Job and the Limits of Wisdom Open Access

Hankins, Charles Davis (2011)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/8336h232w?locale=en
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Abstract

Abstract
Job and the Limits of Wisdom
By
Charles Davis Hankins

That Job poses a "crisis" for Israel's wisdom tradition is a long-held critical consensus. Job's suffering despite his righteousness is thought to challenge the wisdom tradition which, being grounded in retribution, is supposedly unable to imagine either that a righteous person would suffer or that a sufferer would be righteous. Since von Rad's analysis in 1970 the trend has been to emphasize the centrality to the wisdom tradition of the sentences in which the sages spoke of the "limits of (their) wisdom." Yet the idea of wisdom as a rigid system of retribution persists in articulations of the challenge that Job poses to wisdom. The present project discards this demonstrably false idea of wisdom as rigid retribution so as to reassess Job's place in Israel's tradition. Does Job pose any actual problems for wisdom? How could one challenge a tradition that celebrates its limits? I propose that such a crisis can be identified wherever it can be demonstrated that the previous tradition's mode of dealing with its limits has been transformed.

The bulk of the dissertation consists of an exegetical analysis that investigates the nature and function of wisdom and its limits in the book of Job and its tradition. I carry out this analysis with the help of several interdisciplinary resources, especially psychoanalytic and philosophical concepts and categories associated with Jacques Lacan. I reject a number of staid ideas, but the analysis is not simply critical. I dispense with various conventions so as to make room for new frameworks that cast the book's driving issues in new light. In the end I find that the interpretive community has been right that the book of Job poses a crisis for wisdom, but the grounds on which I make my case are quite different. I raise theological and ethical questions throughout that advance toward a final intervention into the enthusiastic (re)turn to character ethics in biblical studies. I contend that this embrace of character ethics may stand as damned as the tradition stands denounced by Job's testimony.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Contents x
List of Figures xv


1 Introduction: Job's Critique of Transcendent Theology 1

1 wisdom, Wisdom, and Wisdom...1
2 "Short-Circuiting" a Convention...8
3 The Content of the Argument...14
4 This Project's Point of Departure...20
5 The Lacanian Real...29
6 The Drive...37
7 Zizek and Job...43


I Job and Wisdom: Tracing the Contours of a Crisis 47


2 Job, Crisis of Wisdom 48

8 Introduction...48
9 Wisdom as a Sapiential Worldview...52

9.1 The Failure to Define the Content of Wisdom...52
9.2 Job and the Crisis of Exile...61

10 Wisdom as a Characteristic Set of Literary Forms...63

10.1 The Failure to Define the Forms of Wisdom...63
10.2 Job and Generic Discontinuity...65

11 From Universal Failure...69
12 ...to a Failure of the Universal...72
13 Job, Crisis of Wisdom...78


3 Job 1-2: A Critique of Pure Fear 87

14 Establishing the Consensus on the Test...87
15 The Object of hassatan's Doubt; or, The Meaning of hinnam...92
16 hassatan's "Copernican Revolution" in Wisdom...94
17 Rereading Job's Pre-afflicted Piety...98
18 The Consensus Account of What Makes the Test Possible...102
19 hassatan's Wager...105
20 Yhwh's Positive Judgment and Curious Characterization...109
21 The Affliction as Job's Symbolic Death...111
22 The nepeš that Survives; Job's Life Between Two Deaths...114
23 hinnam, Once Again...115
24 Wisdom Beyond the Sacrificial Principle...117
25 Job's Non-Verbal Responses; hinnam Embodied...119
26 From Life to Death...121
27 Or, Life Beyond Death...128
28 God's Role in Job's Experience...131
29 Job's Wife and the Deadlock of Desire...134
30 Job's Rejection of Desire, Lodging in Drive...136
31 Looking Ahead: Guilt and Anxiety...140


II The Limits of Wisdom in the Dialogue 143


4 Job 4-5: The Wisdom of Job's Friends 144

32 Cross-Word-Play...144
33 Why Job 4-5?...146
34 Job 4-5: Text and Translation...147
35 A History of Ambiguity in Interpretations of Job 4-5...155
36 A Hermeneutical Impasse...161
37 The Axiology of Retribution...162
38 Job 4:6: A Crack in the Retributive Framework...165
39 The Axiology of Total Culpability...167
40 Job's Friends as Consolers...170
41 Eliphaz's Answer...173
42 5:1-7...175
43 5:8-16...178
44 5:17-27...180
45 The Self and the Subject; A Theoretical Transcoding...184
46 Racine and Lacan; Fear as a Master-Signifier...187
47 Conclusion...190
48 Wisdom Beyond Job 4-5...191

48.1 Bildad...191
48.2 Zophar...194
48.3 The Wisdom Tradition...196


5 "What I Fear Has Come upon Me"; On Fear and Anxiety 198

49 Introduction...198
50 Theories of Job's desire...200
51 There is Fear and Then There is...Fear...207
52 The Friends' Fears; Ethics and Agency...211
53 The Friends' Sublime Hope, Strong Superego...220
54 Why Job Cannot Assume the Friends' Fear...222
55 Job's Experience of Anxiety...224
56 Job's Refutation of the Friends...232
57 God: The Surprising Limit of Wisdom...238
58 Fear and Anxiety in Other Fields...242


6 Job 23: Job's Anxiety in a World of Indefinite Inclusion 248

59 Why Job 23?...248
60 Job 23: Text and Translation...249
61 Introductions: vv.1-2...255
62 The Conditions of Desire: vv.3-5...255
63 The Conditions of Contention: vv.6-9...258
64 From Possibility to Actuality: vv.10-14...263
65 The Presence of God and the Failure to Fear: vv.15-17...266
66 Conclusion: Job's Anxiety, Signal of the Real...269


7 "And This Shall Be My Salvation"; On Guilt and Shame 272

67 Introduction...272
68 Job's Initial, Subtractive Desire...273
69 The Antinomy of Job's Desire...277
70 Job's Desire for Symbolic Mediation...281
70.1 The Imaginary...281
70.2 The Real...285
70.3 The Symbolic...289
71 Ethical Celebrations of Job's Desire for a Third...293
72 The Ethics of Job's Desire, Reconsidered...295
73 Desire and Impossibility...302
74 Shame versus Guilt...310
75 Visible Darkness...316
76 Exposure and Concealment...323
77 Uncontained Exposure...326
78 Addendum: Job's Final Speeches...332


IIIThe Ethics of a Vanishing Mediator 336


8 Job 28: From Metaphor to Metonymy 337

79 Introduction to Job 28...337
80 Job 28: Text and Translation...338
81 Structure and Movement...343
82 Mediation and the Hermeneutics of Mining (vv.1-11)...344
83 Wisdom's Metonymic Displacement (vv.12-19)...348
84 Displacement Displaced (vv.20-27)...355
85 28:28: A Resigned Acceptance of Metonymy?...361
86 Problems with the Metonymic Reading of 28:28...366
87 28:28: The Poem's Capstone Metaphor...369
88 Job 28's Acousmatic Character...372


9 Job 38-41: Aesthetics and the Divine Speeches 379

89 Introduction...379
90 Brief Orientations...380
91 Cosmos and Chaos...383
92 From Cosmos to Chaos?...385
93 A Weak or Less-than-fully Unified Cosmos...388
94 From Hermeneutics to Aesthetics...394
95 The Beautiful and the Sublime...396
96 Job's Sublime Experience...400
97 Job's Experience of Beauty...403
98 Beautiful or Sublime?...407
99 Tragedy and Comedy...409
100 Job's Comic Sequence...417
101 Comedy and the Mathematical Sublime...425


10 Job 42 and Ethics 430

102 Introduction...430
103 The (Re)Turn to Virtue Ethics...431
104 Character Ethics, Wisdom Literature, and the Joban Prologue...436
105 The Dialogue and Character-Based Readings...441
106 42:1-6: Text, Translation, and Structure...445
107 From Recognizing a Transcendent Limit...449
108 ...to Affirming an Immanent Condition...451
109 42:7-17: Job's Turn to Collectivity...454
110 The Double Affirmations of Job and Yhwh...458
111 The Coherent and Consistent Wisdom of Job...459


A Order and Violence 463


Bibliography 472



List of Figures
2.1 The Conjunction of Content and Form...71
2.2 Assymetries in Sapiential Love/Desire...73
4.1 The Congruency Between Habel/Clines and Balentine...161
4.2 Mastery and Meaning...185
4.3 No Ground to Stand Upon...185
4.4 The Interminable Effect...185
5.1 Two Negotiations of Job's Desires...202
5.2 Job as Skeptical Wisdom...237
7.1 Job at the Disjunction of Public and Private Social Life...310
7.2 Darkness, Limiting the Specular Field from Within...322
8.1 Job 28:1-11...344
8.2 Job 28:2...345
8.3 Job 28:1-11 (2)...347
8.4 The Movement of Job 28:15-19...350
8.5 Saussure's Sketch of Linguistic Value...352
8.6 The Elementary Cell of Lacan's Graph of Desire...353
8.7 The Movement of Job 28:15-19 Reconsidered...354
8.8 Wisdom at the Disjunction of God and Creation...358
8.9 The Movement of Job 28 Concluded...362
9.1 Kant's Theory of the Relations among Cognitive Faculties...397
10.1 Job 42:2-6--Enframing and Enframed Parallelisms...447
10.2 Job 42:6--Syntactic Parallels...453

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