Archive for June, 2008

It is probably not wise to interpret the book of Job until one has clawed his way to sympathy for Job’s companions. Contrary to much glib exposition, they are not straw men.

If, in the end, they turn out to be fools, it is not because they did not have their claws into worthy wisdom but rather because they had lost the personalistic context in which such wisdom longs to sink its roots. To paraphrase Martin Buber, they exercised formidable mastery over the content of a conversation but were tone deaf to the I-Thou relationship that should have linked the participants. (more…)


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The symmetrical certainties of Job’s companions sound merely insipid in the light of the man’s unexplainable pain. Job recognizes the tattered, commonplace worthlessness of their regurgitated wisdom:

Who does not know such things as these?

It seems that Job does not so much question the validity of received wisdom as he does its absolute utility. Such convention explains many things, Job, might allow. But it does not interpret these boils. (more…)

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Job’s bitter audacity in challenging God’s ways is perhaps matched only by his ironic familiarity with biblical traditions that place the deity in a more favorable light.

Scholars debate the degree to which the author of the book of Job is interacting with actual biblical texts. Regardless, he knows intimately the traditions that have nourished those texts and deploys his verbal expertise to stand them on their head. (more…)

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It is facile, conventional, and mostly true to consider the Bible a life-affirming book. Like any simple description of complex reality, it is also reductionistic. (more…)

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This review comes from a certified non-handy guy with minimal practical skills. I was fortunate enough a year ago to discover a fine window guy. As a result, we have excellent Pella window replacements in our 1930 Indiana home.

I bought this book to help me with next steps: specifically, what do do about our crumbling main entrance way and our on-again, off-again internal doors. It all has charm, you understand. The problem is it only works half the time. (more…)

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Tucker leaves us

Tucker left us this week just as he came and just as he lived with us: completely trusting our judgment, celebrating our company, gratefully accompanying us wherever we led him.

The trend line of his cancer tilted downward at a deeper angle in these last weeks. Though he seemed as happy and almost as energetic as ever, the losing battle to keep his face and our home clean from the massive tumor’s debris taxed him and us. We lit scented candles against the odor of death. It became harder and harder to cuddle him. He seemed to protect us from the affected side of his face, but his suffering was palpable and things were not going to improve. (more…)

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Some find the violent pedigree of the Purim celebration distasteful. In a day that has seen too many religious massacres, it hardly seems right to gather with family and friends on the anniversary of an ancient one, when according to the book of Esther the Jews of the Persian diaspora brought vengeance down on those who had planned to destroy them.

To this reader, such moral sensitivity seems too finely tuned. (more…)

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In the face of Esther’s passivity when informed of her people’s peril, her uncle Mordechai has strong words. Considerable heat might well have surged as he dictated his response to his courtly adoptive niece:

Then Esther spoke to Hathach and gave him a message for Mordecai, saying, ‘All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—all alike are to be put to death. Only if the king holds out the golden scepter to someone, may that person live. I myself have not been called to come in to the king for thirty days.’ When they told Mordecai what Esther had said, Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, ‘Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.’ Then Esther said in reply to Mordecai, ‘Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.’

At the risk of caricature, the book of Esther is in particular ways representative of the history of the Jewish people. Disproportionate achievement, access to the halls of influence, and acute peril comingle in this people as a constant that is persistent against the turn of generations and the shifting of circumstance. (more…)

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It is difficult to impede the forward motion of men and women who find their honor in being dishonored for their cause. This is as true of people whose lives have been enobled by an admirable vocation as it is of those perhaps more obvious cases where the most pernicious of campaigns are carried forward by pathetic addicts to the sensation of other people’s hatred. (more…)

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No rigid insistence on independence gathers the entirety of the biblical witness under its stern gaze. The Jews have at times known how to thrive as imperial subjects. A similar tolerance for political dependence characterizes the New Testament documents. (more…)

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