In what the author originally wrote as her doctoral dissertation submitted and approved ten years ago at Concordia Seminary, MO, USA, she struggled with one of the hardest and most important issues of biblical theology, the question of our moral accountability, and one of the toughest and longest books of the Hebrew Old Testament – Job. Right in Job 1 God himself testifies to Job’s impeccable moral quality. Why did God allow Job to suffer so terribly? Satan is introduced as God’s agent here. Hence some modern scholars have sought to account for this moral dilemma by invoking the dualistic mythological ideas prevalent in the ancient Near East. Dr Churnai competently combats this modern trend, advising us not to read the book of Job in terms of the too narrowly focused theology of divine retribution. She argues that the other face of God, his grace, is not to be lost sight of. An engaging, important Asian contribution to Old Testament scholarship.
Takamitsu Muraoka, PhD
Professor Emeritus, Biblical Philology, Leiden University, Netherlands
The book of Job is the masterpiece of Scripture, whether one speaks of its profundity, its poetic and literary beauty, its boldness and intensity of struggle, or its resilience of faith. There may be similar outbursts in the psalms or glimpses in the prophets, but not the depth and the passion of the book of Job.
At issue are attempts by Job’s friends and by Job to make sense of Job’s crisis of life and faith. By inherited wisdom the friends appeal to divine justice, which imputes guilt to Job. Rejecting any guilt, Job paints divine governance as arbitrary and unjust. The impasse lies between the bankruptcy of retribution, and Job’s terrifying vulnerability before a capricious God. Only God’s self-revelation moves beyond the impasse.
Dr Churnai has presented an insightful, masterful study of a book that both tantalizes and defies platitudes. By extension, she gives also a word of hope to all who wrestle with similar issues.
Henry Rowold, DTh
International Research Emeritus Professor, Concordia Seminary, St Louis, Missouri, USA
Questions of theodicy have haunted every people and tribe: how do we explain and master the injustice and inexplicability that all experience in one or another facet of life, especially in death? Therefore, Job has attracted and fascinated readers around the world throughout the centuries. With attention directed to the role of death in Job’s anguished struggle for justification, Churnai uses a literary approach that concentrates on the structure of the book to explore its meaning. With penetrating insight and sensitivity to the book’s literary structures, she shifts the focus away from the principles of retributive justice that hold Job’s friends’ reality together and perceives that Job concludes that trust in the Creator’s person must ground personal interpretation of reality. Churnai explains how this dialogue over retribution versus trust shapes the dialogues between Job and his friends, and Job and God. This excellent study is a must read not only for exegetes but also for systematicians and those dedicated to pastoral care.
Rev Robert A. Kolb, PhD
Professor of Systematic Theology, Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis, Missouri, USA