’s work. Like most volumes in FAT II series by Mohr Siebeck, it is a highly specialized work; however, the Septuagint focus of this work, namely his methodology and study of the literary sensitivity of the translator, holds potential to influence future works which analyze the LXX in its own literary right. This book is best for research on the LXX, Samuel or Reigns, and analysis of the distinct, nuanced literary aims between various manuscripts.