Special Issue "The Book of Job: A Challenge for the Rationality of Judaism, Christianity and Islam"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2018)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Bradley H. McLean

Knox College, Toronto School of Theology, University of Toronto, 59 St George St, Toronto, ON M5S 2E6, Canada
Website | E-Mail
Interests: Christian origins; New Testament; religion and rationality

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

‘Theodicy’ is an attempt to explain why an omnipotent and omnibenevolent deity permits the existence of evil and suffering in the world. Judaism, Christianity and Islam, whose God is supposed to be, in some way, a personal and perfectly good, have struggled with this problem over the centuries. A case in point is The Book of Job, which is often quoted as an authoritative source of discussion on theodicy. Job employs rationality both to own experience and to the arguments of the three friends. He rejects the rationality of retributive justice.

Besides its obvious religious significanse, The Book of Job is genuinely of philosophical interest for it represents a challenge to the rationality of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Strangly, scholars have rarely addressed the significance of Job beyond the consideration of its theological and religious issues. But the Sixth International Workshop on Theology & Rationality met at Goethe University Frankfurt (Oct 01-03, 2017) to explore this issue in an effort to open up new vistas for research in this neglected area. The essays presented at this workshop relocate the question of the rationality of Job’s suffering within a larger philosophical and interreligious framework. Taken together, they offer a comprehensive and sophisticated analysis of The Book of Job as a challenge for the rationality of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and substantiate the significance of this issue for current philosophy and future (inter-)religious thought and practice.

Prof. Dr. Bradley H. McLean
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • Book of Job
  • theodicy
  • rationality
  • suffering

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle A Claim Forfeiting Its Own Right. Why Job Got It Wrong—and Why This Matters for the Rationality of Religion
Religions 2019, 10(3), 201; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10030201
Received: 7 February 2019 / Revised: 12 March 2019 / Accepted: 12 March 2019 / Published: 15 March 2019
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Abstract
The article aims to uncover a deep ambivalence in the figure of Job, as it is presented in the book of the same title, especially in the latter’s “poetry” or dialogue section. This ambivalence corresponds to and in fact emerges from what appears [...] Read more.
The article aims to uncover a deep ambivalence in the figure of Job, as it is presented in the book of the same title, especially in the latter’s “poetry” or dialogue section. This ambivalence corresponds to and in fact emerges from what appears to be a pragmatic paradox: Job is in the wrong (i.e., guilty) in relation to God, precisely by claiming to be right (i.e., innocent); conversely, he can be and must be considered right, if and to the extent that he honestly renounces the latter claim. Accordingly, he cannot both be right (or wrong) and claim to be right or (or wrong)—a special case of what is observed, within epistemology, as an incompatibility of truth and assertibility conditions. In the present text, this core thesis is developed in four steps: the first introduces and briefly contextualizes the claim; the second tries to demonstrate that it provides at least sufficient means for making narrative sense of the book as a whole and, in particular, the controversy between Job and his friends; a third paragraph tackles the (philosophical and/or theological) presuppositions and implications of the thesis from a Christian standpoint, whereas the conclusion addresses the question of if and how the previous findings bear upon the rationality issue. Here, a final paradox emerges: that which would appear to be most rational from a Christian perspective (the task of sin consciousness) must be deemed humanly impossible to fulfill; considering the latter possible renders the task futile, hence irrational. Full article
Open AccessArticle Contingency or Divine Justice: What Matters in Job’s Fate? Synchronic Perspectives on Prologue and Dialog in the Book of Job
Religions 2019, 10(3), 149; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10030149
Received: 20 December 2018 / Revised: 16 February 2019 / Accepted: 22 February 2019 / Published: 1 March 2019
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Abstract
This article deals with a synchronic reading of the book and investigates the history of ideas such as anthropology and cosmology. It highlights the various positions within the dialog and characterizes the prologue as a prefiguration of the contributions to the debate. Finally, [...] Read more.
This article deals with a synchronic reading of the book and investigates the history of ideas such as anthropology and cosmology. It highlights the various positions within the dialog and characterizes the prologue as a prefiguration of the contributions to the debate. Finally, it outlines the internal connection of prologue, dialog and epilog vis-à-vis divine justice and human fate. Full article
Open AccessArticle Deleuze’s Interpretation of Job as a Heroic Figure in the History of Rationality
Religions 2019, 10(3), 141; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10030141
Received: 12 January 2019 / Revised: 12 February 2019 / Accepted: 21 February 2019 / Published: 26 February 2019
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Abstract
Traditional rationality takes the form of thinking-as-representation. Motivated by the conviction that it is possible to articulate one true account of the real, the three theologians in the Book of Job employed concepts to reduce objects to categories of sameness. In his exposition [...] Read more.
Traditional rationality takes the form of thinking-as-representation. Motivated by the conviction that it is possible to articulate one true account of the real, the three theologians in the Book of Job employed concepts to reduce objects to categories of sameness. In his exposition of such thinking-as-representation, Deleuze demonstrates how the four elements of representation thinking subordinate difference to conceptual categories of identity, opposition, analogy, and resemblance. Deleuze considers Job to be a heroic figure in the history of thinking, for Job demonstrates that the subject has nothing to say in his own name, as long as the subject adheres to norms of representational thinking. Job’s disavowal of blame amounts to a transgression against traditional theology of his time. The figure of Job exemplifies the heroic potential that lies within this crisis of theological representation. Full article
Open AccessArticle Jewish Diaspora and the Stakes of Nationalism: Margarete Susman’s Theodicy
Religions 2019, 10(2), 103; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10020103
Received: 31 December 2018 / Revised: 31 January 2019 / Accepted: 11 February 2019 / Published: 12 February 2019
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Abstract
This article unpacks Margarete Susman’s political and theological arguments at the core of her reading of the Book of Job. As I show through a reading of her oeuvre, Susman rejects political projects that she takes to be based on eschatology such as [...] Read more.
This article unpacks Margarete Susman’s political and theological arguments at the core of her reading of the Book of Job. As I show through a reading of her oeuvre, Susman rejects political projects that she takes to be based on eschatology such as political Zionism. However, Susman should not be viewed merely as a critic of Zionism. I argue that an analysis tuned to the historical circumstances of her writing should recognize her stance on the nation-building project in Palestine as ambivalent rather than antagonistic. Susman’s conception of the Jewish spirit as rooted in self-sacrifice allows her to appreciate the national aspirations at the core of the Zionist project while rejecting Zionism’s exclusion of other Jewish national projects. I contend that Susman’s understanding of Jewish messianism as immanent rather than teleological informs her ambivalence toward Zionism as well as her original vision of Jewish political action. I argue in closing that Susman’s theodicy offers a novel vision for Jewish ethics that is not limited to the historical moment of its formulation. Susman’s theodicy also resonates within contemporary debates on Jewish diaspora in providing a non-centralized vision of Jewish national projects. Full article
Open AccessArticle The Book of Job as a Thought Experiment: On Science, Religion, and Literature
Religions 2019, 10(2), 77; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10020077
Received: 17 December 2018 / Revised: 16 January 2019 / Accepted: 18 January 2019 / Published: 24 January 2019
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Abstract
This paper presents a philosophical critique of the proposal that the Book of Job is a theological thought experiment about divine providence. Eight possible objections are entertained. They guide the discussion of the proposal. It is concluded that the proposal has more merits [...] Read more.
This paper presents a philosophical critique of the proposal that the Book of Job is a theological thought experiment about divine providence. Eight possible objections are entertained. They guide the discussion of the proposal. It is concluded that the proposal has more merits than perils. Full article
Open AccessArticle Job and the Bible’s Theo-Political Divide
Religions 2019, 10(1), 33; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10010033
Received: 3 December 2018 / Revised: 2 January 2019 / Accepted: 3 January 2019 / Published: 6 January 2019
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Abstract
The book of Job presents a unique and detailed contrastive study of two fundamental and fundamentally opposed religious personae: Job, on the one hand, and the collective image of his friends on the other. It is a normative dispute about the religion’s most [...] Read more.
The book of Job presents a unique and detailed contrastive study of two fundamental and fundamentally opposed religious personae: Job, on the one hand, and the collective image of his friends on the other. It is a normative dispute about the religion’s most basic norm of disposition. How is one to respond to inexplicable disaster when one believes one is blameless? What is the religiously appropriate response to catastrophe? To confront God’s judgment as did Job, or to submissively surrender to it, as his four friends insist he should? Is one supposed to question divine justice when deemed to be wanting, as did Job, or to suppress any thought to the contrary and deem it to be just, come what may? Rather than expound (once again) upon the theological implications of the Job dispute, this paper focuses on its theological-political dimensions, and its looming and vivid, yet largely overlooked presence in the Hebrew Bible’s master narrative; and more specifically, on the marked, if inevitable antinomian nature of the Jobian side to the divide. Full article
Open AccessArticle Lament of a Wounded Priest: The Spiritual Journey of Job
Religions 2018, 9(12), 417; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9120417
Received: 30 October 2018 / Revised: 8 December 2018 / Accepted: 14 December 2018 / Published: 15 December 2018
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Abstract
Acknowledging the complex redaction history which produced the Book of Job contained in the Jewish and Christian canonical scriptures, this article offers a spiritual interpretation of the text taking due account of its overall structure and major parts (prologue, main dialogical body and [...] Read more.
Acknowledging the complex redaction history which produced the Book of Job contained in the Jewish and Christian canonical scriptures, this article offers a spiritual interpretation of the text taking due account of its overall structure and major parts (prologue, main dialogical body and epilogue). With its focus on the formation of personal identity, spiritual theology grants access to a developmental understanding of the biblical narrative and characters. Undergirding this essay is the basic claim that in and with the book and figure of Job are found paradigmatic examples of how to become and remain human and faithful in and despite relentless undeserved suffering. The exploration of Job’s life in suffering leads to the discovery that the lament formulated by a faithful heart compellingly summons God to appear and speak, consecrating the human recipient as mediator of divine revelation and sacramental intercessor. Job’s wounded body and spirit reflect the spiritual journey he has completed and has been commissioned to invite others to undertake. Undeserved suffering can lead to transformative mystical encounters with God, if and when the human heart dares to believe to the end, giving voice to and challenging God from within relentless unjustifiable pain. Full article
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