The Book of

The Book of "Job": A Biography

by Mark Larrimore
     
 

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The Book of Job raises stark questions about the nature and meaning of innocent suffering and the relationship of the human to the divine, yet it is also one of the Bible's most obscure and paradoxical books, one that defies interpretation even today. Mark Larrimore provides a panoramic history of this remarkable book, traversing centuries and traditions to examine

Overview

The Book of Job raises stark questions about the nature and meaning of innocent suffering and the relationship of the human to the divine, yet it is also one of the Bible's most obscure and paradoxical books, one that defies interpretation even today. Mark Larrimore provides a panoramic history of this remarkable book, traversing centuries and traditions to examine how Job's trials and his challenge to God have been used and understood in diverse contexts, from commentary and liturgy to philosophy and art.

Larrimore traces Job's obscure origins and his reception and use in the Midrash, burial liturgies, and folklore, and by figures such as Gregory the Great, Maimonides, John Calvin, Immanuel Kant, William Blake, Margarete Susman, and Elie Wiesel. He chronicles the many ways the Book of Job's interpreters have linked it to other biblical texts; to legends, allegory, and negative and positive theologies; as well as to their own individual and collective experiences. Larrimore revives old questions and provides illuminating new contexts for contemporary ones. Was Job a Jew or a gentile? Was his story history or fable? What is meant by the "patience of Job," and does Job exhibit it? Why does God speak yet not engage Job's questions?

Offering rare insights into this iconic and enduring book, Larrimore reveals how Job has come to be viewed as the Bible's answer to the problem of evil and the perennial question of why a God who supposedly loves justice permits bad things to happen to good people.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Is there such a thing as disinterested faith? Will people go on believing in God if they are not rewarded—indeed, if they are unjustly punished? And why should they be faithful to a God who allows the wicked to triumph and the innocent to suffer? Mark Larrimore . . . chronicl[es] the answers given to that riddle by commentators from the midrash—the rabbinical meditations that were first compiled in the third century—down to Elie Wiesel."—Joan Acocella, New Yorker

"Larrimore gets a lot into a comparatively small space. He examines the retellings of the Job story in the Testament of Job and the Talmud, summarizes Gregory's massively important Christian typology of Job, the Moralia, and discusses how medieval writers from Maimonides to Thomas view the book as a philosophical disputation on providence."—Peter J. Leithart, First Things

"Larrimore is particularly good at helping us understand ancient and medieval readings of Job."—David Wolf, Prospect

"This is an excellent resource for those interested in digging deeper into biblical sources, the Book of Job itself, or the history of biblical interpretation."—John Jaeger, Library Journal

"Princeton University's excellent series on the lives—meaning the changing interpretations—of great religious books continues with this study of the knottiest of all Biblical texts, a key work in Western culture's eternal debate over why bad things happen to good people. . . . [Larrimore] is subtle and superbly thorough as he navigates his way not just through Jewish, Christian and secular readings but also the uncertainties about the text and the misconceptions that have grown up around it."—Brian Bethune, Maclean's Magazine

"Manage[s] to condense a vast amount of material into [a] handy-sized compendium."—Gareth J. Medway, Magonia Blog

"Ever since the tale was told, writers and painters and poets and thinkers have tried to make sense of it. Scholar Mark Larrimore tells that tale—of the rolling interpretations—with such verve in The Book of Job: A Biography. It's a theology course, a philosophy course, a cultural history course and a very relevant meditation on life's trials all rolled into one. Incredible rate of ideas per inch."—Tom Ashbrook, WBUR "On Point"

"The Book of Job:A Biography is highly recommended."—Carole McDonnell, Compulsive Reader

"One of Larrimore's most interesting chapters discusses the liturgical use of Job in the medieval Office of the Dead, where quite long excerpts from Job's speeches appear as readings, interspersed with psalms of lamentation. . . . The Book of Job is . . . still a live issue, and certainly appropriate for treatment in a series such as this."—John Barton,Times Literary Supplement

"This book helps the readers in their struggle to articulate the meaning of the story while at the same time providing both comfort and provocation as it speaks to and for broken people who have suffered loss. A worthwhile addition to all synagogue and Hebrew School libraries."—Nathan Rosen, Association of Jewish Libraries

"This beautifully written and presented book should be compulsory reading for anyone concerned with the irrationality of life, atheist and believer alike. . . . Superb."—Canon Anthony Phillips, Church Times

"[A]n excellent summary of the historical and spiritual impact of this most controversial of biblical books."—Charles H. Middleburgh, Charles Middleburgh Blog

"This is a fascinating book, ideal for undergraduates, and one that for biblical scholars (Job scholars in particular) ought to be required reading."—Michael S. Moore, Society for Biblical Literature

"He perspicuously illuminates the philosophical and theological as well as spiritual backgrounds of the different works. Larrimore's . . . survey delivers insight into the long and sophisticated reception history of the suffering and rebellious Job and the disturbing biblical book carrying his name. This comprehensible presentation is in any case worth reading and a fine piece of writing on the reception history of a biblical book."—Agnethe Siquans, Society for Biblical Literature

"[A] remarkable book. . . . As captivating an introduction to Job as it is to the Bible's reception history and Western intellectual history. No small triumph for a handsome little book of less than 300 pages."—Davis Hankins, Theology Today

Library Journal
11/15/2013
One does not usually think of reading a biography of a book. However, this series tells the story of how iconic religious works have been read and interpreted over time. In this case, readers may well be surprised by the widely divergent ways the biblical Book of Job has been understood. Larrimore (religious studies, Eugene Lang Coll., New Sch. for Liberal Arts; editor, The Problem of Evil: A Reader) discusses the tracing of the character of Job himself and interpretations of the biblical text. He references the Babylonian Talmud, Gregory the Great, Thomas Aquinas, Maimonides, John Calvin, Immanuel Kant, William Blake, and Elie Wiesel, among others, showing that the Book of Job has been used not only by those from Christian and Jewish traditions but also, as with Voltaire, by those who reject theism. Larrimore also demonstrates how the book has been depicted in a variety of formats, including liturgy, visual art, and performing art; he provides a small number of helpful illustrations. VERDICT This is an excellent resource for those interested in digging deeper into biblical sources, the Book of Job itself, or the history of biblical interpretation.—John Jaeger, Dallas Baptist Univ. Lib.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400848010
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
09/30/2013
Series:
Lives of Great Religious Books
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
296
File size:
9 MB

Meet the Author

Mark Larrimore directs the Religious Studies Program at Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts. He is the editor of The Problem of Evil: A Reader and the coeditor of The German Invention of Race.

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