Thinking Out Loud

January 23, 2017

How Factual is The Book of Job?

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:18 pm
Job after a particularly bad day

Job after a particularly bad day (Wikipedia)

Growing up in a fairly conservative Christian culture, there are things I simply never questioned. The Book of Job was one of them. There was, in my opinion, a guy named Job to whom God permitted a great testing to take place, and that was that.

On the theological spectrum, I probably still rank conservative, though one’s general hermeneutics and one’s position on current social issues can often seem unaligned. Furthermore, within Evangelicalism we’ve had a number of challenges in the last decade or so to the early chapters in Genesis, some of which I believe has affected me often because of the respect I hold for the authors and speakers calling for a more allegorical reading.

So when a friend emailed on the weekend and asked if Job’s story is factual, like to proverbial politician I found myself hedging my bets. I grabbed a few print commentaries and noted that the book is rooted in a particular location — a sign of a not-made-up story — and that Job is mentioned in two other books. But I found myself re-examining the issue of whether the story should be taken literally or seen poetically. (And some commentaries would say it’s both with the intro and ending prose and the main body poetry. Is that also waffling on the subject?)

So for the second time in 24 hours, I invite your comments.

How do you read Job? Fact or Old Testament parable? And why?



  • Also, yesterday’s survey on the care and feeding of your copy of the Bible is still open. Read the questions at this link:


  1. The Amazing Collection from Big Dream Ministries teaches The Book of Job as if it is literal truth. One of the clergy with permission to officiate at the Church I belong to takes the opposite view – that it is fiction. Personally, I don’t think it matters, having listened to both points of view. There are lessons to learn from it. There are many issues in the Bible, which may not become clear in this life. Sue

    Comment by suesconsideredtrifles — January 23, 2017 @ 1:14 pm

  2. Here’s my waffle: I believe it is true. That conclusion comes from the fact that it has been included in the cannon of scripture. Even though Jesus never quotes from this book in the Gospels, many things he taught seem to confirm the truth of what the book of Job teaches.

    However, Even though I suspect there may have been a person named Job and bad things may have happened to him (after which good things may have happened to him), I doubt that the account in the Hebrew bible is factual. This comes from my understanding of the type of literature(s) contained in the book and from a few commentaries I have read. Also my general approach scripture is that – in most cases – it does not have be 100% factual to be true.

    Best commentary I have read is John Walton’s for the NIV Application Commentary series.

    Comment by jeffrey jenkins — January 24, 2017 @ 1:48 pm

  3. Yes, I believe it’s true. At the end of the Letter of James (5:11) there is a reference to Job ‘… you have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.’ Is it acceptable to speak of God’s merci if that was not historical true? I don’t think so, for the following reasons. (1) Wouldn’t it be cruel torture to speak about a man (Job) in so great distress and to use this as a portrait for the Christian in distress, however not being true? (2) James was one of the three pillars of the earliest Jerusalem Christian Church (Galatians 2:9). He was certainly serious about Job and so about the book of Job. (3) Moreover James was Jesus’ brother. If there was any man who had seen the life of Jesus for many years, it was James. So when we hear him speak it is nearly that we hear Jesus speak himself, isn’t it?

    True, the book of Job is a strange and marvelous book, and only thinking about this book I have the feeling to bow deeply with my head between my knees. Taking the age of Job (42:16) much more than 140 years, let’s say about 180 – 200 years at least, he is to be taken as living a bit earlier than Abraham. And he seems to have lived near the promised land as the name of the river Jordan is mentioned (40:18). So we have here one of the great spiritual giants who are listed as the descendants of Sem (Genesis 11:10-20) and who spoke Hebrew (as in the book of Job). I take this as the sign that already before the Confusion of the Language in Babel (Genesis 11:9) people also had reached the land of Canaan where God was worshipped and their language was not confused likewise. For long that part of the East remained the land of the Hebrews (Genesis 40:15, 41:12) where the language of God’s revelation of old remained and why it was certainly still the land of God. And that’s the reason as I feel, why Abram had to go to Canaan. That was the only place on earth where God could continue to reveal himself to mankind and why God could promise Abraham this region as a heritage for his descendants. It was not stealing when the Israelites entered the promised land, they went to where they spiritually belonged, and their language was the evidence for it. Maybe it is not without meaning that Job and Daniel are mentioned by Ezekiel together (14:14, 20). Didn’t Daniel got a revelation about a dream of king Nebuchadnezzar? Maybe Daniel was aware of the insight Job must have got after his misfortune about the role of the devil in this misfortune and followed Daniel the example to fast (2:16-18) and got a revelation just as Job about what had happened earlier. (Sorry for the rather long reply.)

    Comment by B.J.E. van Noort — January 24, 2017 @ 5:08 pm

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