Job may be the epitome of Biblical distress, but he did not suffer in silence, says Douglas A. Knight, professor of Jewish studies at Vanderbilt College of Arts and Science. He tells RBL, “People today think of Job as patient. He was not. That Job was only in two chapters. The rest of the book he was asking questions and demanding of God to give an account of why he is suffering when he did nothing wrong.”
An angry Job negates the accepted “dogma” that suffering is a righteous form of punishment or discipline, says Knight. He believes this realization might help people come to terms with their grief, pain, and sorrow. “Job gives us license to ask the hard questions. It gives us the freedom to go ahead and object,” says Knight. This can also “allow for a better appreciation and understanding of the complexities of life’s ups and downs.”
The story of Job is just one that Knight seeks to illuminate in The Meaning of the Bible: What the Jewish Scriptures and the Christian Old Testament Can Teach Us (HarperOne, Nov.), coauthored with Amy-Jill Levine, professor of Jewish studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School. Knight says they tried to put together a description of the Hebrew Bible that would be “readable and appeal to a wide variety of individuals.” He is quick to add that it is not a “kids’ book” but one that combines the mystique of history, discovery, and archeology with “an inquisitive, educational, and critical description of what the Hebrew Bible is, what’s involved in it and how it can be interpreted today.”
The authors dispensed with a chronological format and arranged the book according to theme. Its fourteen chapters include explorations of history, literary heritage, land and settlement, creation, sexuality, suffering, politics, the divine, and more. “We are not suggesting there is a singular meaning to the Bible, just the opposite,” says Knight.
Michael G. Maudlin, senior v-p and executive editor at HarperOne, says, “Many people claim that the Bible is the most influential book in their lives, and yet few of these people have access to the rich and layered insights that biblical scholarship has provided over the last decades. That is why The Meaning of the Bible is so important. Knight and Levine connect readers with a treasure trove of rich insights and information in accessible and engaging prose. They are not writing for fellow scholars. They don't have an axe to grind; they are not trying to undermine faith or belief. Instead they serve as the ideal expert tour guides of a fascinating exhibit that too few people have access to.”