Death and Survival in the Book of Job: Desymbolization and Traumatic Experience

Death and Survival in the Book of Job: Desymbolization and Traumatic Experience


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The Book of Job functions as literature of survival where the main character, Job, deals with the trauma of suffering, attempts to come to terms with a collapsed moral and theological world, and eventually re-connects the broken pieces of his world into a new moral universe, which explains and contains the trauma of his recent experiences and renders his life meaningful again. The key is Job's death imagery. In fact, with its depiction of death in the prose tale and its frequent discussions of death in the poetic sections, Job may be the most death-oriented book in the bible. In particular, Job, in his speeches, articulates his experience of suffering as the experience of death. To help understand this focus on death in Job we turban to the psychohistorian, Robert Lifton, who investigates the effects on the human psyche of various traumatic experiences (wars, natural disasters, etc). According to Lifton, survivors of disaster often sense that their world has "collapsed" and they engage in a struggle to go on living. Part of this struggle involves finding meaning in death and locating death's place in the continuity of life. Like many such survivors, Job's understanding of death is a flashpoint indicating his bewilderment (or "desymbolization") in the early portions of his speeches, and then, later on, his arrival at what Lifton calls "resymbolization," the reconfiguration of a world that can account for disaster and render death - and life - meaningful again.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780567026927
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
Publication date: 06/05/2006
Series: The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies , #450
Pages: 216
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.62(d)

About the Author

Andrew Mein is Tutor in Old Testament, Westcott House, Cambridge.

Claudia V. Camp is Professor of Religion at Texas Christian University, USA and was on the steering committee of the Seminar. She is currently co-general editor of the LHBOTS series, as well as the author or editor of 4 books and numerous articles.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Job, "Our Contemporary": Reading Job in a "Post-Traumatic Age"

Chapter One: A Shattered World: Symbolic Wholeness and Life, Desymbolization and Death (chaps. 1-2)
Chapter Two: Groping for Meaning: Desymbolized Death in Job's Early Speeches (chaps. 3-20, part one)

Chapter Three: Groping for Meaning: Shifting Death and the Legal Metaphor (chaps. 3-20, part two)

Chapter Four: Wholeness Restored: Generalized Speech and Resymbolization (chaps. 21-31)

Chapter Five: The Divine Speeches: Symbolic Fluidity and the Protean Self (chaps. 38:1-42:6)

Conclusion: Conclusion: Death at the End and the Problem of Suffering

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