The Trial of Job

I’ve just finished reading The Trial of Job by they very busy Father Patrick Reardon, pastor of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Senior Editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, author of Touchstone’s online Daily Reflections with Patrick Henry Reardon, contributor to the Touchstone blog Mere Comments, and author of Christ in the Psalms and Christ in His Saints. After all my reading of the book of Job, and especially all the reading about the book of Job, I can honestly say that this is the best book that I have ever read on Job.

This is not a detailed commentary, as the subtitle clarifies: Orthodox Christian Reflections on The Book of Job. This is a small book. Nine pages of introduction open onto the body of the text, giving roughly a page and a half to each chapter of Job, ending with page 104. Father Reardon does refer to both the Hebrew and Greek trextual traditions of Job on occasion, but not in an overly simplified or incorrect manner, as is the case of so many short works such as this. Regardless, these parsimoniously proferred pages pack a punch. Father Reardon has managed for me what numerous other scrupulously, eruditidically detailed academic commentators have all and always failed at: a clearer picture of the book of Job itself, its structure, its characters, and the overall message(s) of the book.

I don’t wish to give it all away in going into details, but will share perhaps the most strikingly useful suggestion that Father Reardon makes regarding the characters of Job’s three would-be comforters. Each presents a form of ancient Near Eastern wisdom in his responses to Job, and each is of lesser value than its predecessor. First, Eliphaz the Temanite, (re)presents a wisdom born in personal spiritual experience. Second, Bildad the Shuhite (re)presents a wisdom with its basis in tradition, passed down through the ages. Third, Zophar the Naamathite (re)presents a wisdom which is simply unmeditated bias. “That is the line of declination: real vision, accepted teaching, blind prejudice” (p. 26).

I recommend this little book for anyone who is puzzled or daunted by the Book of Job. My copy was sent to me gratis upon subscribing to Touchstone, which is, of course, a very fine magazine.