Wrap-up of Oct 26 Week 5

Thanks again to Shaye Cohen for taking the time to join us and reflect on some of the issues of the course!  You may be motivated to watch more: viz. his undergraduate course on the Hebrew Bible (link).  It’s also on iTunesU (link) along with a second course on The Hebrew Bible in Judaism and Christianity (link).

Our short discussion of the two answers in Job to the question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” might be summarized in this way:  for the prose envelope: “Congratulations!  You passed the test!  Truly sorry for any inconvenience.  Any qualms about your replacement children should be mitigated by the outstanding beauty of your new daughters.”  And for the poetic section, either “You wouldn’t be able to understand the answer even if I deigned to tell it to you.” or “You think you can make be accountable for my actions?  Get used to it.”

I’ve been nudged to provide a description of how each class session fits into the overall narrative, so here it is for “The Triumph of Monotheism and its Consequences.”  We’ve seen in the biblical text the constant admonition to avoid idolatry.  This strongly suggests that those advocating monolatry (only YHWH may be worshipped) had a hard time of it at first and that it only gradually came to be the norm.  We see the same story for monotheism, with clear statements that other gods are figments of the imaginations of “the nations” coming only after the exile. But that view did prevail and, combined with the traditional understanding that God rewarded the righteous and punished the wicked, left a serious question unanswered: since bad things (which I’ve dubbed “evil”) could only have come from God, why has he chosen to impose them on righteous people as well as on the wicked?  (Tune in next time!)  Addendum: read Ezekiel 18 for a clear exilic statement that reward and punishment are personal, not corporate.

[Don’t overlook the comments to the previous post!  And if you have something to contribute, please respond to those comments or leave a comment on this post!]