Today I taught Job chapters 11-14, so I’ve got more plainly in mind the content of ch. 13 and its place in the scene. Job’s speech that starts in chapter 12 and runs to chapter 14, his longest to that point in the book, responds to Zophar’s proto-apophatic claim that the depth and height of God’s wisdom makes his own claims to justice not wrong but spurious. The first thing that Job does is to note the character of the wisdom tradition, that it holds wisdom intelligible and even cumulative as one grows older. Thus Zophar’s claim doesn’t match up with the larger literature. Then he notes the obvious disconnect between asserting Job’s guilt dogmatically on one hand and divine inscrutability on the other.
Then comes chapter 13, where Job the accused becomes Job the accuser. He accuses all three, now that each has had a chance to speak, of showing partiality rather than judging with true wisdom. Moreover, he turns the traditional wisdom formulae on their heads and claims that taking sides with God, when God’s wrong, will yield judgment no less disastrous than what Job has faced.
In the play, Eliphaz and Bildad and Zophar have yet to appear, and they won’t until very late. Both of my classes noted well that J.B. is a more human story than Job, lacking though it might be in the hardcore Hebrew intellectual content. (I’m coming to believe that Job is an even more sophisticated bit of critical Hebrew philosophy than Ecclesiastes, which used to be my favorite Biblical philosophy book.) Because the messengers carry human depravity as well as messages, J.B.’s and Sarah’s receptions of bad news are at once more nauseating and more powerful.
In Beowulf class we’re in the anti-hall, the lair of Grendel, and Beowulf is about to find out how useless Hrunting is in that strange subterranean world. When I start teaching full-time, Beowulf is definitely going to be on my syllabus for literary surveys–I’ve become entirely too familiar with it not to include it.
And in the cantata world, we’ve got three more practices to refine. The production sounds presentable already, so I look forward to fine-tuning it over the next week and a half.