In seminary, I took an elective class on the Old Testament Book Job. Much to my chagrin, I cannot find my folder that contained my notes and the class syllabus. One of the things on Samuel Ballentine, our professor, included was an optional reading list. At the time, it was all I could do to motivate myself to do the required reading. Now, 14 years later, I wish I had that optional reading list. I remember some of the works on it, and I am tackling them as I study Job.
And so, I present these selections and I will add to this list as I come across more works that may be of interest.
The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
This is Solzhenitsyn’s memoir of being arrested and imprisoned in the Soviet Union after World War II. It is long (over 800 pages). And it is graphic (Solzhenitsyn cites 31 different torture methods used interrogations). But it is worth reading because Solzhenitsyn is a good writer and his work absolutely raises the basic question people feel in reading Job – WHY? Why does God allow this suffering?
J.B. by Archibald Macleish
This play was written in the late 1950’s. God and Satan are portrayed as actors who decide to put on a play about the Biblical book of Job. The line between what is dramatic presentation and what is really happening is intentionally obscure. The interplay between the two, both in their direct dialogue and as it plays out in the affairs of Job and his family, is intense and compelling. The play absolutely opens up the characters in Job. However, Satan and Job’s wife have considerably larger roles in this play than in the Biblical account.
The Trial of God by Elie Wiesel
I just started this one. This play is a metaphor of both Job and of the way Nazis arrested and murdered Jews during the Holocaust. The setting for play/metaphor is 19th century Ukraine, where an innkeeper and his daughter are the only Jews left after a murderous pogrom has ravaged the village. Three traveling minstrels come wanting to perform for Jews on the occasion of the Jewish celebration of Purim. They are shocked to learn there are only two Jews in the village, and also to learn that the innkeeper’s personal suffering has led him to forsake God completely. This is a powerful play, but I must alert you that it is not written from a Christian perspective but from a Jewish perspective; more specifically, it is written from the perspective of a Jew who has gone through painful persecution at the hands of Christians. It’s a moving account, but it helps set expectations to know that it is Jewish and not Christian.
The consistent theme among these works and the question that always comes up in studies of Job is WHY? Why, why, why? And faithful to Job, the answer is never easy or obvious. In fact, usually there is no answer to WHY in the face of suffering. Still, why is always asked and it must asked.