The Bible, from its inception, has already been translated into many languages and is being interpreted in an increasing number of ways, some of which interpretations are contradictory and some are complementary. But which method is most appropriate is a hot debate in Christianity today. This paper is an exegesis study that analyses the celebrated book of Job from the Old Testament, which historical account, or perhaps moral folktale, is set in the period of the Patriarchs around the time of Abraham that makes it one of the oldest books of the Bible.
The Book of Job, which is named after the main character of the text, questions the justice of a God who was expected to offer protection in return for loyalty. It addresses the important and difficult question, “Why do good people suffer? ”, through the story of a righteous, God-fearing man who lost everything, and wrestles with the question, “Why? ” He puts this question to God, but gets no satisfactorily answer, but eventually finds peace in his experience of suffering.
Christians might argue that suffering helps purify, test, teach or strengthen the soul, and our responsibility to God is to obey Him, to trust Him and to submit to His will, whether we fully understand it or not. Exegetical Methods The two exegetical methods used in this analysis of the Book of Job are feminist interpretation and Catholic exegesis. Selecting the feminist method seemed most appropriate given the story most unfairly ignores Job’s wife who was with him thoughout his troubles. However, the second method of exgesis came down to a choice between historical-critical, narrative criticism and the Catholic interpretation.
I opted for the latter since it is open to the use of a variety interpretation techniques and would thus, I reasoned, make for a more comprehensive analysis. Feminist interpretation of the Bible is important in terms of women’s rights and equality of the sexes, whereby women should be treated as intellectual and social equals to men. However, the concept of feminism was unheard of when the Bible was written. Indeed, Jesus selected only men for the role of apostle, presumably influenced by the social custom of his day, an example sometimes cited as the rationale for excluding women from leadership positions in the church today.
The Bible and its texts are clearly male centered, and reflect a view in which males are dominant. Until recent years, the only voices that were heard when describing the experiences of biblical personalities, including women, were the voices of men. Passages about women were interpreted from the male perspectives. Thus, feminist biblical interpretation asks questions such as: •Does the text show gender bias? •Does the text portray women as equal to men? •How is the meaning of the text affected if read from a feminist view?
Evaluation of the feminist exegesis method. Feminist biblical criticism is now an established method of inquiry. It is a postmodern method of interpretation that poses an important challenge to many of our assumptions about the Bible, which relegates women to second-case status. Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong tell us, “There is no doubt the Bible is biased against women. Both the religious and ethical directives of the Bible were formulated out of a patriarchal understanding of life, with the interests of men being primary.
Samantha Gerstein, author of “Feminist Biblical Interpretastion” states in her publication, “For many years, the only voices that were heard when describing the experiences of biblical personalities were the voices of men. The experiences and perspectives of men were used to extract messages from biblical passages. Even passages about women were interpreted from the perspectives of men. When a biblical woman’s experience is deciphered by a male, there is a chance that the experiences can be interpreted in a way that the original writer did not intend.
Moreover, the woman’s experience can be depicted in such a way as to justify her subordination. ” So are we meant to ignore about that 50% of the population that in the Bible are often abused, sidelined and undermined? I don’t think so. In particular it is very hard to find feminist readings in the book of Job, which is why this story can benefit from this feminist exegsis. However, it is acknowledged some of the bible, such as the Book of Ruth, a classic love story, is more positive with regard women, and of course, Mary,
Mother of Jesus, holds special significance for Catholics. Catholic exegesis is a recent method of biblical analysis, which is “characterised by openness to a variety of analytical methods and approaches. Although the historical-critical method is prime, literary methods and approaches based on tradition, the social sciences, or particular contemporary contexts can also yield important insights into the meaning of the Bible.
However, the value of these insights will correspond to their harmony with the fundamental principles which guide Catholic interpretation. (Catholic Principles for Interpreting Scripture: ISBN 88-7653-617-5) Evaluation of the Catholic exegesis method. Catholic exegesis freely makes use of scientific methods and all approaches that allow a better understanding of the meaning of texts in their literary, socio-cultural, religious and historical contexts. In addition to a broad interpretation, I favour Catholic exegesis as it is carried out in a manner which is as critical and objective as possible and actively contributes to the development of new methods of exegesis.
Also, Catholic exegesis requires that interpretation of a biblical text be consistent with the meaning intended by the authors, placing biblical texts in their ancient contexts, thus helping to clarify the meaning of the biblical authors’ message for their original readers and for us too. And although Catholic exegesis employs a historical method, it is not historicist or positivis and is open to a variety of methods and approaches.
As mentioned above, although the historical-critical method retains its primacy, the Catholic Church maintains that literary methods and approaches based on tradition, the social sciences, or particular contemporary contexts can also yield important insights into the meaning of the biblical word. However, as a relative newcomer to the methods of exegesis, Catholic exegesis is not immune to the “presuppositional problem” where in this instance presupposing means that the Christian faith is the only basis for rational thought and the Bible is interpreted in the light of God’s revelation.
Nevertheless, Catholic exegesis seemed the most appropriate method by which to interpret the Book of Job given the broad nature of such exegesis, despite any presupposition issues, which I’m sure is a bias that the experts in exegesis I quote in this paper, including Thomas Aquinas, would be well aware of and guard against. Feminist Exegesis of Job “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die! ” (Job 2:9) – the only words spoken by Job’s long-suffering wife throughout the book.
The following feminist exegesis of the Book of Job paraphases the work of Roger Scholtz given at based http://www. cielo. org. za/scielo. php? pid=S1010-99192013000300016&script=sci_arttext. Roger Scholtz is a lecturer in Old Testament studies at the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. The other main text used in this exegesis is “Job: Questioning the Book of the Righteous Sufferer” by Christl Maier and Silvia Schroer, which essay is contained in “Feminist Biblical Interpretation”, edited by Luise Schottroff and Marie-Theres, and published at https://books. google. co. nz/books.
Christle Maier is professor of Old Testament at Yale Divinity School, and Professor Silvia Schroer’s is an editor and writer whose area of specialisation is The Old Testament, feminist exegesis and hermeneutics. She is the founder and editor of the first Internet journal for feminist exegesis in Europe, the “Lectio Difficilior”. The Job story gives little space to women, rather it silences Job’s wife in a brief paragraph and devotes the remainder of the book to men. Women, their world and experiences, appear in patriarchal perspective only in a very peripheral way.
While the story concerns a man who experiences considerable misfortune and shows great patience, in their compendium “Feminist Biblical Interpretation” edited by Luise Schottroff and Marie-Theres Wacker, the essay analysing the book of Job argues that the story considerably tests the patience of female readers given the book’s preoccupation with men who speak and perform in all 42 chapters. Also, to add insult to injury these are all rich and educated men, and of course God is depicted as male.