Job and Resurrection, Clement on Faith and Works, Christian Edom

1. Roger T. Beckwith, “Formation of the Hebrew Bible,” Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading and Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity, ed. Martin Jan Mulder (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004) 74-75.

“Josephus’ works list the distinguishing tenets of the three great Jewish schools, and rabbinic literature mentions a great many of the points at issue between the Pharisees and Sadducees, but neither source ever suggests that the Sadducees rejected the Prophets and Hagiographa. On the contrary, as Jean Le Moyne points out, one of the later midrashim, the ‘printed Tanhuma’, seems to imply the opposite, stating that[:] The Sadducees deny the resurrection and say, ‘As the cloud disperses and passes away, so he who descends to Sheol shall not come up any more’ (Job 7:9).”

Did Job believe in the resurrection of the dead? One of my professors wrote a paper on this topic. On the “pro” side, Christians have appealed to Job 19:25-26: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God” (NRSV).

Detractors argue, however, that Job is not speaking of resurrection from death, but rather Job’s recovery from his sickness.

On the “anti” side, we have Job 7:9-10 and 14:12:

Job 7:9-10: “As the cloud fades and vanishes, so those who go down to Sheol do not come up; they return no more to their houses, nor do their places know them any more.”

Job 14:12: “so mortals lie down and do not rise again; until the heavens are no more, they will not awake or be roused out of their sleep.”

To demonstrate how proponents of bodily resurrection addressed such passages, let me quote a paper I wrote on Gregory I, the pope of the Roman Catholic Church from 590-604:

“According to Rava, Job denied the resurrection from the dead in Job 7:9, which states, ‘As a cloud fades away, so whatever goes down to Sheol does not come up’ (B.T. Baba Bathra 16a). Gregory equates ‘Sheol’ with hell, so he interprets the verse to mean that the wicked who go to hell will suffer eternally (Moralia VII.17.33-VII.18.34)…A passage in which Job appears to deny the resurrection is Job 14:12: ‘So man lies down never to rise; he will awake only when the heavens are no more, only then be aroused from his sleep.’ Gregory asks if this passage denies the resurrection, and he responds that it does not, for the resurrection will occur after the end of the world, ‘when the heavens are no more’ (Moralia XII.7.11-XII.8.12).”

Gregory’s translation of Job 14:12 appears rather loose, but I can see how he gets something like that from the verse: people will not rise from the dead until the heavens are no more. In Gregory’s view, after the heavens are no more, they will rise.

If Job believed in the resurrection, why his hopelessness about his suffering and the injustice of life? For certain Christian interpreters, maybe he arrived at the resurrection as a solution to his problems.

2. Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume II: Ante-Nicene Christianity (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1910) 394.

Clement of Alexandria (second-third century C.E.), Stromata VI.14: “When we hear, ‘Thy faith hath saved thee’ (Mark 5:34), we do not understand him to say absolutely that those who have believed in any way whatever shall be saved, unless also works follow. But it was to the Jews alone that he spoke this utterance, who kept the law and lived blamelessly, who wanted only faith in the Lord.”

Schaff responds to Clement as follows: “How little he understood the doctrine of Pauline doctrine of justification by faith, may be inferred from a passage in the Stromata, where he explains the word of Christ: ‘Thy faith hath saved thee,’ as referring, not to faith simply, but to the Jews only, who lived according to the law; as if faith was to be added to the good works, instead of being the source and principle of the holy life.”

There are a variety of things that I can say about this. I can understand Schaff’s interpretation of what Clement is saying, but it’s not entirely accurate. I think both believe that good works should flow from faith. Clement explicitly states that good works should follow belief. At the same time, I disagree with Clement if he’s saying that salvation by faith applies only to the Jews. I wonder how he would explain Romans 4:5: “But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.”

Also, was there a sola fide or antinomian camp in the days of Clement? He appears to be addressing something like that. But, on that note, the same may be true of James: “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24).

3. Jacob Neusner, Judaism’s Story of Creation: Scripture, Halakhah, Aggadah (Boston: Brill, 2000) 173.

“So, adhering to its context in post-Constantine, Christian Rome, Genesis is read as if it portrayed the history of Israel and Rome. Why Rome in the form it takes in Genesis Rabbah? And how come the obsessive character of the sages’ disposition of the theme of Rome? Were their picture merely of Rome as tyrant and destroyer of the Temple, we should have no reason to link the text to the problems of the age of redaction and closure. But now it is Rome as Israel’s brother, counterpart, and nemesis, Rome as the one thing standing in the way of Israel’s, and the world’s, ultimate salvation…It is not a political Rome but a Christian and messianic Rome that is at issue: Rome as competitor with and surrogate for Israel, Rome as obstacle to Israel…Rome in the fourth century became Christian. Sages respond by facing that fact squarely and saying, ‘Indeed, it is as you say, a kind of Israel, an heir of Abraham as your texts explicitly claim. But we remain the sole legitimate Israel, the bearer of the birthright–we and not you. So you are our brother: Esau, Ishmael, Edom.'”

This would be something to check out: Does “Edom” always refer to Christian Rome, or could it refer to pagan Rome as well? I assumed that the Jews called Rome “Edom” as a cryptic symbol: they wanted to criticize Rome, but they were too afraid of political retaliation, so they used the name “Edom” whenever they bashed Rome. The problem with this view is that the rabbis could be pretty brazen in their criticisms of Hadrian. In that case, they named names!

I wondered why Jews called Rome by the name of a son of Jacob, and Neusner’s explanation may be correct: they were responding to Christians, who claimed to be the true seed of Abraham. The rabbis responded that they were, in a matter of speaking, but they belonged to the line that got an inferior blessing.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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