the sacred scriptures of Judaism and Christianity. The Christian Bible consists of the Old Testament and the New Testament (qq.v.), with the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox versions of the Old Testament being slightly larger because of their acceptance of certain books and parts of books considered apocryphal by Protestants. The Jewish Bible includes only the books known to Christians as the Old Testament. The arrangements of the Jewish and Christian canons differ considerably. The Protestant and Roman Catholic arrangements more nearly match one another.

Traditionally the Jews have divided their scriptures (i.e., the Old Testament) into three parts: the Torah (the “Law”), or Pentateuch; the Nevi'im (the “Prophets”); and the Ketuvim (the “Writings”), or Hagiographa. The Pentateuch, together with the book of Joshua (hence the name Hexateuch) can be seen as the account of how Israel became a nation and of how it possessed the Promised Land. The division designated as the “Prophets” continues the story of Israel in the Promised Land, describing the establishment and development of the monarchy and presenting the messages of the prophets to the people. The “Writings” include speculation on the place of evil and death in the scheme of things (Job and Ecclesiastes), the poetical works, and some additional historical books.

In the Apocrypha of the Old Testament, various types of literature are represented; the purpose of the Apocrypha seems to have been to fill in some of the gaps left by the indisputably canonical books and to carry the history of Israel to the 2nd century BC.

The New Testament is by far the shorter portion of the Christian Bible, but, through its associations with the spread of Christianity, it has wielded an influence far out of proportion to its modest size. Like the Old Testament, the New Testament is a collection of books, including a variety of early Christian literature. The four Gospels deal with the life, the person, and the teachings of Jesus, as he was remembered by the Christian community. The book of Acts carries the story of Christianity from the Resurrection of Jesus to the end of the career of Paul. The Letters, or Epistles, are correspondence by various leaders of the early Christian church, chief among them the Apostle Paul, applying the message of the church to the sundry needs and problems of early Christian congregations. The Book of Revelation (the Apocalypse) is the only canonical representative of a large genre of apocalyptic literature that appeared in the early Christian movement.

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)






















William Blake

The Book of Job



William Blake

born Nov. 28, 1757, London
died Aug. 12, 1827, London

English poet, painter, engraver, and visionary mystic whose hand-illustrated series of lyrical and epic poems, beginning with Songs of Innocence (1789) and Songs of Experience (1794), form one of the most strikingly original and independent bodies of work in the Western cultural tradition. Blake is now regarded as one of the earliest and greatest figures of Romanticism. Yet he was ignored by the public of his day and was called mad because he was single-minded and unworldly; he lived on the edge of poverty and died in neglect.
Education and early career.

Blake was the second of five children; his father was a hosier. William grew up in London and later described the visionary experiences he had as a child in the surrounding countryside, when he saw angels in a tree at Peckham Rye and the prophet Ezekiel in a field. He wanted to be an artist and in 1767, at age 10, started to attend the drawing school of Henry Pars in the Strand. He educated himself by wide reading and the study of engravings from paintings by the great Renaissance masters. In 1772 he was apprenticed to an engraver, James Basire, who taught him his craft very thoroughly. Basire sent him to make drawings of the sculptures in Westminster Abbey, and thus awakened his interest in Gothic art.

On completion of his apprenticeship in 1779 Blake entered the Royal Academy as an engraving student. His period of study there seems to have been stormy. He took a violent dislike to Sir Joshua Reynolds, then president of the Royal Academy, and felt that his talents were being wasted. While still at the Academy he was earning his living by engraving for publishers and was also producing independent watercolours. At this time his friends included a group of brilliant young artists, among them the sculptor John Flaxman and the painter Thomas Stothard. He also came into contact with the painter Henry Fuseli.

On Aug. 18, 1782, Blake married a poor, illiterate girl, Catherine Boucher, who was to make a perfect companion for him. Flaxman introduced him to the Rev. Anthony S. Mathew and his wife, and for a time Blake was one of the chief attractions at their literary parties. Flaxman and Mathew paid for the printing of a collection of verses by theiryoung friend, Poetical Sketches. By W.B. (1783). A preface provides the information that the verses were written between Blake's 12th and 20th years. This is a remarkable first volume of poetry, and some of the poems contained in ithave a freshness, a purity of vision, and a lyric intensity unequaled in English poetry since the 17th century.

Blake's visits to the Mathews' eventually became less frequent and finally ceased. Nevertheless, in the 1780s he was one of a group of progressive-minded people that met atthe house of Blake's employer, the Radical bookseller Joseph Johnson. In about 1787 he wrote the fragment of a prose fantasy called An Island in the Moon, in which members of this group are satirized. In 1784, after his father's death, Blake started a print shop in London and tookhis younger brother Robert to live with him as assistant and pupil. Early in 1787 Robert fell ill and in February he died; and William, who had nursed him devotedly, later said that he had seen Robert's soul joyfully rising through the ceiling. He also said that Robert had appeared to him in a vision and revealed a method of engraving the text and illustrations of his books without having recourse to a printer. This method was Blake's invention of what he called “illuminated printing,” in which, by a special technique of relief etching, each page of the book was printed in monochrome from an engraved plate containing both text and illustration: an invention foreshadowed by his friend, George Cumberland. The pages were then usually coloured with watercolour or printed in colour by Blake and his wife, bound together in paper covers, and sold for prices ranging from a few shillings to 10 guineas. Most of Blake's works after the Poetical Sketches were engraved and “published” in this way, and so reached only a limited public during his lifetime; today these“illuminated books,” with their dynamic designs and glowingcolours, are among the world's art treasures.

The first books in which Blake made use of his new printing method were two little tracts, There is No Natural Religion and All Religions are One, engraved about 1788. They contain the seeds of practically all the subsequent development of his thought. In them he boldly challenges accepted contemporary theories of the human mind derived from Locke and the prevailing rationalistic-materialistic philosophy and proclaims the superiority of the imagination over other “organs of perception,” since it is the means of perceiving “the Infinite,” or God. Immediately following these tracts came Blake's first masterpieces, in an astonishing outburst of creative activity: Songs of Innocenceand The Book of Thel (both engraved 1789), The French Revolution (1791), The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and Visions of the Daughters of Albion (both engraved 1793), andSongs of Innocence and Experience (1794). The production ofthese works coincided with the outbreak of the French Revolution, of which Blake, like the other members of the group that met at Johnson's shop, was at first an enthusiasticsupporter. Blake significantly differed from other English revolutionaries, however, in his hatred of deism, atheism, and materialism, and his profound, though undogmatic, religious sense.

Songs of Innocence and Experience.

Songs of Innocence is Blake's first masterpiece of “illuminated printing.” In it the fragile and flowerlike beauty of the lyrics harmonizes with the delicacy and rhythmical subtlety of the designs. Songs of Innocence differs radically from the rather derivative pastoral mode of the Poetical Sketches; in the Songs, Blake took as his models the popular street ballads and rhymes for children of his own time, transmuting these forms by his genius into some of thepurest lyric poetry in the English language.

In 1794 he finished a slightly rearranged version of Songs of Innocence with the addition of Songs of Experience; the double collection, in Blake's own words in the subtitle, “shewing the two contrary states of the human soul.” The “two contrary states” are innocence, when the child's imagination has simply the function of completing its own growth; and experience, when it is faced with the world of law, morality, and repression. Songs of Experience provides a kind of ironic answer to Songs of Innocence. The earlier collection's celebration of a beneficent God is countered by the image of him in Experience, in which he becomes the tyrannous God of repression. The key symbol of Innocence isthe Lamb; the corresponding image in Experience is the Tyger, the subject of the famous poem that stands at the peak of Blake's lyrical achievement:

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

The Tyger in this poem is the incarnation of energy, strength,lust, and cruelty, and the tragic dilemma of mankind is poignantly summarized in the final question, “Did he who made the Lamb make thee?” Blake also viewed the larger society, in the form of contemporary London, with agonized doubt in Experience, in contrast to his happy visions of the city in Innocence. The great poem “London” in Experience is an especially powerful indictment of the new “acquisitive society” then coming into being, and the poem's naked simplicity of language is the perfect medium for conveying Blake's anguished vision of a society dominated by money.

Early narrative poems.

Blake was experimenting in narrative as well as lyrical poetry at this time. Tiriel, a first attempt, was never engraved. The Book of Thel, with its lovely flowing designs, is an idyll akin to Songs of Innocence in its flowerlike delicacy and transparency. In Tiriel and The Book of Thel Blake uses for the first time the long unrhymed line of 14 syllables, which was to become the staple metre of his narrative poetry. The fragment called The French Revolution is a heroic attempt to make epic poetry out of contemporary history. In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell satire, prophecy,humour, poetry, and philosophy are mingled in a way that has few parallels. Written mainly in terse, sinewy prose, it may be described as a satire on institutional religion and conventional morality. In it Blake defines the ideal use of sensuality: “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.” Blake reverses the tenets of conventional Christianity, equating the good with reason and repression and regarding evil as the natural expression of a fundamental psychic energy. The book includes a famous criticism of Milton and the “Proverbs of Hell,” 70 pithy aphorisms that are notable for their praise of heroic energy and their sense of creative vitality. The Marriage culminates in the “Song of Liberty,” a hymn of faithin revolution, ending with the affirmation that “everything that lives is Holy.” In Visions of the Daughters of Albion Blake develops the theme of sexual freedom suggested in several of the Songs of Experience. The central figure in the poem, Oothoon, finds that she has attained to a new purity through sexual delight and regeneration. In this poem the repressive god of abstract morality is first called Urizen.


All Blake's works of the revolutionary period were produced at a house in Soho in London, where he and his wife went to live shortly after Robert's death. In 1793 they moved south of the Thames to Lambeth. They lived there for seven years, and this, the period of Blake's greatest worldly prosperity, was also that of his deepest spiritual uncertainty. Blake's poetry of this period appears in the so-called “Prophetic books”: America, A Prophecy (1793), Europe, A Prophecy (1794), The Book of Urizen (1794), and The Book of Ahania, The Book of Los, and The Song of Los (all 1795). In these works Blake elaborates a series of cosmic myths and epics through which he sets forth a complex and intricate philosophical scheme. A principal symbolic figure in these books is Urizen, a spurned and outcast immortal who embodies both Jehovah and the forces of reason and law thatBlake viewed as restricting and suppressing the natural energies of the human soul.

The Prophetic books describe a series of epic battles fought out in the cosmos, in history, and in the human soul, betweenentities symbolizing the conflicting forces of reason (Urizen),imagination (Los), and the spirit of rebellion (Orc). America, illustrated with brilliantly coloured designs, is a powerful short narrative poem giving a visionary interpretation of the American Revolution as the uprising of Orc, the spirit of rebellion. Europe shows the coming of Christ and the French Revolution of the late 18th century as part of the same manifestation of the spirit of rebellion. The Book of Urizen is Blake's version—or parody—of the biblical Book of Genesis. Here the Creator is not a beneficent, righteous Jehovah, but Urizen, a “dark power” whose rebellion against the primeval unity leads to his entrapment in the material world. The poetry of The Book of Urizen, written in short unrhymed lines of three accents, has a gloomy power, but is inferior in effect to the magnificent accompanying designs, which have an energy and monumental grandeur anticipating the quality ofthose of Jerusalem, Blake's most splendid illuminated book. Blake's saga of myths is continued in The Book of Ahania, a kind of Exodus following the Genesis of Urizen, and in The Book of Los. In The Song of Los Blake returns to the cosmic theme and brings the story of humanity down to his own time. By this time Blake seems to have reached his spiritual nadir, and his poetry peters out in the last of the Prophetic books. He had lost faith in the French Revolution as an apocalyptic and regenerating force, and was finding his attempt at a synthesis based on the “contraries” of good andevil inadequate as an answer to the complexities of human existence.

Major epics.

With The Song of Los the experimental period of his poetic career ended: he engraved no more books for nearly 10 years. In 1795 he had been commissioned by a bookseller to make designs for an edition of Edward Young's Night Thoughts. He worked on this until 1797, producing 537 watercolour drawings. It seems to have been while he was working on these illustrations that a fresh creative impulse led to the beginning of his first full-scale epic poem. The first draft of the epic, called Vala, was begun in 1795. He worked on it for about nine years, during which period he rewrote it under the title of The Four Zoas, but never engraved it. It remains a magnificent torso, but the quality of this work's poetry and its thought are obscured by its overly complicated mythological scheme. In spite of the grandeur of individual passages and of the major conception, The FourZoas remains fragmentary and lacking in coherence. It provided the materials out of which Blake constructed his later epics, Milton and Jerusalem.

In 1800, at the invitation of William Hayley, a Sussex squire, Blake and his wife went to live in a cottage provided by Hayley at Felpham on the Sussex coast. This well-meaning, obtuse dilettante, who had employed Blake to make engravings, regarded his imaginative works with contempt and tried to turn him into a miniature painter and tame poet on his estate. At first Blake was delighted with life in Sussex, but he soon found the patronizing Hayley intolerable. The cottage was damp and Mrs. Blake's health suffered, and in 1803 the Blakes returned to London. Toward the end of his stay at Felpham, Blake was accused by a soldier called Schofield of having uttered seditious words when he had ejected him from his cottage garden. He was tried at the quarter sessions at Chichester, denied the charges, and was acquitted. Hayley gave bail for Blake and employed counsel to defend him. This experience became part of the mythology underlying Jerusalem and Milton.

It was also probably at Felpham that Blake wrote the most notable of his later lyrical poems, including “Auguries of Innocence,” with its memorable opening stanza:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

It was at Felpham, too, that he wrote some of his finest letters, many of them addressed to Thomas Butts, a government clerk who was for years a generous and loyal supporter and patron of Blake and who commissioned almost his total output of paintings and watercolours at this period.

In 1804–08 Blake engraved Milton. This poem is a comparatively brief epic which deals with a contest between the hero (Milton) and Satan; it too is couched in the propheticgrandeur and obscurity of Blake's invented mythology. Milton's struggle with evil in the poem is a reflection of Blake's own conflicts with the domineering patronage of William Hayley.

Jerusalem is Blake's third major epic and his longest poem. Begun about 1804, and written and engraved soon after the completion of Milton, it is also the most richly decorated of Blake's illuminated books, and only a few of its 100 plates are without illustration. Although the details are complex and present many difficulties, the poem's main outlines are simple. At the opening of the poem the giant Albion (who represents both England and humanity) is shown plunged into the “Sleep of Ulro,” or the hell of abstract materialism. The core of the poem describes his awakening and regeneration through the agency of Los, the archetypal craftsman or creative man. The poem's consummation is the reunion of Albion with Jerusalem (his lost soul) and with God through his acceptance of Jesus' doctrine of universal brotherhood.

Last years.

Blake's life during the period from 1803 to about 1820 was one of worldly failure. He found it difficult to get work, and the engravings that can be identified as his from this period are often hack jobs. In 1809 he made a last effort to put his work before the public and held an exhibition of 16 paintings and watercolour drawings. He wrote a thoughtful Descriptive Catalogue for the exhibition, but only a few people attended.But after this long period of obscurity, Blake found in 1819 anew and generous patron in the painter John Linnell, who introduced him to a group of young artists among whom was Samuel Palmer. In his last years Blake became the centre ofthis group, whose members shared Blake's religious seriousness and revered him as their master.

The most notable poetry Blake wrote after Jerusalem is to be found in The Everlasting Gospel (1818?), a fragmentary and unfinished work containing a challenging reinterpretation of the character and teaching of Christ. But Blake's last years were devoted mainly to pictorial art. In 1821 Linnell commissioned him to make a series of 22 watercolours inspired by the Book of Job; these include someof his best known pictures. Linnell also commissioned Blake's designs for Dante's Divine Comedy, begun in 1825 and left unfinished at his death. These consist of 102 watercolours notable for their brilliant colour. Blake thus found in his 60s a following and support for the imaginative work he had longed to do all his life. As a result, it was in his last years that he produced his most technically assured andbeautiful designs. Toward the end of his life Blake still coloured copies of his books while resting in bed, and that is how he died in a room off the Strand in his 70th year. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Bunhill Fields.

Pictorial work.

In his painting, as in his poetry, Blake seemed to most of his contemporaries to be completely out of the artistic mainstream of their time. But his paintings belong to a recognizable artistic tradition, that of English figurative painting of the later 18th century. Blake was initially influenced by the engravings he studied of the works of Michelangelo and Raphael. He then became deeply impressed with the work of such contemporary figurative painters as James Barry, John Mortimer, and Henry Fuseli, who, like Blake, depicted dramatically posed nude figures with strongly rhythmic, linear contours. Fuseli's extravagant pictorial fantasies in particular freed Blake to distort his figures to express his inner vision.

Throughout his life Blake stressed the preeminence of line, or drawing, over colour, commending the “hard wirey line of rectitude.” He condemned everything that he felt made painting indefinite in contour, such as painterly brushwork and shadowing. Finally, Blake stressed the primacy of art created from the imagination over that drawn from the observation of nature.

The figures in Blake's many prints and watercolour and tempera paintings are notable for the rhythmic vitality of their undulating contours, the monumental simplicity of theirstylized forms, and the dramatic effectiveness and originality of their gestures. Blake's favourite subjects wereepisodes from the Bible, along with episodes found in the works of Milton and Dante. He also showed himself a daring and unusually subtle colourist in many of his works. His illustrations for the Book of Job were done late in life, and they mark the summit of his achievement in the visual arts.

Encyclopedia Britannica



book of Hebrew scripture that is often counted among the masterpieces of world literature. It is found in the third section of the biblical canon known as the Ketuvim (“Writings”). The book's theme is the eternal problem of unmerited suffering, and it is named after its central character, Job, who attempts to understand the sufferings that engulf him.

The Book of Job may be divided into two sections of prose narrative, consisting of a prologue (chapters 1–2) and an epilogue (chapter 42:7–17), and intervening poetic disputation (chapters 3–42:6). The prose narratives date to before the 6th century BCE, and the poetry has been dated between the 6th and the 4th century BCE. Chapters 28 and 32–37 were probably later additions.

The Book of Job's artful construction accounts for much of its impact. The poetic disputations are set within the prose framework of an ancient legend that originated outside Israel. This legend concerns Job, a prosperous man of outstanding piety. Satan acts as an agent provocateur to test whether or not Job's piety is rooted merely in his prosperity. But faced with the appalling loss of his possessions, his children, and finally his own health, Job still refuses to curse God. Three of his friends then arrive to comfort him, and at this point the poetic dialogue begins. Thepoetic discourses—which probe the meaning of Job's sufferings and the manner in which he should respond—consist of three cycles of speeches that contain Job's disputes with his three friends and his conversations with God. Job proclaims his innocence and the injustice of hissuffering, while his “comforters” argue that Job is being punished for his sins. Job, convinced of his faithfulness and uprighteousness, is not satisfied with this explanation. The conversation between Job and God resolves the dramatic tension—but without solving the problem of undeserved suffering. The speeches evoke Job's trust in the purposeful activity of God in the affairs of the world, even though God's ways with man remain mysterious and inscrutable.

Encyclopedia Britannica


Introduction to THE BOOK OF JOB

"Man is most comforted by paradoxes."

by G.K. Chesterton

The book of Job is among the other Old Testament books both a philosophical riddle and a historical riddle. It is the philosophical riddle that concerns us in such an introduction as this; so we may dismiss first the few words of general explanation or warning which should be said about the historical aspect. Controversy has long raged about which parts of this epic belong to its original scheme and which are interpolations of considerably later date. The doctors disagree, as it is the business of doctors to do; but upon the whole the trend of investigation has always been in the direction of maintaining that the parts interpolated, if any, were the prose prologue and epilogue, and possibly the speech of the young man who comes in with an apology at the end. I do not profess to be competent to decide such questions.

But whatever decision the reader may come to concerning them, there is a general truth to be remembered in this connection. When you deal with any ancient artistic creation, do not suppose that it is anything against it that it grew gradually. The book of Job may have grown gradually just as Westminster Abbey grew gradually. But the people who made the old folk poetry, like the people who made Westminster Abbey, did not attach that importance to the actual date and the actual author, that importance which is entirely the creation of the almost insane individualism of modern times. We may put aside the case of Job, as one complicated with religious difficulties, and take any other, say the case of the Iliad. Many people have maintained the characteristic formula of modern skepticism, that Homer was not written by Homer, but by another person of the same name. Just in the same way many have maintained that Moses was not Moses but another person called Moses. But the thing really to be remembered in the matter of the Iliad is that if other people did interpolate the passages, the thing did not create the same sense of shock as would be created by such proceedings in these individualistic times. The creation of the tribal epic was to some extent regarded as a tribal work, like the building of the tribal temple. Believe then, if you will, that the prologue of Job and the epilogue and the speech of Elihu are things inserted after the original work was composed. But do not suppose that such insertions have that obvious and spurious character which would belong to any insertions in a modern, individualistic book . . .


Without going into questions of unity as understood by the scholars, we may say of the scholarly riddle that the book has unity in the sense that all great traditional creations have unity; in the sense that Canterbury Cathedral has unity. And the same is broadly true of what I have called the philosophical riddle. There is a real sense in which the book of Job stands apart from most of the books included in the canon of the Old Testament. But here again those are wrong who insist on the entire absence of unity. Those are wrong who maintain that the Old Testament is a mere loose library; that it has no consistency or aim. Whether the result was achieved by some supernal sprirtual truth, or by a steady national tradition, or merely by an ingenious selection in aftertimes, the books of the Old Testament have a quite perceptible unity. . .

The central idea of the great part of the Old Testament may be called the idea of the loneliness of God. God is not the only chief character of the Old Testament; God is properly the only character in the Old Testament. Compared with His clearness of purpose, all the other wills are heavy and automatic, like those of animals; compared with His actuality, all the sons of flesh are shadows. Again and again the note is struck, "With whom hath He taken counsel?" (Isa. 40:14). "I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the peoples there was no man with me" (Isa. 63:3). All the patriarchs and prophets are merely His tools or weapons; for the Lord is a man of war. He uses Joshua like an axe or Moses like a measuring rod. For Him, Samson, is only a sword and Isaiah a trumpet. The saints of Christianity are supposed to be like God, to be, as it were, little statuettes of Him. The Old Testament hero is no more supposed to be of the same nature as God than a saw or a hammer is supposed to be of the same shape as the carpenter. This is the main key and characteristic of Hebrew scriptures as a whole. There are, indeed, in those scriptures innumerable instances of the sort of rugged humor, keen emotion, and powerful individuality which is never wanting in great primitive prose and poetry. Nevertheless the main characteristic remains: the sense not merely that God is stronger than man, not merely that God is more secret than man, but that He means more, that He knows better what He is doing, that compared with Him we have something of the vagueness, the unreason, and the vagrancy of the beasts that perish. "It is He that sitteth above the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers" (Isa.40:22). We might almost put it thus. The book is so intent upon asserting the personality of God that it almost asserts the impersonality of man. Unless this gigantic cosmic brain has conceived a thing, that thing is insecure and void; man has not enough tenacity to ensure its continuance. "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain" (Ps. 127:1).

Everywhere else, then, the Old Testament positively rejoices in the obliteration of man in comparison with the divine purpose. The book of Job stands definitely alone because the book of Job definitely asks, "But what is the purpose of God? Is it worth the sacrifice even of our miserable humanity? Of course, it is easy enough to wipe out our own paltry wills for the sake of a will that is grander and kinder. But is it grander and kinder? Let God use His tools; let God break His tools. But what is He doing, and what are they being broken for?" It is because of this question that we have to attack as a philosophical riddle the riddle of the book of Job.

The present importance of the book of Job cannot be expressed adequately even by saying that it is the most interesting of ancient books. We may almost say of the book of Job that it is the most interesting of modern books. In truth, of course, neither of the two phrases covers the matter, because fundamental human religion and fundamental human irreligion are both at once old and new; philosophy is either eternal or it is not philosophy. The modern habit of saying"This is my opinion, but I may be wrong" is entirely irrational. If I say that it may be wrong, I say that is not my opinion. The modern habit of saying "Every man has a different philosophy; this is my philosophy and it suits me" - the habit of saying this is mere weak-mindedness. A cosmic philosophy is not constructed to fit a man; a cosmic philosophy is constructed to fit a cosmos. A man can no more possess a private religion than he can possess a private sun and moon.

The first of the intellectual beauties of the book of Job is that it is all concerned with this desire to know the actuality; the desire to know what is, and not merely what seems. If moderns were writing the book, we should probably find that Job and his comforters got on quite well together by the simple operation of referring their differences to what is called the temperament, saying that the comforters were by nature "optimists" and Job by nature a "pessimist." And they would be quite comfortable, as people can often be, for some time at least, by agreeing to say what is obviously untrue. For if the word "pessimist" means anything at all, then emphatically Job is not a pessimist. His case alone is sufficient to refute the modern absurdity of referring everything to physical temperament. Job does not in any sense look at life in a gloomy way. If wishing to be happy and being quite ready to be happy constitutes an optimist, Job is an optimist. He is a perplexed optimist; he is an exasperated optimist; he is an outraged and insulted optimist. He wishes the universe to justify itself, not because he wishes it be caught out, but because he really wishes it be justified. He demands an explanation from God, but he does not do it at all in the spirit in which [John] Hampden might demand an explanation from Charles I. He does it in the spirit in which a wife might demand an explanation from her husband whom she really respected. He remonstrates with his Maker because he is proud of his Maker. He even speaks of the Almighty as his enemy, but he never doubts, at the back of his mind, that his enemy has some kind of a case which he does not understand. In a fine and famous blasphemy he says, "Oh, that mine adversary had written a book!" (31:35). It never really occurs to him that it could possibly be a bad book. He is anxious to be convinced, that is, he thinks that God could convince him. In short, we may say again that if the word optimist means anything (which I doubt), Job is an optimist. He shakes the pillars of the world and strikes insanely at the heavens; he lashes the stars, but it is not to silence them; it is to make them speak.

In the same way we may speak of the official optimists, the comforters of Job. Again, if the word pessimist means anything (which I doubt), the comforters of Job may be called pessimists rather than optimists. All that they really believe is not that God is good but that God is so strong that it is much more judicious to call Him good. It would be the exaggeration of censure to call them evolutionists; but they have something of the vital error of the evolutionary optimist. They will keep on saying that everything in the universe fits into everything else; as if there were anything comforting about a number of nasty things all fitting into each other. We shall see later how God in the great climax of the poem turns this particular argument altogether upside down.

When, at the end of the poem, God enters (somewhat abruptly), is struck the sudden and splendid note which makes the thing as great as it is. All the human beings through the story, and Job especially, have been asking questions of God. A more trivial poet would have made God enter in some sense or other in order to answer the questions. By a touch truly to be called inspired, when God enters, it is to ask a number more question on His own account. In this drama of skepticism God Himself takes up the role of skeptic. He does what all the great voices defending religion have always done. He does, for instance, what Socrates did. He turns rationalism against itself. He seems to say that if it comes to asking questions, He can ask some question which will fling down and flatten out all conceivable human questioners. The poet by an exquisite intuition has made God ironically accept a kind of controversial equality with His accusers. He is willing to regard it as if it were a fair intellectual duel: "Gird up now thy loins like man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me" (38:3). The everlasting adopts an enormous and sardonic humility. He is quite willing to be prosecuted. He only asks for the right which every prosecuted person possesses; he asks to be allowed to cross-examine the witness for the prosecution. And He carries yet further the corrections of the legal parallel. For the first question, essentially speaking, which He asks of Job is the question that any criminal accused by Job would be most entitled to ask. He asks Job who he is. And Job, being a man of candid intellect, takes a little time to consider, and comes to the conclusion that he does not know.

This is the first great fact to notice about the speech of God, which is the culmination of the inquiry. It represents all human skeptics routed by a higher skepticism. It is this method, used sometimes by supreme and sometimes by mediocre minds, that has ever since been the logical weapon of the true mystic. Socrates, as I have said, used it when he showed that if you only allowed him enough sophistry he could destroy all sophists. Jesus Christ used it when he reminded the Sadducees, who could not imagine the nature of marriage in heaven, that if it came to that they had not really imagined the nature of marriage at all. In the break up of Christian theology in the eighteenth century, [Joseph] Butler used it, when he pointed out that rationalistic arguments could be used as much against vague religions as against doctrinal religion, as much against rationalist ethics as against Christian ethics. It is the root and reason of the fact that men who have religious faith have also philosophic doubt. These are the small streams of the delta; the book of Job is the first great cataract that creates the river. In dealing with the arrogant asserter of doubt, it is not the right method to tell him to stop doubting. It is rather the right method to tell him to go on doubting , to doubt a little more, to doubt every day newer and wilder things in the universe, until at last, by some strange enlightenment, he may begin to doubt himself.

This, I say, is the first fact touching the speech; the fine inspiration by which God comes in at the end, not to answer riddles, but to propound them. The other great fact which, taken together with this one, makes the whole work religious instead of merely philosophical is that other great surprise which makes Job suddenly satisfied with the mere presentation of something impenetrable. Verbally speaking the enigmas of Jehovah seem darker and more desolate than the enigmas of Job; yet Job was comfortless before the speech of Jehovah and is comforted after it. He has been told nothing, but he feels the terrible and tingling atmosphere of something which is too good to be told. The refusal of God to explain His design is itself a burning hint of His design. The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.

Thirdly, of course, it is one of the splendid strokes that God rebukes alike the man who accused and the men who defended Him; that He knocks down pessimists and optimists with the same hammer. And it is in connection with the mechanical and supercilious comforters of Job that there occurs the still deeper and finer inversion of which I have spoken. The mechanical optimist endeavors to justify the universe avowedly upon the ground that it is a rational and consecutive pattern. He points out that the fine thing about the world is that it can all be explained. That is the one point, if I may put it so, on which God, in return, is explicit to the point of violence. God says, in effect, that if there is one fine thing about the world, as far as men are concerned, it is that it cannot be explained. He insists on the inexplicableness of everything. "Hath the rain a father?. . .Out of whose womb came the ice?" (38:28f). He goes farther, and insists on the positive and palpable unreason of things; "Hast thou sent the rain upon the desert where no man is, and upon the wilderness wherein there is no man?" (38:26). God will make man see things, if it is only against the black background of nonentity. God will make Job see a startling universe if He can only do it by making Job see an idiotic universe. To startle man, God becomes for an instant a blasphemer; one might almost say that God becomes for an instant an atheist. He unrolls before Job a long panorama of created things, the horse, the eagle, the raven, the wild ass, the peacock, the ostrich, the crocodile. He so describes each of them that it sounds like a monster walking in the sun. The whole is a sort of psalm or rhapsody of the sense of wonder. The maker of all things is astonished at the things he has Himself made.

This we may call the third point. Job puts forward a note of interrogation; God answers with a note of exclamation. Instead of proving to Job that it is an explicable world, He insists that it is a much stranger world than Job ever thought it was. Lastly, the poet has achieved in this speech, with that unconscious artistic accuracy found in so many of the simpler epics, another and much more delicate thing. Without once relaxing the rigid impenetrability of Jehovah in His deliberate declaration, he has contrived to let fall here and there in the metaphors, in the parenthetical imagery, sudden and splendid suggestions that the secret of God is a bright and not a sad one - semi-accidental suggestions, like light seen for an instant through the crack of a closed door.

It would be difficult to praise too highly, in a purely poetical sense, the instinctive exactitude and ease with which these more optimistic insinuations are let fall in other connections, as if the Almighty Himself were scarcely aware that He was letting them out. For instance, there is that famous passage where Jehovah, with devastating sarcasm, asks Job where he was when the foundations of the world were laid, and then (as if merely fixing a date) mentions the time when the sons of God shouted for joy (38:4-7). One cannot help feeling, even upon this meager information, that they must have had something to shout about. Or again, when God is speaking of snow and hail in the mere catalogue of the physical cosmos, he speaks of them as a treasury that He has laid up against the day of battle - a hint of some huge Armageddon in which evil shall be at last overthrown.

Nothing could be better, artistically speaking, than this optimism breaking though agnosticism like fiery gold round the edges of a black cloud. Those who look superficially at the barbaric origin of the epic may think it fanciful to read so much artistic significance into its casual similes or accidental phrases. But no one who is well acquainted with great examples of semi-barbaric poetry, as in The Song of Roland or the old ballads, will fall into this mistake. No one who knows what primitive poetry is can fail to realize that while its conscious form is simple some of its finer effects are subtle. The Iliad contrives to express the idea that Hector and Sarpedon have a certain tone or tint of sad and chivalrous resignation, not bitter enough to be called pessimism and not jovial enough to be called optimism; Homer could never have said this in elaborate words. But somehow he contrives to say it in simple words. The Song of Roland contrives to express the idea that Christianity imposes upon its heroes a paradox; a paradox of great humility in the matter of their sins combined with great ferocity in the matter of their ideas. Of course The Song of Roland could not say this; but it conveys this. In the same way, the book of Job must be credited with many subtle effects which were in the author's soul without being, perhaps, in the author's mind. And of these by far the most important remains to be stated.

I do not know, and I doubt whether even scholars know, if the book of Job had a great effect or had any effect upon the after development of Jewish thought. But if it did have any effect it may have saved them from an enormous collapse and decay. Here in this book the question is really asked whether God invariably punishes vice with terrestrial punishment and rewards virtue with terrestrial prosperity. If the Jews had answered that question wrongly they might have lost all their after influence in human history. They might have sunk even down to the level of modern well-educated society. For when once people have begun to believe that prosperity is the reward of virtue, their next calamity is obvious. If prosperity is regarded as the reward of virtue it will be regarded as the symptom of virtue. Men will leave off the heavy task of making good men successful. The will adopt the easier task of making out successful men good. This, which has happened throughout modern commerce and journalism, is the ultimate Nemesis of the wicked optimism of the comforters of Job. If the Jews could be saved from it, the book of Job saved them.

The book of Job is chiefly remarkable, as I have insisted throughout, for the fact that it does not end in a way that is conventionally satisfactory. Job is not told that his misfortunes were due to his sins or a part of any plan for his improvement. But in the prologue we see Job tormented not because he was the worst of men, but because he was the best. It is the lesson of the whole work that man is most comforted by paradoxes. Here is the very darkest and strangest of the paradoxes; and it is by all human testimony the most reassuring. I need not suggest what high and strange history awaited this paradox of the best man in the worst fortune. I need not say that in the freest and most philosophical sense there is one Old Testament figure who is truly a type; or say what is prefigured in the wounds of Job.

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