Deconstructing Theodicy: Why Job Has Nothing to Say to the Puzzle of Suffering

Overview

Maimonides called Job a "strange and wonderful book." For many, "strange" might well suffice. Though Job has been characterized as a theodicy, to the sincere reader the book can fail to satisfy the soul's longing for answers to the problem of suffering. Perhaps that in fact is the point of Job—there are no satisfactory propositional arguments for why people suffer.

In this compact yet rich volume, philosopher of religion David Burrell shows that Job actually deconstructs the ...

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Deconstructing Theodicy: Why Job Has Nothing to Say to the Puzzle of Suffering

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Overview

Maimonides called Job a "strange and wonderful book." For many, "strange" might well suffice. Though Job has been characterized as a theodicy, to the sincere reader the book can fail to satisfy the soul's longing for answers to the problem of suffering. Perhaps that in fact is the point of Job—there are no satisfactory propositional arguments for why people suffer.

In this compact yet rich volume, philosopher of religion David Burrell shows that Job actually deconstructs the theories of theodicy proposed by commentators over the centuries. This is seen in the fact that Job's three friends themselves offer theodicies, but are rebuked in the end; whereas Job, who seeks only to speak to God, is granted his audience.

Rather than providing an exegetical commentary, Burrell engages in theological and philosophical reflection on the major movements of the book. Deconstructing Theodicy also contains an interfaith perspective with the inclusion of a chapter by Islamic scholar A. H. Johns on the reading of the Job figure in the Koran. Burrell then goes on to examine the treatment of Job in four classical commentaries and finally explores Job's contribution to faith and theology as an affirmation that God hears and heeds our cries of anguish.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

For centuries those who suffer have been pointed toward the Book of Job. What they find there is a God who essentially asks: "What do you know? Were you there when I made the world?" That isn't much of an explanation of suffering, nor was it meant to be, according to Burrell, professor of philosophy and theology at the University of Notre Dame. Rather, the Book of Job provides a corrective to the idea that if we are good God will bless, and when we sin God will punish. While Job's story doesn't explain suffering, it does demonstrate the importance of the relationship between creature and Creator. Job's unhelpful friends talk about God to Job, while Job courageously speaks directly to God instead. Remarkably, God listens to and answers Job; according to Burrell, the fact that God does so is more important than what God actually says. Burrell's review of classical commentaries on Job, contemporary philosophies of suffering (theodicy), as well as a chapter on an Islamic perspective on the Job figure (Ayyub) in the Qur'an will speak mostly to academic audiences. Clergy and pastoral counselors, however, will find material helpful to those who seek guidance in the midst of pain. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781587432224
  • Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/1/2008
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.31 (d)

Meet the Author

David B. Burrell (PhD, Yale University) is the Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC Professor in Philosophy and Theology at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana. He is the author of several books, including Freedom and Creation in Three Traditions, Knowing the Unknowable God, and Aquinas: God and Action.

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Table of Contents

1. Introducing the Strategies of This Reflection
2. The Structure of the Book with Its Framing Story
3. Three Rounds of Multifaceted Dialogue
4. Denouement and Epilogue
5. A Comparative Consideration of Ayyub in the Qur'an [A.H. Johns]
6. Classical Commentaries: Saadiah, Maimonides, Aquinas, and Gersonides
7. Job Mediating Two Opposing Views of Theodicy
8. Assessing Job's Contribution to Theodicy: Semantics of Explaining or Addressing

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