Friday 12 February 2010

Gregory W. Parsons on Literary Features of Job

Gregory W. Parsons, ‘Literary Features of the Book of Job’, Bibliotheca Sacra 138, 551 (1981), 213-29.

Literary genre

Attempts to fit the book of Job into one overarching literary genre, according to Parsons, fail to do justice ‘to the complex nature of its literary fabric’ (213).

Three major categories have been suggested:

• Lawsuit – by Job against God in which the friends serve as witnesses.

• Lament – noting that personal lament begins (ch. 3) and ends (chs. 29-31) the dialogue.

• Controversy dialogue – similar to disputation or contest literature in the ancient Near East.

Parsons concludes that the author skillfully weaves these three types together ‘in order to serve the function of the book’ (215).

Literary devices

Parsons discusses two literary devices used by the writer of Job:

• Irony – both dramatic irony (in that the readers and the heavenly court share knowledge of which Job and his friends are unaware) and verbal irony (used in different ways throughout the cycle of speeches).

• Mythopoeic language – ‘perhaps more prominent in Job than in any other biblical book’ (218), with allusions borrowed from the ancient near Eastern cultural milieu to ‘stress the contrast between the uniquely sovereign Lord who operates by grace and the ancient Near Eastern gods who were bound by the dogma of retribution’ (220).

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