The Sceptics of the Old Testament: Job - Koheleth - Agur
by Emile Joseph Dillon
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with English text translated for the first time from the primitive Hebrew as restored on the basis of recent philological discoveries.


E. J. Dillon

Late Professor of Comparative Philology and Ancient Armenian at the Imperial University of Kharkoff; Doctor of Oriental Languages of the University of Louvain; Magistrand of the Oriental Faculty of the Imperial University of St. Petersburg; Member of the Armenian Academy of Venice; Membre de la Societe Asiatique de Paris, &c. &c.

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_My Dear Paschkoff,

In the philosophical problems dealt with by the Sceptics of the Old Testament, you will recognise the theme of our numerous and pleasant discussions during the past sixteen years. Three of these are indelibly engraven in my memory, and, if I mistake not, in yours.

The first took place in St. Petersburg one soft Indian-summer's evening, in a cosy room on the Gagarine Quay, from the windows of which we looked out with admiration upon the blue expanse of the Neva, as it reflected the burnished gold of the spire of the Fortress church. At that time we gazed upon the wavelets of the river and the wonders of the world from exactly the same angle of vision.

The second of these memorable conversations occurred after the lapse of nine years. We had met together in the old place, and sauntering out one bitterly cold December evening resumed the discussion, walking to and fro on the moonlit bank of the ice-bound river, until evening merged into night and the moon sank beneath the horizon, leaving us in total darkness, vainly desirous, like Goethe, of "light, more light."

Our last exchange of views took place after six further years had sped away, and we stood last August on the summit of the historic Moenchsberg, overlooking the final resting-place of the great Paracelsus. The long and interesting discussions which we had on that occasion, just before setting out in opposite directions, you to the East and I to the West, neither of us is likely ever to forget.

It is in commemoration of these pleasant conversations, and more especially of the good old times, now past for ever, when we looked out upon the wavelets of the Neva and the wonders of the world from the same angle of vision, that I ask you to allow me to associate your name with this translation of the primitive texts of the Sceptics of the Old Testament.

Yours affectionately,


TREBIZOND, January 3, 1895._

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A careful perusal of this first English translation of the primitive text of "Job," "Koheleth," and the "Sayings of Agur" will, I doubt not, satisfy the most orthodox reader that I am fully warranted in characterising their authors as Sceptics. The epithet, I confess, may prove distasteful to many, but the truth, I trust, will be welcome to all. It is not easy to understand why any one who firmly believes that Providence is continually educing good from evil should hesitate to admit that it may in like manner allow sound moral principles to be enshrined in doubtful or even erroneous philosophical theories. Or, is trust in God to be made dependent upon the confirmation or rejection by physical science of, say, the Old Testament account of the origin of the rainbow? Agur, "Job" and "Koheleth" had outgrown the intellectual husks which a narrow, inadequate and erroneous account of God's dealings with man had caused to form around the minds of their countrymen, and they had the moral courage to put their words into harmony with their thoughts. Clearly perceiving that, whatever the sacerdotal class might say to the contrary, the political strength of the Hebrew people was spent and its religious ideals exploded, they sought to shift the centre of gravity from speculative theology to practical morality.

The manner in which they adjusted their hopes, fears, and aspirations to the new conditions, strikes the keynote of their respective characters. "Job," looking down upon the world from the tranquil heights of genius, is manful, calm, resigned. "Koheleth," shuddering at the gloom that envelops and the pain that convulses all living beings, prefers death to life, and freedom from suffering to "positive" pleasure; while Agur, revealing the bitterness bred by dispelled illusions and blasted hopes, administers a severe chastisement to those who first called them into being. All three[1] reject the dogma of retribution, the doctrine of eternal life and belief in the coming of a Messiah, over and above which they at times strip the notion of God of its most essential attributes, reducing it to the shadow of a mere metaphysical abstraction. This is why I call them Sceptics.

"Job" and "Koheleth" emphatically deny that there is any proof to be found of the so-called moral order in the universe, and they unhesitatingly declare that existence is an evil. They would have us therefore exchange our hopes for insight, and warn us that even this is very circumscribed at best. For not only is happiness a mockery, but knowledge is a will-o'-the-wisp. Mankind resembles the bricklayer and the hodman who help to raise an imposing edifice without any knowledge of the general plan. And yet the structure is the outcome of their labour. In like manner this mysterious world is the work of man—the mirror of his will. As his will is, so are his acts, and as his acts are, so is his world. Or as the ancient Hindoos put it:

"Before the gods we bend our necks, and yet within the toils of Fate Entangled are the gods themselves. To Fate, then, be all honour given. Yet Fate itself can compass nought, 'tis but the bringer of the meed For every deed that we perform. As then our acts shape our rewards, of what avail are gods or Fate? Let honour therefore be decerned to deeds alone."

But what, I have been frequently asked, will be the effect of all this upon theology? Are we to suppose that the writings of these three Sceptics were admitted into the Canon by mistake, and if not, shall we not have to widen our definition of inspiration until it can be made to include contributions which every Christian must regard as heterodox? An exhaustive reply to this question would need a theological dissertation, for which I have neither desire nor leisure. I may say, however, that eminent theologians representing various Christian denominations—Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran—have assured me that they could readily reconcile the dogmas of their respective Churches with doctrines educible from the primitive text of "Job," "Koheleth," and Agur, whose ethics they are disposed to identify, in essentials, with the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount. With the ways and means by which they effect this reconciliation I am not now concerned.

My object was neither to attack a religious dogma, nor to provoke a theological controversy, but merely to put the latest results of philological science within the reach of him who reads as he runs. And I feel confident that the reader who can appreciate the highest forms of poetry, or who has anxiously pondered over the problems of God, immortality, the origin of evil, &c., will peruse the writings of "Job," "Koheleth" and Agur with a lively interest, awakened, and sustained not merely by the extrinsic value which they possess as historical documents, but by their intrinsic merits as precious contributions to the literature and philosophy of the world.


CONSTANTINOPLE, New Year's Day, 1895.


[1] In Agur's case, this is but an inference from his first saying, but an inference which few would think of calling in question.

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According to a theory which was still in vogue a few years ago, the ancient races of mankind were distinguished from each other no less by their intellectual equipment than by their physical peculiarities. Thus the Semites were supposed to be characterised, among other things, by an inborn aptitude for historical narrative and an utter lack of the mental suppleness, ingenuity, and sharp incisive vision indispensable for the study of the problems of philosophy; while their neighbours, the Aryans, devoid of historical talent, were held to be richly endowed with all the essential qualities of mind needed for the cultivation of epic poetry and abstruse metaphysics. This theory has since been abandoned, and many of the alleged facts that once seemed to support it have been shown to be unwarranted assumptions. Thus, the conclusive proof, supplied by Biblical criticism, of the untrustworthiness of the historical books of the Old Testament, has removed one alleged difference between Aryans and Semites, while the discoveries which led to the reconstruction of the primitive poem of Job and of the treatise of Koheleth have undermined the basis of the other. For these two works deal exclusively with philosophical problems, and, together with the Books of Proverbs and Jesus Sirach, are the only remains that have come down to us of the ethical and metaphysical speculations of the ancient Hebrews whose descendants have so materially contributed to further this much-maligned branch of human knowledge. And if we may judge by what we know of these two books, we have ample grounds for regretting that numerous other philosophical treatises which were written between the fourth and the first centuries B.C. were deemed too abstruse, too irrelevant, or too heterodox to find a place in the Jewish Canon.[2] For the Book of Job is an unrivalled masterpiece, the work of one in whom poetry was no mere special faculty cultivated apart from his other gifts, but the outcome of the harmonious wholeness of healthy human nature, in which upright living, untrammelled thought, deep mental vision, and luxuriant imagination combined to form the individual. Hence the poem is a true reflex of the author's mind: it dissolves and blends in harmonious union elements that appeared not merely heterogeneous, but wholly incompatible, and realises, with the concreteness of history, the seemingly unattainable idea which Lucretius had the mind to conceive but lacked the artistic hand to execute; in a word, it is the fruit of the intimate union of that philosophy which, reckless of results, dares to clip even angels' wings, and of the art which possesses the secret of painting its unfading pictures with the delicate tints of the rainbow. Rich fancy and profound thought co-operate to produce a tertium quid—a visible proof that the beautiful is one with the true—for which neither literature nor philosophy possesses a name. It is no wonder, then, that this unique poem, which gives adequate utterance to abstract thought, truly and forcibly states the doubts and misgivings which harrow the souls of thinking men of all ages and nations, and helps them to lift a corner of the veil of delusion and get a glimpse of the darkness of the everlasting Night beyond, should appeal to the reader of the nineteenth century with much greater force than to the Jews of olden times, who were accustomed to gauge the sublimity of imaginative poetry and the depth of philosophic speculation by the standard of orthodoxy and the bias of nationality.

The Book of Job, from which Pope Gregory the Great fancied he could piece together the entire system of Catholic theology, and which Thomas of Aquin regarded as a sober history, is now known to be a regular poem, but, as Tennyson truly remarked, "the greatest poem whether of ancient or modern times," and the diction of which even Luther instinctively felt to be "magnificent and sublime as no other book of Scripture." And it is exclusively in this light, as one of the masterpieces of the world's literature, that it will be considered in the following pages. Whatever religious significance it may be supposed to possess over and above, as one of the canonical books of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, will, it is hoped, remain unaffected by this treatment, which is least of all controversial. The flowers that yield honey to the bee likewise delight the bee-keeper with their perfume and the poet with their colours, and there is no adequate reason why the magic verse which strikes a responsive chord in the soul of lovers of high art, and starts a new train of ideas in the minds of serious thinkers, should thereby lose any of the healing virtues it may have heretofore possessed for the suffering souls of the believing.

But viewed even as a mere work of art, it would be hopeless to endeavour to press it into the frame of any one of the received categories of literary composition, as is evident from the fact that authorised and unauthorised opinion on the subject has touched every extreme, and still continues oscillating to-day. Many commentators still treat it as a curious chapter of old-world history narrated with scrupulous fidelity by the hero or an eye-witness, others as a philosophical dialogue; several scholars regard it as a genuine drama, while not a few enthusiastically aver that it is the only epic poem ever written by a Hebrew. In truth, it partakes of the nature of each and every one of these categories, and is yet circumscribed by the laws and limits of none of them. In form, it is most nearly akin to the drama, with which we should be disposed to identify it if the characters of the prologue and epilogue were introduced as dramatis personae in action. But their doing and enduring are presupposed as accomplished facts, and employed merely as a foil to the dialogues, which alone are the work of the author. Perhaps the least erroneous way succinctly to describe what in fact is a unicum would be to call it a psychological drama.

Koheleth, or the Preacher, is likewise a literary puzzle which for centuries has baffled the efforts of commentators and aroused the misgivings of theologians. Regarded by many as a vade mecum of materialists, by some as an eloquent sermon on the fear of God, and by others as a summary of sceptical philosophy, it is impossible to analyse and classify it without having first eliminated all those numerous later-date insertions which, without improving the author's theology, utterly obscure his meaning and entirely spoil his work. When, by the aid of text criticism, we have succeeded in weeding it of the parasitic growth of ages, we have still to allow for the changing of places of numerous authentic passages either by accident or design, the effects of which are oftentimes quite as misleading as those of the deliberate interpolations. The work thus restored, although one, coherent and logical, is still susceptible of various interpretations, according to the point of view of the reader, none of which, however, can ignore the significant fact that the sceptically ideal basis of Koheleth's metaphysics is identical with that of Buddha, Kant, and Schopenhauer, and admirably harmonises with the ethics of Job and the pessimism of the New Testament.

The Sayings of Agur, on the contrary, tell their own interesting story, without need of note or commentary, to him who possesses a fair knowledge of Hebrew grammar, and an average allowance of mother wit. The lively versifier, the keenness of whose sense of humour is excelled only by the bitterness of his satire, could ill afford to be obscure. A member of the literary fraternity which boasts the names of Lucian and Voltaire, a firm believer in the force of common sense and rudimentary logic, Agur ridicules the theologians of his day with a malicious cruelty which is explained, if not warranted, by the pretensions of omniscience and the practice of intolerance that provoked it. The unanswerable argument which Jahveh considered sufficient to silence his servant Job, Agur deems effective against the dogmatical doctors of his own day:

"Who has ascended into heaven and come down again?

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Such an one would I question about God: What is his name?"


[2] Job and Ecclesiastes were inserted in the Jewish and, one may add, the Christian Canon, solely on the strength of passages which the authors of these compositions never even saw, and which flatly contradict the main theses of their works.

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Purged of all later interpolations and restored as far as possible to the form it received from the hand of its author, the poem of Job is the most striking presentation of the most obscure and fascinating problem that ever puzzled and tortured the human intellect: how to reconcile the existence of evil, not merely with the fundamental dogmas of the ancient Jewish faith, but with any form of Theism whatever. Stated in the terms in which the poet—whom for convenience sake we shall identify with his hero[3] manifestly conceived it, it is this: Can God be the creator of all things and yet not be responsible for evil?

The Infinite Being who laid the earth's foundation, "shut in the sea with doors," whose voice is thunder and whose creatures are all things that have being, is, we trust, moral and good. But it is His omnipotence that strikes us most forcibly. Almighty in theory, He is all active in fact, and nothing that happens in the universe is brought about even indirectly by any one but Himself. There are no second causes at work, no chance, no laws of nature, no subordinate agents, nothing that is not the immediate manifestation of His free will.[4] This is evident to our senses. But what is equally obvious is that His acts do not tally with His attribute of goodness, and that no facts known or imaginable can help us to bridge over the abyss between the infinite justice ascribed to Him and the crying wrongs that confront us in His universe, whithersoever we turn.[5] His rule is such a congeries of evils that even the just man often welcomes death as a release, and Job himself with difficulty overcame the temptation to end his sufferings by suicide. All the cut-and-dried explanations of God's conduct offered by His human advocates merely render the problem more complicated. His professional apologists are "weavers of lies," and contend for Him "with deception," and, worse than all else, He Himself has never revealed to His creatures any truth more soothing than the fact they set out with, that the problem is for ever insoluble. Wisdom "is hid from the eyes of all living,"[6] and the dead are in "the land of darkness and of gloom,"[7] whence there is no issue.

The theological views prevalent in the days of the poet, as expounded by the three friends of Job, instead of suggesting some way out of the difficulty were in flagrant contradiction with fact. They appealed to the traditional theory and insisted on having that accepted as the reality. And it was one of the saddest theories ever invented. Virtue was at best a mere matter of business, one of the crudest forms of utilitarianism, a bargain between Jahveh and His creatures. As asceticism in ancient India was rewarded with the spiritual gift of working miracles, so upright living was followed in Judea by material wealth, prosperity, a numerous progeny and all the good things that seem to make life worth living. Such at least was the theory, and those who were satisfied with their lot had little temptation to find fault with it for the sake of those who were not. In sober reality, however, the obligation was very one-sided: Jahveh, who occasionally failed to carry out His threats, observed or repudiated His solemn promises as He thought fit, whereas those among His creatures who faithfully fulfilled their part of the contract were never sure of receiving their stipulated wage in the promised coin. And at that time none other was current: there was no future life looming in the dim distance with intensified rewards and punishments wherewith to redress the balance of this. And it sadly needed redressing. The victims of seeming injustice naturally felt that they were being hardly dealt with. And as if to make confusion worse confounded, their neighbours, who had ridden roughshod over all law, human and divine, were frequently exempt from misfortune, lived on the fat of the land, and enjoyed a monopoly of the divine blessings. To Job, whose consciousness of his own righteousness was clearer and less questionable than the justice of his Creator, this theory of retribution seemed unworthy of belief.

The creation of this good God, then, is largely leavened with evil for which—all things being the work of His hands—He, and He alone, is answerable. There was no devil in those olden times upon whose broad shoulders the responsibility for sickness, suffering, misery and death could be conveniently shifted. The Satan or Adversary is still one of the sons of God who, like all his brethren, has free access to the council chamber of the Most High, where he is wont to take a critical, somewhat cynical but not wholly incorrect view of motives and of men. In the government of the world he has neither hand nor part, and his interference in the affairs of Job is the result of a special permission accorded him by the Creator. God alone is the author of good and of evil,[8] and the thesis to be demonstrated by His professional apologists consists in showing that the former is the outflow of His mercy, and the latter the necessary effect of His justice acting upon the depraved will of His creatures. But the proof was not forthcoming. Personal suffering might reasonably be explained in many cases as the meet and inevitable wage for wrong-doing; but assuredly not in all. Job himself was a striking instance of unmerited punishment. Even Jahveh solemnly declares him to be just and perfect; and Job was admittedly no solitary exception; he was the type of a numerous class of righteous, wronged and wretched mortals, unnamed and unknown:

"Omnes illacrymabiles.... ignotique longa Nocte, carent quia vate sacro."

Job is ready to admit that God, no doubt, is just and good in theory, but he cannot dissemble the obvious fact that His works in the universe are neither; indeed, if we may judge the tree by its fruits, His regime is the rule of an oriental and almighty despot whose will and pleasure is the sole moral law. And that will is too often undistinguishable from malice of the blackest kind. Thus

"He destroyeth the upright and the wicked, When his scourge slayeth at unawares. He scoffeth at the trial of the innocent; The earth is given into the hand of the wicked."

In a word, the poet proclaims that the current theories of traditional theology were disembodied, not incarnate in the moral order of the world, had, in fact, nowhere taken root.

The two most specious arguments with which it was sought to prop up this tottering theological system consisted in maintaining that the wicked are often punished and the good recompensed in their offspring—a kind of spiritual entail in which the tenant for life is denied the usufruct for the sake of heirs he never knew—and that such individual claims as were left unadjusted by this curious arrangement were merged in those of the community at large and should be held to be settled in full as long as the weal of the nation was assured. In other words, the individual sows and his offspring or the nation reaps the harvest. But Job rejects both pleas as illusory and immoral, besides which, they leave the frequent prosperity of the unrighteous unexplained. "Wherefore," he asks, "do the wicked live, become old, yea wax mighty in strength?" The reply that the fathers having eaten sour grapes, the children's teeth will be set on edge, is, he contends, no answer to the objection; it merely intensifies it. For he who sows should reap, and he who sins should suffer. After death the most terrible punishment meted out to the posterity of criminals is powerless to affect their mouldering dust. That, surely, cannot be accepted as a vindication of justice, human or divine.

"Ye say: God hoards punishment for the children. Let him rather requite the wicked himself that he may feel it! His own eyes should behold his downfall, And he himself should drain the Almighty's wrath. If his sons are honoured, he will not know it; And if dishonoured, he will not perceive it. Only in his own flesh doth he feel pain, And for his own soul will he lament."

As to the latter argument, that the well-being of the nation was a settlement in full of the individual's claims to happiness, it was equally irrelevant, even had the principle underlying it been confirmed by experience. Granting that a certain wholesale kind of equity was administered, why must the individual suffer for no fault of his own? Wherein lies the justice of a Being who, credited with omnipotence, permits that by a sweep of the wild hurricane of disaster, "green leaves with yellow mixed are torn away"?

But the contention that, viewing the individual merely as a unit of the aggregate, justice would be found to be dealt out fairly on the whole, ran counter to experience. The facts were dead against it. The Hebrew nation had fared as badly among neighbouring states as Job among his friends and countrymen. In this respect the sorely tried individual was the type of his nation. The destruction of the kingdom of Samaria which had occurred nearly two hundred years before and the captivity of Judah, which was not yet at an end, gave its death-blow to the theory. "The tents of robbers prosper and they that provoke Shaddai[9] are secure."

In truth, there was but one issue out of the difficulty: divine justice might not be bounded by time or space; the law of compensation might have a larger field than our earth for its arena; a future life might afford "time" and opportunity to right the wrongs of the present, and all end well in the best of future worlds. This explanation would have set doubts at rest and settled the question for at least two thousand years; and it seemed such a necessary postulate to the fathers of the Church, who viewed the matter in the light of Christian revelation, that they actually put into Job's mouth the words which he would have uttered had he lived in their own days and been a member of the true fold. And they effected this with a pious recklessness of artistic results and of elementary logic that speaks better for their intentions than for their aesthetic taste. In truth, Job knows absolutely nothing of a future life, and his friends, equally unenlightened, see nothing for it but to "discourse wickedly for God," and "utter lies on His behalf."[10] There was, in fact, no third course. Indeed, if the hero or his friends had even suspected the possibility of a solution based upon a life beyond the tomb, the problem on which the book is founded would not have existed. To ground, therefore, the doctrines of the Resurrection, the Atonement, &c., upon alleged passages of the poem of Job is tantamount to inferring the squareness of a circle from its perfect rotundity. In the Authorised Version of the Bible the famous verses, which have probably played a more important part in the intellectual history of mankind than all the books of the Old Testament put together, run thus: "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me."[11]

Now this, it is hardly necessary to say, is not a translation from the poem nor from any known text of it, but the embodiment of the salutary beliefs of well-intentioned theologians—of St. Jerome among others— momentarily forgetful of the passage: "Will ye speak wickedly for God?" The Christian conception of a Redeemer would, had he but known it, have proved balm to the heart of the despairing hero. As a matter of mere fact, his own hope at that critical moment was less sublime and very much less Christian: the coming of an avenger who would punish his enemies and rehabilitate his name. It was the one worldly and vain longing that still bound him to the earth. Other people demanded happiness as their reward for virtue, too often undistinguishable from vice; Job challenged the express approval of the Deity, asked only that he should not be confounded with vulgar sinners. The typical perfect man, struck down with a loathsome disease, doomed to a horrible death, alone in his misery, derided by his enemies, and, worse than all, loathed as a common criminal by those near and dear to him, gives his friends and enemies, society and theologians, the lie emphatic—nay, he goes the length of affirming that God Himself has, failed in His duty towards him. "Know, then, that God hath wronged me."[12] His conscience, however, tells him that inasmuch as there is such a thing as eternal justice, a time will come when the truth will be proclaimed and his honour fully vindicated; Shaddai will then yearn for the work of His hands, but it will be too late, "For now I must lay myself down in the dust; and Thou shalt seek me, but I shall not be." And it is to this conviction, not to a belief in future retribution, that the hero gives utterance in the memorable passage in question:

"But I know that my avenger liveth, Though it be at the end upon my dust; My witness will avenge these things, And a curse alight upon mine enemies."

He knows nothing whatever of the subsistence of our cumbrous clods of clay after they have become the food of worms and pismires; indeed, he is absolutely certain that by the sleep of death

"we end The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to."

And he emphasises his views in a way that should have given food for wholesome reflection to his commentators.

"There is a future for the tree, And hope remaineth to the palm; Cut down, it will sprout again, And its tender branch will not cease.

"Though its roots wax old in the earth, And its stock lie buried in mould, Yet through vapour of water will it bud, And put forth boughs like a plant.

"But man dieth and lieth outstretched; He giveth up the ghost, where is he then? He lieth down and riseth not up; Till heaven be no more he shall not awake."[13]

Nothing could well be further removed from the comforting hope of a future life, the resurrection of the body, and eternal rewards, than this unshaken belief that Death is our sole redeemer from the terrible evils of life.


[3] Although the former was a Jew and the latter a Gentile.

[4] Cf. Translation, strophe ci.:

"Is not the soul of every living thing in his hand, And the breath of all mankind?"

Strophe civ.:

"With him is strength and wisdom, The erring one and his error are his."

[5] Strophe cxcii.-cxciii.:

"Look upon me and tremble, And lay your hand upon your mouth! When I remember I am dismayed, And trembling taketh hold on my flesh."

Strophe ccxxi.:

"Why do the times of judgment depend upon the Almighty, And yet they who know him do not see his days?

[6] Strophe ccxxxiv.

[7] Strophe lxxxix.

[8] "The erring one and his error are his" (God's): strophe civ. Cf. also strophe cvii.

[9] God.

[10] Strophe cxi.

[11] Job xix. 25-27. The Revised Version gives the passage as follows: "But I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand up at the last upon the earth: and after my skin hath been thus destroyed, yet from my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another."

[12] Strophe clxix.

[13] Job, strophes cxxiv.-cxxvi. of my English translation.

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It is perhaps hardly necessary to point out that the doctrine of eternal pains and rewards as laid down by the Christian Church, unless reinforced by faith, neither solves the problem nor simplifies it. If the truth must be told, it seems to unenlightened reason to entangle it more hopelessly than before. In simple terms and in its broadest aspect the question may be stated as follows: God created man under conditions of His own choosing which necessarily led to the life-long misery of countless millions upon earth and their never-ending torments in hell. To the question, Did He know the inevitable effect of His creative act, the answer is, God is omniscient. To the query, Could He have selected other and more humane conditions of existence for His creature—conditions so adjusted that, either with or without probation, man would have been ultimately happy? the reply is, God is almighty.

Involuntarily, then, the question forces itself upon us, Is He all-good? Can that Being be deemed good who, moved by no necessity, free to create or to abstain from creating, at liberty to create for happiness or for misery, calls mankind into existence under such conditions and surroundings that myriads are miserable, so unutterably miserable, that, compared with their tortures, the wretch bleeding and quivering on the wheel is lolling in the lap of enjoyment? Why did God make man under such conditions? Or at least how are we to reconcile His having done so with His attribute of goodness? To this question there are many replies but no answer, the former being merely attempts to explain the chronic effects of the primordial ethical poison commonly called original sin.

Job's main objection to the theological theories in vogue among his contemporaries, and, indeed, to all conceivable explanations of the difficulty, is far more weighty than at first sight appears. Everything, he tells us—if anything—is the work of God's hands; and as pain, suffering, evil, are everywhere predominant, it is not easy to understand in what sense God can be said to be good. The poet does not formulate the argument, of which this is the gist, in very precise terms, nor press it home to its last conclusions. But he leaves no doubt about his meaning. Some men are relatively good by nature, others wicked; but all men were created by God and act in accordance with the disposition they received from Him. If that disposition or character brought forth sin and evil, these then are God's work, not man's, and He alone is responsible therefor. The individual who performs an act through an agent is rightly deemed to have done it himself. A man, therefore, who, being free to do a certain thing or to leave it undone, and perfectly aware of the nature of its necessary consequences, performs it, is held to be answerable for the results, should they prove mischievous. Much greater is his responsibility if, instead of being restricted to the choice between undertaking a work certain to prove pernicious and abstaining from it, he was free to select a third course and to accomplish it in such a way that the result would not be evil, but unmixed good. In this case it would hardly seem possible to exonerate the doer from a charge of wanton malice, diabolic in degree. And such is the position in which many theologians seem—to those who view things in the light of reason—to have placed God Himself. It was open to Him, they maintain, to create or to refrain from creating. Having declared for the former alternative, He is chargeable with the consequences. The consequences, however, need not have been evil; He might, had He so willed it, have endowed His creature with such qualities and placed him in such surroundings that, without ceasing to be man, he would never have fallen at all. Yet it did not please Him to adopt that course. This admission, rationalists urge, is conclusive as to the origin of sin and evil.

But the arguments are not yet exhausted. Even then the Creator might have made everything right by an act which it seems impossible to distinguish from elementary justice. Had He regarded the first man who brought sin into the world as a mere individual, and treated him as such—and this, theologians assure us, He could easily have done[14]—He might have punished him as an individual, and the matter would have been at an end. But instead of this, He contemplated him as the type and representative of the human race, and decreed that his sin should, like a subtle spiritual poison, infect the soul of every man coming into the world. In other words, God, who is supposed to hate evil so profoundly that He damns for ever in hell a man guilty of one single "mortal" transgression, enacted that if one sin were committed it should be needlessly made to engender myriads of other sins, and that the tiny seed of evil which was first thrown upon the earth by His creature in a moment of pardonable weakness, and might have so easily been trampled out, should take root, sprout up and grow into a vast Upas tree whose poisonous branches overshadow all creation. This proposition, it is contended, explicitly taxes God, if not with the sole authorship of sin and evil, at least with the moral responsibility for propagating it. And this is the prevailing view among modern apologists.

As to the origin of evil, it is to be sought for, theologians have discovered, in the free will with which God endowed man. This, they allege, shifts all the responsibility on the human creature because, instead of evil, he might have chosen good. Unfortunately, the same argument would seem to apply to the Creator Himself.[15] He, too, being omnipotent, might have chosen good instead of evil subjects, and created human beings whose acts would have been blameless and virtuous, their will remaining what it is. Further, not having done this and having needlessly allowed an abyss to be made by sin between Himself and the first man, it was still open to Him to have abstained from widening it until it became an impassable gulf between Himself and the entire human race. But He did not abstain; instead of localising, He deliberately and wantonly spread the evil, and the ruin that overwhelmed all mankind cannot therefore be said to have sprung from the will of the race, but from His own. Again, the interposition of a free will between God and evil, it is urged, affords no real solution of the problem, for the question still remains, why were the workings of that free will evil and not good? Obviously because such was its God-created nature; for the action of outward circumstances upon the will neither builds up nor modifies this nature, but simply discloses it to our view.

These ideas were adopted, developed and defended by a few of the most profound Christian philosophers of the early Church, and most ably of all by Scotus Erigena,[16] who held that the origin of evil which cannot be sought for in God must not be placed in the free will of man, because the latter hypothesis would still leave the responsibility with the Creator, the human will being His own handiwork.

At the root of this argument lies yet another consideration upon which unbelieving thinkers rely still more: it is drawn from the alleged incompatibility between the conception of a created being and free will, and will be noticed presently. It is commonly regarded as the principal difficulty which Theists and Pantheists are condemned continually to encounter without ever being able to explain—the rock, so to say, upon which their optimistic systems strike, and are shattered to pieces—unless protected by the armour of supernatural faith.

But besides the Christian and Pantheistic theories, there is another explanation of the origin of evil offered by the religion of more than one-third of the human race. It is a theory which can readily be labelled and libelled by the most unphilosophical reader, but cannot be grasped and appreciated without serious study and reflection by the most intelligent, for it is based upon the doctrine that time, space and causality have no existence outside the human mind.[17] The world which we see and know, therefore, and everything it contains is "such stuff as dreams are made of"—the woof and warp being evolved from, and interwoven by, our own minds. Underlying the innumerable illusive appearances which we call the world is a reality, a being or force which is one. We and everything else are but manifestations, in time and space, of this one reality with which, however, each and every one of us is at bottom identical and whose sole attribute is unity. This force or will manifests itself in myriads of facets, so to say, in the universe, and these manifestations are not good, constitute, indeed, a sort of fall. Intelligence is not one of the primary attributes of this eternal will. It attained to clear consciousness and knowledge only in man and then for the first time perceived that the existence for which it yearned is evil and not good. Man therefore is his own work; and existence, as it constitutes a fall, is its own punishment; for his life is a series of inane desires which, when momentarily satiated, are immediately succeeded by others equally vain, fruitless and hollow, and the cessation of desire is the beginning of tedium which is oftentimes still less endurable, seeing that it leaves little room for hope.

"Life which ye prize is long-drawn agony; Only its pains abide, its pleasures are As birds which light and fly."

Every wish springs from want which causes pain, the attainment of the wished-for object—commonly called pleasure—is but the cessation of that pain: in other words it is a mere negation. Man's life is a never-ending oscillation between pleasure and pain: the former mere illusion, the latter a dread reality. The origin of this and of all other evil is individual existence, and individual existence is the free act of the one substance or force which is identical with each and all of us.

This theory excludes creation. For free will is utterly incompatible with the state of a created being;[18] because operari sequitur essei.e., the operation, the working of every being, must be the necessary result of its qualities which are themselves known only by the acts they bring forth. If these acts be praiseworthy, the qualities are good: if reprehensible, they are bad. But if the acts are to be free, they should be neither good nor bad. A being therefore to be perfectly free should have no qualities at all—i.e., should not be created. For it must be borne in mind that it is not the motives that impart to the will its ethical quality. Motives are accidental and operate in the same way as the rays of the sun falling upon a tree or a flower: they reveal the nature of the object but are powerless to change it, for better or for worse.[19] But if this be so, one may ask, why do we feel sorrow, shame, repentance for acts which we were not free to perform or abstain from performing? Because we are "metaphysically" free, that is to say, our inborn disposition from which they necessarily emanate, is the work of our free will, which specific acts are not. No doubt, when we do right or wrong, we are conscious that we might have acted differently—had we willed it. But this proves nothing; the all-important question being, could we, under the circumstances, have willed otherwise than we did? And to this the reply is an emphatic negative. But for our personal character, be it good or evil, we are answerable, and therefore likewise for the acts that flow from it with the rigorous necessity characteristic of all causality. For individuality in the human race is identical with character, and as individuality is the work of our own free will exercised outside the realm of time and space, we are responsible for it, and conscious of the responsibility, although not of the manner in which it was incurred.

Our acts, therefore, and they only, show us what we really are; our sufferings what we deserve. The former are the necessary outcome of our character which external circumstances, in the guise of motives, call into play; just as gravitation is acted upon when we shake an apple off the tree. Our deeds then being the inevitable resultant of that self-created character acted upon by motives, must consequently follow with the same necessity as any other link in the chain of cause and effect. The knowledge of our character and the foreknowledge of these outward events which, in the unbroken chain of cause and effect, act upon it, would suffice to enable us to foresee our future as readily as astronomers foresee eclipses of the sun and moon. Now if the root of all evil be individuality, the essence of all morality is self-denial; and no act performed for the purpose of obtaining happiness, temporal or eternal, is moral. The evil and pain, therefore, which befall us upon earth cannot be regarded as the retribution for the deeds done in this life; for these are necessary and inevitable. They are the fruits of our character whence these acts emanate; and it is only our character which is our own work. With the ethical nature of that character each individual gradually grows acquainted as well in his own case as in that of his neighbour's, solely from a study of his own acts, which often astonish himself quite as much as his friends.

Brahmanism and Buddhism symbolized these notions in the somewhat gross but only intelligible form in which the mind can readily grasp them, viz., in the dogma of the transmigration of souls, according to which a man's good deeds and bad follow him like his shadow from one existence to another, and in this life he expiates the sins or enjoys the fruits of a previous existence:[20]

"Each man's life The outcome of his former living is; The bygone wrongs bring forth sorrows and woes, The bygone right breeds bliss.

"That which ye sow ye reap. See yonder fields! The sesamum was sesamum, the corn Was corn. The Silence and the Darkness knew! So is man's fate born."

In the former religion, Brahma, who is identical with all of us, produces the world by a kind of fall from his primeval state and remains therein until he has redeemed himself. In the latter there is no god; man being his own handiwork and sin and evil the result of his blind striving after individual existence. It is however in his power, and in his alone, to right the wrong and remedy the evil, by starving out the fatal hunger for life. And in this work, faith, supplication and sacrifice avail him nothing.

"Pray not! the Darkness will not brighten! Ask Nought from the Silence, for it cannot speak! Vex not your mournful minds with pious pains! Ah, brothers, sisters! seek Naught from the helpless gods by gift and hymn, Nor bribe with blood, nor feed with fruits and cake; Within yourself deliverance must be sought: Each man his prison makes."

The ethical bearing of this view is more easily discerned than its metaphysical basis. Individual existence with its tantalising mirage of pleasures being the root of all evil, the first step towards finding a remedy is to recognise this truth, to obtain insight into the heart of things athwart the veil of Maya or delusion. The conviction that all beings are not merely brothers but one and the same essence, is the death of egotistic desire, of the pernicious distinction between me and thee, and the birth of pity, love and sympathy for all men. And this is a very old doctrine. In India it was taught in the Veda and the Vedanta under the formula tat tvam asi—thou art this—i.e., individual differs not essentially from individual, nor a man from the whole human race. He who obtains this insight and perceives how sorrow is shadow to life, who weans his thirst for existence, seeks not, strives not, wrongs not, starves out his passions, resigns himself wholly to pain and suffering as to "ills that flow from foregone wrongfulness" and asks for no clue from the Silence which can utter naught, he is truly blessed and released from all misery forever. He glides "lifeless to nameless quiet, nameless joy, blessed Nirvana."

It is probable, not to say certain, that it was an intuition of this kind that finally reconciled Job with the grey monotony of misery and seeming injustice which characterises all human existence and enabled him to resign himself cheerfully to whatever might befall. This at least would seem to be the only reasonable construction of which Jahveh's apparition and discourse are susceptible. That they are resorted to by the poet solely as an image and symbol of the inner illumination of his hero's intellect, is evident to most readers. Nothing that Jahveh has to disclose to Job and his three friends even remotely resembles a clue to the problem that exercised them. The human mind would be unable to grasp a solution if any existed, for it possesses no forms in which to apprehend it. This will soon become apparent even to the non-philosophical reader who endeavours to reason about a state in which time, space, and causality have no existence. But there is no solution. Jahveh virtually asks, as Buddha had asked before:

"Shall any gazer see with mortal eyes, Or any searcher know with mortal mind? Veil after veil will lift—but there must be Veil upon veil behind."

Unless we assume some such sudden illumination of the mind as Buddha obtained under the shadow of the fig-tree and the author of the 73rd Psalm among the ruins of the kingdom of Juda, it is impossible to account for Job's unforeseen and entire resignation, or to bring his former defiant utterances into harmony with the humble sentiments to which he now gives expression. For nothing but his mind had meanwhile undergone a change. All the elements of the problem remained what they were. The evils that had fired his indignation were not denied by their presumptive author, nor was any explanation of them vouchsafed to him. No remedy was promised in this life, no hope held out of redress in a possible world to come. On the contrary, Jahveh confirms the terrible facts alleged by His servant; He admits that pleasure and pain are not the meed of deeds done upon earth, and that the explanation we seek, the light we so wistfully long for, will never come; for human existence is not a dark spot in an ocean of dazzling splendour, but a will'-o'-the-wisp that merely intensifies the murkiness of everlasting Night.

Moreover, Job was detached from the world already. He had overcome all his passions and kept even his legitimate affections under control. He had no word of regret on losing his cattle, his possessions, his children. During his most exquisite sufferings, he declared that he held only to his good name. This, too, he now gives up and demanding nothing, avers that he is satisfied. "I resign and console myself. Though it be in dust and ashes." Complete detachment from existence, and not for the sake of some other and better existence (for there is none) is the practical outcome of Job's intuition. But in a God-created world made for the delectation of mankind, to forego its pleasures would be to offend the Creator, if indeed stark madness could kindle His ire. But to curb one's thirst for life and to spurn its joys because one holds them to be the tap root of all evil, is an action at once intelligible and wise. And this is what Job evidently does when he practises difficult virtues and undergoes terrible sufferings without the consciousness of past guilt or the faintest hope of future recompense.

As Buddha taught his followers: "When the disciple has lost all doubt as to the reality of suffering; when his doubts as to the origin of suffering are dispelled; when he is no longer uncertain as to the possibility of annihilating suffering and when he hesitates no more about the way that leads to the annihilation of suffering: then is he called a holy disciple, one who is in the stream that floweth onwards to perfection, one who is delivered from evil, who is guaranteed, who is devoted to the highest truth."[21]


[14] One of the best accredited exponents of this theory, which is now generally accepted by Catholic divines, is Father (now Cardinal) Mazella.

[15] And Job more than once applies it.

[16] Cf. Editio Princeps, Oxford, 1681, p. 287.

[17] Many pious Christians who scoff at such emotions, without endeavouring to understand them, would do well to remember that whatever truth there is in the dogma of the immorality of the soul, is dependant upon this proposition, that time, space, and the law of casuality have no real existence whatever, but are merely the furniture of the human mind—the forms in which it apprehends. As time exists only in our consciousness, and as beginning and end can take place only in time, they can affect only our consciousness, which ends in death, but not our souls, which are distinct from mind and consciousness.

[18] Job, who rejected all secondary causes whatever, could not in logic, and did not in fact, believe in free will as it is commonly understood in our days.

[19] Cf. Matt. xii. 33-35.

[20] Even the Bible is not wholly devoid of traces of the same symbol employed to convey the same ideas; cf. Matt. xi. 14, John ix. 2, for the New Testament, and Ps. xc. 3 for the Old. The apparent inner absurdity of the doctrine of the transmigration of souls arises mainly from our inability to grasp and realise the two propositions which it presupposes—viz., that there is no such thing as time outside of the human mind, and therefore no past or future; and, secondly, that soul is but individualised will momentarily illumined by the intellect which is a function of the brain. Metempsychosis was originally no more than a symbol.

[21] "Samyuttaka-Nikayo," vol. iii. chap. iii. p. 24. Cf. Dr. K. E. Neumann's "Buddhistische Anthologie," Leiden, 1892, p. 204.

* * * * *


The question which frequently exercised the ingenuity of former commentators, whether the poem of Job is the work of one or of many authors, has no longer any actuality. It is absolutely certain that the book, as we find it in the Authorised Version, and even in the best Hebrew manuscripts, is a mosaic put together by a number of writers widely differing in their theological views and separated from each other by whole centuries; and it is equally undoubted that, restored to its original form, it is "a poem round and perfect as a star"—the masterpiece of one of the most gifted artists of his own or any age. To the inquiry where he lived and wrote, numerous tentative replies have been offered but no final answer. To many he is the last of the venerable race of patriarchs, and his verse the sweet, sublime lisping of a childlike nature, disporting itself in the glorious morning of the world.[22]

This, however, is but a pretty fancy, which will not stand the ordeal of scientific criticism, nor even the test of a careful common-sense examination. The broader problems that interest thinking minds of a late and reflective age, the profounder feelings and more ambitious aspirations of manhood and maturity, are writ large in every verse of the poem. The lyre gives out true, full notes, which there is no mistaking. The hero is evidently a travelled cosmopolitan, who has outgrown the narrow prejudices of petty patriotism and national religious creeds to such an extent that he studiously eschews the use of the revealed name of the God of his people, and seems to believe at most in a far-away and incomprehensible divinity who sometimes merges into Fate. In the God of theologians he had no faith. His comforters, who from the uttermost ends of the earth meet together in a most unpatriarchal manner to discuss the higher problems of philosophy, allude to the views in vogue in the patriarchal age as to traditions of bygone days before the influence of foreign invaders had tainted the purity of the national faith; and passages like xii. 17, xv. 19, seem to point to the captivity of the Hebrew people as an accomplished fact. In a word, the strict monotheism of the hero, which at times borders upon half-disguised secularism, has nothing in common with the worship of the patriarchs except the absence of priests and the lack of ceremonies. The language of the poem, flavoured by a strong mixture of Arabic and Aramaic words and phrases, and the frequent use of imagery borrowed from Babylonian mythology, to say nothing of a number of other signs and tokens of a comparatively late age, render the patriarchal hypothesis absolutely untenable.[23] This, at least, is one of the few results of modern research about which there is perfect unanimity among all competent scholars.

If the date of the composition of Job cannot be fixed with any approach to accuracy, there are at least certain broad limits within which it is agreed on all hands that it should be placed. This period is comprised between the prophetic activity of Jeremiah and the second half of the Babylonian Exile. The considerations upon which this opinion is grounded are drawn mainly, if not exclusively, from authentic passages of Job which the author presumably borrowed from other books of the Old Testament. Thus a comparison of the verses in which the hero curses the day of his birth[24] with an identical malediction in Jeremiah (xx. 14-15), and of the respective circumstances in which each was written, leads to the conviction that the borrower was not the prophet whose writings must therefore have been familiar to the poet. This conclusion is confirmed by a somewhat far-fetched but none the less valid argument drawn from the circumstance that Ezekiel,[25] who would probably have known the poem had it existed in his day, obviously never heard of it; for this prophet, broaching the question, apparently for the first time among his countrymen, as to the justice of human suffering, denies point blank that any man endures unmerited pain,[26] and affirms in emphatic terms that to each one shall be meted out reward or punishment according to his works.[27] And this he could hardly have done had he been aware of the fact that the contradictory proposition was vouched for by no less an authority than Jahveh Himself.

Again, it is highly probable, although one would hardly be justified in stating it as an established fact, that certain striking poetic images clothed in the same form of words in Job and in the Second Isaiah,[28] are the coinage of the rich imagination of the latter,[29] from whose writings they must consequently have been taken by the author of Job. If this assumption be correct, and it is considerably strengthened by collateral evidence, we should have no choice but to assign to the composition of the poem a date later than that of the Second Isaiah who wrote between 546 and 535 B.C. The ingenious and learned German critic, Dr. Cornill, holds it to be no less than two or three hundred years younger still, and bases his opinion principally upon the last verse of the last chapter of the Book of Job, where the expression (Job died) "old and full of days," is, in his opinion, borrowed from the Priests' Code. It is, however, needless to analyse this argument, seeing that the verse in question was wanting in the Septuagint[30] version, and must therefore be held to be a later addition.

Another question, once a sure test of orthodoxy, the discussion of which has become equally superfluous to-day, is to what extent the narrative is based upon historical facts. The second council of Constantinople solemnly condemned Theodore, Bishop of Mopsuestia, one of the most enlightened Fathers of the Church, for having advanced the opinion that the story of Job was a pious fiction and the doctrine it embodies irreconcileable with orthodoxy. It would be rash to say what conclusion a council sitting at the end of the nineteenth century would be likely to arrive at. But it would hardly find fault with the majority of contemporary critics who hold that the prologue and epilogue, which are in prose and contain in outline the popular legend of Job, were anterior to the colloquies between the hero and his friends, bear in fact the same relation to the poem that the mediaeval legend of Johan Faustus does to the masterpiece of Goethe. And it was to the popular legend, not to the poem, that Ezekiel alluded in the passage in which he instances Job as the type of the just man. But one must needs be endowed with a strong and child-like faith to accept, in the light of ancient history and modern science, as sober facts the familiar conversation between Jahveh and the Adversary in the council-chamber of heaven, the sudden intervention of the latter in the life of Job, the ease with which he breaks through the chain of causality and bends even the human will to his purpose, the indecent haste with which he overwhelms the just man with a torrent of calamities in the course of one short day, the apparition of Jahveh in a storm-cloud, and many other equally improbable details. Improbability, however, is the main feature of all miracles; and faith need not be dismayed even by the seemingly impossible. In any case where it is hopeless to convince, it is needless to discuss, and if there still be readers to whose appreciation of the poem belief in its historical truth is absolutely indispensable, it would be cruel to seek to spoil or even lessen their enjoyment of one of the most sublime creations known to any literature of the world.


[22] One of the main grounds for this opinion is the absolute ignorance of the Mosaic law manifested by the author of Job. The line of reasoning is that he must have been either a Jew—and in that case have lived before or simultaneously with Moses—or else an Arab, like his hero, and have written the work in Arabic, Moses himself probably doing it into Hebrew. To a Hebrew scholar this sounds as plausible as would the thesis, to one well versed in Greek, that the Iliad is but a translation from the Sanscrit. The Talmud makes Job now a contemporary of David and Solomon, now wholly denies his existence. Jerome, and some Roman Catholic theologians of to-day, identify the author of the poem with Moses himself, a view in favour of which not a shred of argument can be adduced. Cf. Loisy, "Le Livre de Job," Paris, 1892, p. 37; Reuss, "Hiob.," Braunschweig, 1888, pp. 8 ff.

[23] The subject of the date and place of composition has been treated by Cornill, "Einleitung in das Alte Testament," 235 fol., by Prof. Duhm, "The Book of Job" (cf. "The New World," June, 1894), and others. But the most lucid, masterly, and dispassionate discussion of the subject is to be found in Prof. Cheyne's "Job and Solomon," chaps. viii.-xii.

[24] Job A.V. iii. 3-10.

[25] 592-572 B.C.

[26] Ezek. xviii. 2, 3.

[27] Ibid. 4-9.

[28] "The Second Isaiah" is the name now usually given to the unknown author of one of the sublimest books of the Old Testament, viz., chaps, xl.-lxvi. of the work commonly attributed to Isaiah. It was composed most probably between 546 and 535 B.C.

[29] They may be found by referring to the parallel passages given in the margin of the Authorised Version of Job; for instance, chap. xiv. One example may suffice: In the Second Isaiah, xl. 6-8, we read "The Voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever." In Job we find the winged word embodied in the verse 2, chap. xiv. A.V. (strophe cxxi.).

Man that is born of a woman, Poor in days and rich in trouble; He cometh forth as a flower and fadeth, He fleeth like a shadow and abideth not.

[30] For the value of the testimony of the Septuagint, cf. following chapter.

* * * * *


Our Authorised Version of Job is based upon the text handed down to us in existing Hebrew manuscripts and upon Jerome's Latin translation. None of the manuscripts, the most important of which are those of the Vatican,[31] of Alexandria[32] and of Sinai,[33] go further back than the fourth century A.D. And some of the modifications, made by Jerome in the Latin translation, particularly in chap. xxi. 25-27, into which he introduces the Christian idea of the Resurrection, were not based upon the various readings of the Codices, but inspired by a pious desire to render the work more edifying. As our Hebrew manuscripts are all derived from a single copy which was probably contemporaneous with the reign of the Emperor Hadrian,[34] the words and the corrections of which they reproduce with Chinese scrupulosity, the utmost we can expect from them is to supply us with the text as it existed at that relatively late age.

The comparative indifference that reigned before that time as to the purity of the text of the most important books of the Canon, and the utter carelessness with which down to the first century of the Christian era the manuscripts of the Hagiographa[35] were treated, render it highly probable that long before the reign of Hadrian the poem of Job had undergone many and serious modifications. The ease with which words written with consonants only, many of which resembled each other, were liable to be interchanged, strengthens this probability; while a detailed study of the various manuscripts and translations transforms it into certainty. The parallel passages alone of almost any of the books of the Old Testament yield a rich harvest of divergences.

But involuntary errors of the copyists are insufficient to explain all the bewildering changes which disfigure many of the books of the Sacred Scriptures. The gradual evolution of the Hebrew religion from virtual polytheism to the strictest monotheism seemed peremptorily to call for a corresponding change in the writings in which the revelation underlying it was enshrined. A later stadium of the evolution—which, of course, was never felt to be such—might naturally cause the free and easy views and lax practices which once were orthodox and universal to assume the odious form of heresy and impiety, and a laudable respect for the author of revelation was held to impose the sacred duty of bringing the documentary records of ancient practices into harmony with present theories. This was especially true of the Books of Job and Ecclesiastes, in which not only was the general tone lacking in respect for all that the Jewish community held sacred, but likewise long and eloquent passages directly called in question the truth of revelation and blasphemously criticised the attributes of the Most High.

Gauged by the narrow standards of the Jewish community,[36] some of Job's most sublime outbursts of poetic passion must have seemed as impious to his contemporaries as to the theologians of our own country the "blasphemies" hurled by Byron's Lucifer against the "Everlasting Tyrant." There can be no doubt that it is to the feeling of holy horror which his plain speaking aroused in the minds of the strait-laced Jews of 2400 years ago that we have to ascribe the principal and most disfiguring changes which the poem underwent at the hands of well-meaning censors. It is quite possible even now to point out, by the help of a few disjointed fragments still preserved, the position, and to divine the sense, of certain spiritful and defiant passages which, in the interest of "religion and morals," were remorselessly suppressed, to indicate others which were split up and transposed, and to distinguish many prolix discourses, feeble or powerful word-pictures and trite commonplaces which were deliberately inserted later on, for the sole purpose of toning down the most audacious piece of rationalistic philosophy which has ever yet been clothed in the music of sublime verse.

The disastrous results of these corrections which were made at various times and by different persons is writ large in the present text of Job as we find it in the Hebrew manuscripts and our Authorised Version, which offer us in many places a jumble of disjointed fragments, incoherent, irrelevant or self-contradictory.

In addition to common sense aided by cautious text criticism which enables us to recognise interpolations, to correct copyists' errors and occasionally even to determine the place and the tendency of expunged passages, the means at our disposal for the restoration of the poem are principally two: The laws of Hebrew poetry (parallelism and metre) on the one hand, and a comparison of the Hebrew text with the ancient Greek translation of the Septuagint,[37] on the other. A judicious use of these helps which are recognised as such even by the most conservative Christians, who condemn without hearing the tried methods and least doubtful conclusions of biblical criticism, enables one to accomplish all that is now possible towards restoring the poem of Job to its original form.

The nature and the laws of Hebrew metre, the discovery of which is indissolubly associated with the name of Prof. Bickell,[38] are identical with those of Syriac poetry. The unit is the line, the syllables of which are numbered and accentuated, the line most frequent containing seven syllables with iambic rhythm. Accentuated syllables alternate regularly with unaccentuated, whereby the penultimate has the accent; and the poetic accent always coincides with the grammatical, as in Syriac poetry and in the Greek verse of early Christian times, the structure of which was copied from the Syriac. Compare for instance the following:

[Greek: Hae parthenos saemeron Ton epouranion tiktei, Kai hae gae to spaelaion To aprosito parechei.]

with a strophe from Job:

Shamati khellae rabbot: Menachme 'amal kool' khem, Hakec ledibere rooch? Ma-yamric'kha, ki tahnae?

The second characteristic of Hebrew poetry, which is occasionally to be found even in prose, is that repetition of the same thought in a slightly modified form which is commonly known as parallelism. Thus, in the poem of Job the second line of the strophe expresses an idea very closely resembling that embodied in the first; and the third and fourth run parallel in like manner. For instance, Eliphaz, expounding the traditional teaching that the wicked man is punished in this life, says:

"His offshoot shall wither before his time, And his branch shall not be green; He shall shake off his unripe grape, like the vine, And shall shed his flower, like the olive."

The second important aid to emendation is a careful comparison of the Hebrew text with the Greek translation known as the Septuagint (LXX.), which, undertaken and completed in Alexandria between the beginning of the third and the close of the second century B.C., offers the first recorded instance of an entire national literature being rendered into a foreign tongue. The extrinsic value of this work is obvious from the fact that it enables us to construct a text which is centuries older than that of which all our Hebrew manuscripts are servile copies, and is over a thousand years more ancient than the very oldest Hebrew codices now extant.[39] Not indeed that the poem of Job had undergone no changes between the time of its composition and the second century B.C. On the contrary, some of the most important interpolations had already been inserted[40] and various excisions and transpositions made before the translator first took the work in hand. But at least the ground is cleared considerably, seeing that no less than four hundred verses which we now read in all our present Bibles, Hebrew and vernacular, were tacked on to the poem at a date subsequent to the Greek translation and therefore found no place in that version. These additions may, on the faith of the Septuagint, be struck out with all the less hesitation that both metre and parallelism confirm with their weighty testimony the trustworthy evidence of the orthodox translation that the strophes in question are insertions of a later date.

But the value of the Septuagint depends upon its greater or less immunity from those disfiguring changes which render the Hebrew text incomprehensible and from which few ancient works are wholly free. And unfortunately no such immunity can be claimed for it. What happened to the original text likewise befell the Greek translation. Desirous of putting an end to the disputes between Jews and Christians as to the respective merits of the two, a proselyte from Ephesus, Theodotion by name, undertook to do the Bible into Greek anew somewhere between 180-192 A.D. The basis of his work was the Septuagint, of which he changed nothing that in his opinion could stand; but at the same time he consulted the Hebrew manuscripts and vainly endeavoured to effect a compromise between the two. Among other innovations, he inserted in his translation the four hundred interpolated verses which, having been added to the Hebrew text after it had been first rendered into Greek, could not possibly have formed part of the Septuagint version. Later on (232-254 A.D.) Origen, anxious to throw light upon the cause of the divergences between existing translations and the original text, and to provide the means of judging of the respective merits of these, undertook one of those wearisome works of industry, which later on constituted a special feature of the activity of the Benedictine monks. The result of his researches was embodied in the Hexapla—a book containing, in six parallel columns, the original text in Hebrew and in Greek letters, the Greek translation by Aquila, another by Symmachus, the text of the Septuagint edited by himself, and Theodotion's version. Now Origen, acting upon the gratuitous assumption that the passages wanting in the Septuagint had formed part of the original Book of Job and had been omitted by the translators solely because they failed to understand their meaning, took them from Theodotion and incorporated them in his edition of the Septuagint as it appeared in the Hexapla, merely distinguishing them by means of asterisks. Unfortunately, in the course of time these distinctive marks disappeared partially or wholly, thus depriving the old Greek translation of its inestimable value as an aid to text criticism; and there remained but five manuscripts in which they were to some extent preserved.[41]

Until recently it was generally taken for granted by Biblical scholars that there were no codices extant in the world but these five, which contained data of a nature to enable us to reconstruct the text of the Septuagint. And the assistance given by these manuscripts was dubious at best, for they included the misleading additions incorporated in the text by Origen, merely marking them with asterisks, which were not only insufficient in number, but oftentimes wrongly distributed. No one ventured to hope that there was still extant a version from which the spurious verses were rigorously excluded. And the discovery of such a text by my friend, Prof. Bickell, marks a new epoch in the history of Biblical criticism.

One day that distinguished scholar, while sauntering about Monte Pincio with the late Coptic Bishop, Agapios Bsciai, was informed by this dignitary that he had found and transcribed a wretched codex of the Saidic[42] Version of Job in the Library of the Propaganda. Hearing that numerous passages were wanting in the newly discovered codex, Prof. Bickell at once conjectured that this "defective" version might possibly prove to be a translation of the original Septuagint text without the later additions; and having studied it at the bishop's house saw his surmise changed to certainty; the text was indeed that of the original Septuagint without the disfiguring additions inserted by Origen. The late Prof. Lagarde of Goettingen then applied for, and received, permission to edit this precious find; but owing to the desire conceived later on by Pope Leo XIII. that an undertaking of such importance should be carried out by an ecclesiastic of the Roman Catholic Church, Lagarde's hopes were dashed at the eleventh hour, and Monsignor Ciasca, to whom the task was confided, accomplished all that can reasonably be expected from pious zeal and patient industry.

The Saidic version, therefore, as embodying a purer and more ancient text of the Book of Job than any we had heretofore possessed, is one of the most serviceable of the instruments employed in restoring the poem to its primitive form.[43] It frequently enables us to eliminate passages which formerly rendered the author's meaning absolutely incomprehensible, and at other times replaces obscure with intelligible readings which, while differing from those of the Massoretic manuscripts, are obviously the more ancient.


[31] Fourth century A.D.

[32] Fifth century A.D.

[33] Fourth century A.D.

[34] A.D. 117-138.

[35] The Hagiographa—or, as the Hebrews term them, Ketubim—include Job, Proverbs, the Psalms, the Canticle of Canticles, Ruth, the Lamentations, Koheleth, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles.

[36] As distinguished from the pre-exilian people. Before the Captivity the Israelites lived the political life of all independent nations. After the Exile they were but a religious community—a Church. It was for this Church that the "Mosaic" legislation of the Priests' Code was written and the ancient historical records retouched.

[37] Completed probably in the second century B.C.

[38] Ewald and others had conjectured long before that the colloquies of Job were in verse, but their attempts to reduce them to strophes were of a nature to weaken rather than confirm the theory. That the strophes consisted of four lines is a discovery of Prof. Bickell's. At first listened to with scepticism, it is now accepted by some of the leading critics of Germany, and received with favour by such English scholars as Prof. Cheyne.

[39] St. Paul in his quotations from the Old Testament usually follows the Septuagint. But the poem of Job he quotes from a lost version, some traces of which are to be found in the works of Clement of Alexandria.

[40] "Inserted" is the strongest term that can be applied to editors who lived in a time when to foist one's own elucubrations upon a deceased genius was a work of piety deserving praise. Some of the acts which were virtues in Job's days have assumed a very different aspect in ours; but good intentions are always at a premium, and the Jewish interpolators were animated by the best.

[41] Two Greek, two Latin, and one Syriac.

[42] Also called the Thebaic Version.

[43] As a translation it is a poor performance.

* * * * *


Having thus briefly sketched the instruments by means of which the reconstruction of the poem of Job was undertaken, it may not be amiss to illustrate the manner in which they are employed in the light of a few examples. To begin with the structure of the metre. In the Authorised Version we find (chap. xii. 12) the words: "With the ancient is wisdom, and in length of days understanding." This in Hebrew is

Bishishim chokhma Veorekh yamim t'buna.

The first line therefore has five instead of seven syllables and is consequently defective; something must have fallen out. This conclusion, based upon the laws of the metre, is fully borne out by a study of the context; for it is enough to read Job's reply from the beginning to see that he could not have set himself to prove, as he is here made to do, that God is as wise as man; his contention really being that man's knowledge is ignorance compared with the wisdom of the Being who governs the universe. For he is arguing against the traditionalists who assert that justice is the essential characteristic of the conduct of the world, a thesis refuted by almost everything we see and hear around us. Bildad besought his sorely tried friend to learn of bygone generations and to view things through their eyes. "Shall they not teach thee?" he asks (viii. 10), to which Job's reply is an emphatic negative: "There is no wisdom with the ancient, nor understanding in length of days." To agree with his "friend" would be to throw up his case, and this the Authorised Version makes him do. God alone is endowed with wisdom; but is He likewise good? To this question His government of the universe alone can furnish an answer. There must evidently then have been a negative particle in the text which a copyist, shocked at the seemingly rash assertion, expunged. If now we add the words "for not" the metre is in order and the sense perfect:

Ki en bishishim chokhma Veorekh yamim t'buna.

Take another instance. The first part of v. 14, chap. xiv. is rendered in our version as follows: "If a man die shall he live again?" and the translation would be faithful enough if the Hebrew word were hayichyae, as our MSS. testify, but as an interrogation would destroy the parallelism of the strophe, it is evident that the syllable ha, which in Hebrew consists of one and not two letters, is an interpolation, and the word should be yichyae and the strophe (composed of v. 13 and 14a).

"Oh, that thou wouldst hide me in the grave! That thou wouldst secrete me till thy wrath be passed! That thou wouldst appoint me a set time, and remember me! If so be man could die and yet live on."

Again starting from the recognised principle that the entire poem is composed on a regular plan and consists exclusively of four-line strophes, it is obvious that all the tristichs in chapters xxiv. and xxx. must be struck out. The circumstances that their contents are as irrelevant to the context as would be a number of stanzas of "The Ancient Mariner" if introduced into "Paradise Lost," that in form they are wholly different from the strophes of the poem of Job, and that there is obviously a sudden break in the text of the latter just when heterodoxy merges into blasphemy, have forced critics to the conclusion—about which there is hardly any difference of opinion—that these tristichs are extracts from a very different work, which were inserted to fill up the void created by orthodox theologians of a later date.[44]

Besides the four hundred verses which must be excluded on the ground that they are wanting in the Septuagint Version, and were therefore added to the text at a comparatively recent period,[45] the long-winded discourse of Elihu[46] must be struck out, most of which was composed before the book was first translated into Greek. Common sense, unaided by any critical apparatus, suffices to mark this tedious monologue as an interpolation. The poet knew nothing of him who is supposed to have uttered it. In the prologue in prose where all the actors in this psychological drama are enumerated and described, Elihu is not once alluded to; and in the epilogue, where all the debaters are named and censured, he alone is absolutely ignored. Nay, it is evident that when Jahveh's discourse was written, the poet had no suspicion of the existence of this fourth friend; for at the conclusion of the "fourth friend's" pretentious speech, composed of scraps borrowed from those of the other actors in the drama, Jahveh addressed all present in a form of words which implies that not Elihu but Job was the last speaker, and had only that instant terminated his reply. This fact alone should be conclusive. But it is confirmed by other weighty considerations which leave no place for doubt: Thus, Elihu's style is toto coelo different from that of the other parts of the poem: artificial, vague, rambling, prosaic, and strongly coloured by Aramaic idioms, while his doctrinal peculiarities, particularly his mention of interceding angels, while they coincide with those of the New Testament, are absolutely unknown to Job and his friends. Moreover, if Elihu had indeed formed one of the dramatis personae of the original work, the role he would and should have assumed is not dubious; he must be the wise man according to the author's own heart. This he is or nothing. And yet, if he were really this, we should have the curious spectacle of the poet developing at great length an idea which runs directly counter to the fundamental conception underlying the entire work. For Elihu declares Job's sufferings to be a just punishment for his sins; whereas the poet and Jahveh Himself proclaim him to be the type of the just man, and describe his misery as a short, unmerited and exceptional probation. Evidently then Elihu is the elaborate production of some second-rate writer and first-class theologian awkwardly wedged into the poem perhaps a century or more after it had been composed, and certainly before the work was first translated into Greek.

The confusion introduced into the text by this insertion is bewildering in the extreme; and yet the result is but a typical specimen of the inextricable tangle which was produced by the systematic endeavours of later and pious editors to reduce the poem to the proper level of orthodoxy. Another instance is to be found in Job's reply to the third discourse of Bildad: in two passages of this discourse the hero completely and deliberately gives away the case which he had been theretofore so warmly defending, and accepts—to reject it later on as a matter of course—the doctrine of retribution.[47] Now, on the one hand, if we remove these verses, Job's speech becomes perfectly coherent and logical, and the description of wisdom falls naturally into its right place; but, on the other hand, we have no reason whatever to call their authenticity in question and to strike them out. The solution of this difficulty is that Zophar who, in our versions, speaks but twice, really spoke three times, like each of his three colleagues, and that the verses in question were uttered by him, and not by Job. His discourse was intentionally split up into two portions, and incorporated in a speech delivered by Job, in order to represent the hero as an advocate of the dogma of retribution.

Another example of obviously intentional transposition occurs in chap. xl. where two verses are introduced as one of Job's replies to God, so as to allow of the latter delivering a second speech and utilising therein a fine description of the hippopotamus and the crocodile. Lastly, it needs little critical acumen to perceive that the scraps of dialogue attributed to Jahveh in the Hebrew text and Authorised Version are, in so far as they can claim to be regarded as authentic, but fragments of a single discourse. It would be preposterous to hold a poet or even an average poetaster responsible for the muddle made by the negligence of copyists and the zeal of interpolators who sought thus awkwardly to improve the author's theology at the cost of his poetry. But it is enough to consider the elements of this particular question for a moment to perceive that there can be but one solution. Jahveh makes a long and crushing reply to Job, gradually merges into fine descriptive but irrelevant poetry, and then suddenly calls for a rejoinder. The hero, humbled to the dust, exclaims[48] that he is vile and conscious of his impotence, and will lay his hand upon his mouth and open his lips no more. Here the matter should end, for Job has confessed himself vanquished. But no, Jahveh, instead of being touched by this meek avowal and self-humiliation, must needs address the human worm as if he had turned against his Creator, and asks such misplaced questions as "Hast thou an arm like God?" As a matter of fact, Jahveh, whose apparition is but a poetic symbol of the sudden flash of light which illumined the mind of the despairing hero, spoke but once. For Job, one glimpse through the veil was enough, one rapid glance at the realm where all is dark, and deep lies

"under deep unknown, And height above unknown height."


[44] Chap. xxiv. 5-8, 10-24 and chap. xxx. 3-7 take the place of Job's blasphemous complaint about the unjust government of the world.

[45] For the benefit of readers who shrink from making any alteration in the Bible, and who are mostly unaware that innumerable and wide-reaching changes were effected in it by the negligence or design of scribes, theologians, and others, it may be well to point out that none of the changes rendered necessary by the reconstruction of the Books of Job and Ecclesiastes in any way affects whatever degree of inspiration they feel disposed to attribute to the Bible as a whole, or to the interpolations in particular. The point of view of the critic, if by no means identical with that of the pious worshipper, need not to clash with it. An interpolation may be—and as we here see very often is—much more orthodox than an original text, and the more recent its origin the greater the chances that it will be so.

[46] xxxii.-xxxvii. In the Septuagint Version Elihu's discourse occupies but little more than half the number of verses to be found in the Hebrew manuscript and in the Authorised Version.

[47] xxvii. 8-10, 14-23.

[48] xl. 4-5.

* * * * *


Although the main object of the poet is to present in a clear, comprehensive and palpable form the sphinx riddle of human existence, his work abounds nevertheless in a variety of interesting data, which throw considerable light upon the philosophical and theological theories in vogue among the thoughtful spirits of the Jewish community. Their "natural philosophy" offers little that is likely to interest and nothing of a nature to instruct the well-informed reader of to-day. But the mythological concreteness and palpitating vitality of all its elements profoundly impress us, less because of the curious standard they supply by which to gauge the intellectual level of that age than as the symbols chosen by the poet to express the identity and nothingness of all things living and inanimate. Before God, all creatures think, reason, speak, like man, because all are equal to him and he is but a breath. The stars, which are relatives of the Satan and of God's own children, wax enthusiastic and shout for joy; the lightning hearkens to the voice of its Creator and, flashing athwart the heavens, announces its presence. The sun is in continual danger of being devoured by a rapacious monster upon whom a watch has to be set; and all things live and move in the same way and by exactly the same force that dwells and acts in man with whom they are one in essence; and he himself is but a flower that sprouts, fades and dies.[49] Death is the end of man and beast and flower and grass alike; and after death comes dismal darkness. There is no difference among them. Man is no more and no less than all the rest. Sheol, or the realm of the dead, is a murky, silent and dreary abode, the shadowy inmates of which are as if they were not, unconscious as infants "which never saw the light."

This state, which is not perhaps absolutely equivalent to complete annihilation, is yet identical with that of "an hidden untimely birth." Translated into the language of philosophy this somewhat vague notion might be expressed as follows: All things, past, present and to come, which flit as unreal shadows on the wall of time and space, are manifestations of the one sole force which is everlasting and omnipresent. They are not parts of a whole which is one and divisible: all that we see and know of them in life is nothing; and after death they are what they were before—identical with the one.

"One life through all the immense creation runs, One spirit is the moon's, the sea's, the sun's; All forms in the air that fly, on the earth that creep, And the unknown nameless creatures of the deep— Each breathing thing obeys one mind's control, And in all substance is a single soul."

For Job's theory of the universe is dynamic and recognises but one force, which is so vague and indefinite that he hesitates to bestow upon it the name of the concrete God of the Jews.[50] There is no multiplicity, no duality, no other substance, no other cause. The One is and does alone. All things are shadowy delusions; He alone is real. We are nothing except in Him. Evil as well as good is His work. The Satan who tortures Job is one of the sons of God to whom special power is exceptionally delegated; but, as a rule, God Himself punishes the just and showers His blessings on the wicked. Everything that happens is the outcome of His will. There is no nature, no causation, no necessary law in the physical world; every event is the embodiment of the one will which is absolutely free, and therefore, neither to be foreseen nor explained.

Like Koheleth, Job seems to hold that intelligence is something secondary not primordial. Man, who is richly endowed with it on earth, knows really nothing, never can know anything, about the origin and reason of things. They are absolutely unknowable. He finds abyss yawning under abyss, height towering above height, and dark mysteries encompass him everlastingly.

"But wisdom—whence shall it come? And where is the place of understanding? It is hid from the eyes of all living" (cxxxiv.).

And if there be at most but will-o'-the-wisps on this side of the shadow of Night, there is nought but absolute darkness beyond.

These considerations would seem to offer a very satisfactory explanation of the monotheism of the poet which is far in advance of that of his contemporaries, to whatever age we may assign him. It is a purely philosophical conception which never was and never can be enshrined in a theological dogma, and to seek for its genesis in the evolution of the Jewish religion is far less reasonable than to derive it from the philosophy of the Greeks or the Hindoos.

Job's theory of ethics differs widely from that of his friends and contemporaries, and indeed from that of the bulk of mankind of all times. The Jews believed in fleeting pleasures and pains in this life as the sole recompense for virtue and sin; their modern heirs and successors hope for eternal bliss or fear everlasting suffering in the next. The motives deducible from both creeds are identical, and philosophy connotes them as egotism. Whether the meed I long for or the pain I would shun be transitory or everlasting, the moment my individual well-being becomes the motive of my conduct it is not easy to perceive where morality comes in. And so universally is egotism to be found at the root of what appear to us to be the most generous actions, that the Adversary was right enough in refusing, without conclusive proof, to enrol Job's name in the short list of exceptions. But Job's ethics were many degrees above proof. In no book of the ancient Testament and in no religion or philosophy of the old world, if we except Buddhism, do we find anything to compare with the sublime morality inculcated in the poem that bears his name. It utterly ignores the convenient and profitable virtue known as "duty to one's self" and bases all the other virtues on pity for our fellows, who are not merely our brethren but our very selves. The truly moral man should be able to say with Job:

"I delivered the poor that cried aloud, And the orphan and him that had none to help him; And I gladdened the heart of the widow (ccxlvii.).

I became eyes to the blind, And I was feet unto the lame (ccxlviii.).

If I saw one perish for lack of clothing, Or any of the poor devoid of covering; Then surely did his loins bless me, And he was warmed with the fleece of my sheep (cclxix.).

I have never made gold my hope (cclxxi.).

Never did I rejoice at the ruin of my hater, Nor exult when misery found him out (cclxxiii.).

Did not he that made me in the womb, make him? (cclxvii.)

Did I not weep for him that was in trouble?" (cclix.).

And having accomplished all this without fear of pain,

"Gaze onward without claim to hope, Nor, gazing backward, court regret."

This is the only system of morality deserving that much-abused name; it was preached and to a great extent practised in India by the Jainists and the Buddhists, and for the first time in the Old Testament by the author of our poem.

All the ills and sorrows of life, merited and unmerited alike, Job is prepared for. They are the commonplaces of human existence and as inseparable from it as shadow from light. But what he cannot endure is the thought that his good name, the sole comfort left him in his misery, shall be sacrificed to a theological theory which runs counter to every fact of public history and private experience. This is an injustice which seems to strike at the root of all morality, and he passionately attacks all who uphold it, even though God Himself be of the number. For he has unshaken faith in eternal justice as something independent even of the deity. Its manifestations may be imperceptible and incomprehensible to us, but it governs the universe all the same, and faith in this fact was his lodestar when sun and moon had gone out and the aimless tornado raged around and ghastly horrors issued from the womb of Night. The wicked may prosper and the just man die on a dunghill, scorned by all and seemingly forsaken by God Himself, but it is none the less true that sin and suffering, virtue and reward are fruits of the same tree, one and indivisible. They are the manna the taste of which adapts itself to the eater. Job expresses the conviction, which St. Bernard so aptly formulated when he said: "Nought can harm me but myself;" and it is this conviction that nerves and sustains him in his defiant challenge to the Most High and prompts his appeal to eternal justice against even God Himself:

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