The Divine Council at the SBL 2009 Annual Meeting
The Society for Biblical Literature (SBL) is currently holding its annual meeting in New Orleans. The meeting began November 21 and will run to November 24. Abstracts of the many sessions are available online.
Of particular note is F. Rachel Magdalene, University of Leipzig and Humboldt University Berlin, who is presenting Retributive or Restorative Justice: Reading the Nature of God, Justice, and Humanity in the Book of Job on Monday (November 23):
The traditional understanding of the transaction between Yahweh and the Satan in the prologue to the book of Job is that this constitutes a test of Job’s faith, one which the Satan initiates but Yahweh allows as the Satan’s superior. This understanding supports the omnipotence of Yahweh, but raises several other theological questions, as well as a number of literary and legal ones. For instance, this view may well challenge both Yahweh’s omniscience and his omnibeneficience. Moreover, this reading does not readily account for the presence of the dialogues, the plethora of legal metaphors throughout the book, and the distinct nature of the Elihu speeches. This paper will argue that the Satan brings a formal legal charge against Job in the Divine Council with which Yahweh must deal juridically in order to maintain his position as the creator and maintainer of cosmic justice. God does not impose the suffering on Job nor agree with its usefulness. This is the Satan’s claim, and, once it is proven incorrect, Job’s fortunes are reinstated in a manner that does not support the idea of retributive justice, but rather God’s restorative justice. The paper concludes that a reading of the book of Job that is sensitive to the legal materials of the book reveals that the book may well represent a far different theology and theological anthropology than has previously been thought. It may, in fact, disclose a profound divine trust in humanity that foreshadows the atoning work of Christ.
Madgaline (Ph.D. University of Denver and Iliff School of Theology and J.D. University of Colorado School of Law) provides a provocative perspective to the story of Job as seen through the lens of the “divine council.”