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12 Understanding the Book of Job

Tom Tomkins, Understanding the Book of Job. Separating what is True from what is Truth, Inspired Perceptions (Winlight Ministries), 2010.

I recently submitted this as a review to the Amazon site, after reading the book; corrected; August 2018.

This is very much the work of an American Evangelical preacher, and the sound of spoken words come through time and again – the usual preacher’s illustrative stories (longer than needed to make the desired point), and the author recording speech, not writing words (there is a difference) – but for all that, the book makes some very good points (even if, like with a preacher, they are repeated several times to gain hold). I fancy it is unlikely that a professional theologian would ever come across the book, let alone read it. However its basic point – that things which happen in the world do not happen because God causes, wills, or even allows them – would, if accepted, completely overturn a common approach to the Book of Job (including that of many Christians), which normally sees the events in the book as some kind of contest between God and Satan, with hapless Job as a kind of ball constantly being batted from one end of the court to the other (taking this further there is the view put in Carl Jung’s Answer to Job (first English edition: 1954), in which Jung seems to be suggesting that the story displays the ‘bad’ side of God, in some kind of dualist interpretation of divine nature, this nature being the reason – Christians must learn to accept -  why God allows, or requires, evil in the world). Tomkins’s name, and book, will never be as well-known as Jung’s, yet his loosely-argued view – that Satan, and not in any way God (who ‘takes nothing from Job’), causes the evil things that happen to Job (and, indeed, to all of us), aided (indeed, made possible) by the fact that humans allow, or have allowed, facilitated, and totally given permission, to Satan, who (as, of course, Jesus unambiguously affirms) rules the world/humanity as they (post-lapsarian) now are. God is presented (rightly, in my view – Jung would not agree) as being removed from any responsibility for events in the world/human life. Job, Tomkins insists, does not, as God affirms, deserve his fate (he was indeed sinless, and his three ‘friends’ are wrong in claiming that Job is getting his just deserts). Job is not aware of Satan’s existence, and the words (Job 1:8) usually taking the form (God-to-Satan) “Consider my servant Job” (inviting a contest) should in fact be translated (Tomkins claims): “Why have you set your heart upon my servant Job?” (p. 24-5) (answer, Satan-to-God, “Because I’m able to!”).

The Book of Job is often thought to be the earliest book of the Bible, written before the first Covenant with God (and God’s commandments), and certainly before (as Tomkins stresses) the fact of Jesus’s atoning death. I did hope however, from the sub-title, to get a detailed discussion of the meanings, and distinction between, ‘true’ and ‘the truth’, which didn’t really emerge, though the author’s point seems to be that the book should not be read superficially, but for its real meaning. However, if (following this account) we upturn the idea that “the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away” (heard at any Anglican funeral) much would be changed, and would require many religious attitudes (and liturgy, as suggested) to change.

August 2018.

 

 

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