Job and the Big Bad Guy

In this post by Siriusbizinus, there was reference to another blog where the writer seems to ridicule what he considers the atheist’s take on the story of Job. I barely skimmed the other blog posting, but it did get me to thinking about the story of Job and how (mostly Fundamental) Christians believe that “Satan” played such an important role in what happened to Job.

If you’ve read my book, you know I don’t believe in the existence of “Satan.” So how then do I explain what happened to Job?

From my book (Chapter 5):

In the prologue of Job’s book, we are told that “Satan” joined some angels (heavenly beings) for a meeting with God (Job 1:6). Surprisingly, it seemed to be a fairly friendly encounter – certainly not what you would expect if this was the Big Bad Guy! It took only a little investigation to discover why. The word used here is exactly the same as the examples cited previously; that is, ha-satan. In fact, there is a footnote in nearly every English Bible that indicates the more literal translation is “accuser.”

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However, this still didn’t explain why God allowed ha-satan to wreak havoc on Job’s life. With a little more delving, I learned that this particular “accuser” had a special function in God’s divine court. It was his job to “go to and fro on the earth” and look for any signs of disloyalty among humans and then report on them to his Supervisor. Elaine Pagels (The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans, and Heretics) describes him as a “roving intelligence agent.”  Several other sources call him “God’s prosecuting attorney.” The important thing to note is that it was not his job to stir up trouble, just to report on it. He worked for God, not against God.

During this particular heavenly meeting, the adversary speculates about Job’s dedication and commitment. He points out that it’s easy to be faithful when someone lives such a charmed life. God disagrees, but decides to allow the accuser to test Job. Important note: the “Satan” in this story is not an independent agent. He is a member of God’s heavenly court and must have God’s permission before he can do anything.

Job is an interesting story and one that many scholars believe is nothing more than a type of folk tale (parable, fable, allegory) written to assure the Israelites living during the terrible times of the Exile that God remained faithful. Fundamental Christians, on the other hand, prefer to see the story quite differently. For them, the story is totally true with Job as a prototype of Jesus (the “Man of Sorrows”) and “Satan” as the supernatural Big Bad Guy harassing a faithful man of God.

Added note: I did see one thing on the other blog that stood out. The blogger wrote (referencing theologian John Gill, 1697-1771):

Satan, although an angelic being, is fallen, sinful, reprobate and so had “no proper business there …”

Of course, my natural question is where in the bible does it say — and don’t reference “Lucifer” in Isaiah because you would be wrong (a posting for another time) – that Satan is a fallen, sinful, and reprobate angelic being?

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12 thoughts on “Job and the Big Bad Guy

  1. Good question, Nan. I don’t believe, fundamentally speaking, that the Bable mentions my good pal, Satan, as a fallen angel anywhere in it. And poor Job. What an unlucky fellow to have the OT god as his lord and master. Of all the deities to get stuck with, he gets stuck with a sadistic, childish, out of control, genocidal maniac for his. Ugh! It’s enough to make one become an atheist. Ya know what I mean?

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  2. Makes me think of the stories in the book of Samuel and the Book of Kings where God sends upon people an evil spirit and a lying spirit. These stories don’t well with modern theology so they tend to get explained away.

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  3. You know just once I’d like to jump onto an Atheist leaning blog and see an Atheist say, “No man You’re dead wrong.” But I never do. You guys stick together tighter than a bunch a fundies at an Easter picnic. Fertility symbols and all, with the eggs and the chocolate bunnies.

    I wouldn’t expect it on this post because I think you’re completely accurate in your assessment. The story is just a story. It’s meant to inspire. It was never meant to be taken as… whats the word?… Gospel.

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    • Oh, wow, if you think atheists always agree with each other you must not spend much time on atheist blogs. We tear into each other as hard as we tear onto any theists. Maybe harder, because we have higher expectations of each other.

      And I don’t think Job was meant to “inspire” at all. If you look at the structure, it’s a morality play wrestling with the problem of why bad things happen to good people. It has a prologue, speeches by characters, and an epilogue. You could take the script right out of the bible and stage it, just as it is. And the answer that the playwright has for why bad things happen? Bad things happen because “He’s god, you’re nothing, so shut up, that’s why!” It doesn’t inspire, it just demands resignation and obedience.

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      • Ubi, I agree about the atheists … to a point. They often do have their different opinions about certain points in the bible, but overall, the idea that a god exists? I tend to think most are in total agreement.

        When you say you don’t think Job was meant to inspire, are you speaking about how it’s looked upon by people today?

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        • Well, yeah, we agree on not believing in a god, otherwise we wouldn’t be atheists, but there’s disagreement about an awful lot of other things. (Politics, economics, accommodationism, whether there actually was a historical Jesus, etc., etc…etc)

          With Job, I was thinking more about what the original author’s agenda was when he was writing it. As for people today, the people who already think the bible is a perfect book written by god are going to do their best to twist it around to some kind of positive message, no matter what it actually says. (Except for Westboro Baptist. They probably approve of the “god can jerk you around because he’s god” message it has.)

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  4. Hey Ubi, My point about Job is that the problem isn’t the authors agenda. It’s just a book. Much like all of what Rush Limbaugh has written. Everyone knows it is just his opinion. You can agree or not but there is nothing more to his writing than that. However, if you start claiming Rush’s writing is “Infallible,” That changes things drastically now that it is an idol to be worshiped.

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