Interpreters have often struggled to account for the way in which the author of James employs the figure of Job as an example of
In Jas 5:11, the author of the letter presents the figure of Job as a worthy example for emulation. “You have heard of the endurance (
2 Antecedent Traditions
It has become a commonplace in Jamesian scholarship to highlight the incongruity between the supposed “patience of Job” (from the infamous KJV translation) and the depiction of the Job in the Old Testament book that bears his name. David deSilva’s comments, for example, are typical in this respect:
The canonical book of Job does not present a protagonist who is a paragon of endurance. In striking contrast to James’s recollection of Job’s example, the canonical Job rejects endurance or an attitude of patience, denying that he has either the strength or the knowledge of the “end” (the advantageous or profitable outcome) that enables endurance: “What is my strength, such that I should wait? And what is my end, that I should be patient?” (Job 6:11; in the LXX translation, “that I should endure [
While James’ Job is known solely for his
The incongruity between the Letter of James and the book of Job has been traced back to an incongruity within the book of Job itself. The “patient Job” of the prologue (chs. 1–2) is often contrasted with the aggravated, near-blasphemous Job of the poetic cycles. Because of this, several scholars consider the book’s poetry and prose sections to represent two different “strata” within the work, presenting two divergent and irreconcilable portrayals of its main character.3 It is reasoned then that James’ characterisation of Job must not be dependent upon the book of Job itself, but on the “patient” stratum of Joban tradition, as represented in Aristeas the Exegete and the Testament of Job. Since Aristeas and the Testament both clearly rely on a Greek version of the book of Job, it is difficult to map the diachronic development of the patient/impatient strata within the nexus of these Joban traditions. And since various traditions grew up and were (seemingly) transmitted alongside the Greek and Hebrew versions, it is plausible that the “patient stratum” could have continued on as a tradition in its own right, remaining a salient description of the life of Job that would help inform later reworkings of Job’s story in the Hellenistic period.
Scholars that accept (or assume) this kind of hypothetical reconstruction of Joban tradition tend to single out the Testament of Job as a particularly worthy antecedent to James’ Job.4 In the Testament
However, studies that focus precisely on the source-critical question between James and the Testament of Job have not shared the same optimism.9 Patrick Gray, in his extensive linguistic and thematic analysis of the two documents, conceded that “despite impressive family resemblance in terms of theme and language,” there is “not adequate evidence to prove beyond all doubt” that James displays literary dependence upon the Testament.10 Spitta,11 Schaller,12 and Gray each highlight a number of linguistic parallels between the Testament and James (see Table 1).13 While there are some interesting correspondences here, a sizable number of linguistic parallels between the Testament and the rest of the New Testament can also be evinced (see Table 2).14
The purported New Testament parallels are of the same character as those advanced between the Testament and the Letter of James, meaning that if one judges the Jamesian parallels to be convincing, there is little reason why the other New Testament parallels should be rejected. This would then lead to a thesis in which the Testament is seen as dependent upon an emerging New Testament canon, rather than James’ dependence on the Testament alone. As it stands, enumerating intertextual connections has so far failed to establish the literary origins of the Testament, and thus dating the work has proved equally difficult, with estimates ranging from 100 BCE to 200 CE.15 It also seems that at least for some, the tantalising parabiblical connection to James is one motivating factor in assigning the Testament an earlier date, which quickly becomes a circular argument for establishing a terminus ante quem before the composition of James.
On source-critical grounds, then, James’ dependence on the Testament of Job is problematic. Yet for many scholars, it is far less problematic than an incongruent reading of the OG of Job by the author of James, and less speculative than theories that necessitate a no longer extant tradition (oral or otherwise).16 This article will challenge this supposition, arguing that the author of James has in fact drawn his characterisation of Job from a Greek version of the book of Job—the whole of it, not just the prose sections (the so-called “patient stratum”). It is often noted that James is a rhetorically sophisticated document, and can be effectively read in light of Greco-Roman patterns of discourse.17 My contention is that when James’ language of “endurance” is framed within this broader discursive context, a picture of Job emerges that is far more consonant with the book of Job than previous scholarship has allowed.
3 The Meaning of
The rendering of
It is strange that in the face of such a marked and undoubtedly intentional change of expression [between
μακροθυμίαin Jas 5:10 and ὑπομονήin 5:11] the Revisers should have retained the A.V. rendering of “the patience” of Job, especially as the distinction is observed both in the Vulgate: “Ecce beatificamus qui sustinuerunt; sufferentiam Job audistis.” … This sense of active resistance in ὑπομονή(endurance or fortitude) is inherent in the Greek word.18
Nowadays, most translations prefer to render
Yet this idea of “steadfastness” or “bearing up under suffering” still maintains an essentially passive stance towards Job’s suffering.22 This is the result of lexical analysis that is overly dependent on the Septuagint for establishing James’ understanding of
Pedro Ortiz Valdivieso, in an extensive survey of Greek literature (from Homer to Plutarch), showed the relative diversity of senses attested for
The terms for endurance were often paired with
… the wise man may cast all injuries far from him, and by his endurance and his greatness of soul protect himself from them. Just so in the sacred games many have won the victory by wearing out the hands of their assailant through stubborn endurance (obstinata patientia).Seneca, De constantia 9.534
Endurance was also a key virtue in Stoic philosophy. While the Stoic notion of the “implanted preconceptions” (
My dear Lucilius, you must distinguish between these cases, you will then comprehend that there is something in them that is desirable. I should prefer to be free from torture; but if the time comes that it must be endured (sustinenda) I shall desire to conduct myself with bravery (fortiter), honour, and courage (animose geram). Of course I prefer that war should not occur; but if war does occur, I should desire that I may nobly endure (generose feram) the wounds, the starvation, and all that the exigency of war brings. … The conclusion is, not that hardships are desirable, but that virtue (virtus) is desirable, which enables us patiently to endure hardships (qua perferuntur incommoda).Seneca, Ep. 117.3–436
The sage’s pursuit of virtue above all else allows him or her to wisely deal with the precarious circumstances of life: “[The Sage] can view with unconcern pains and losses, sores and wounds, and nature’s great commotions as she rages all around him, can bear hardship and prosperity soberly, neither yielding to one not trusting the other” (Seneca, De constantia 6.3).
The language of endurance is also prevalent in a number of Hellenistic Jewish texts, particularly 4 Maccabees.37 Brent Shaw thinks that with Jewish martyr literature, endurance language undergoes something of a “moral revolution.” While “the praises of active and aggressive values entailed in manliness (andreia)” are common to the Greco-Roman world, “the elevation to prominence of the passive value of merely being able to endure would have struck most persons … as contradictory and indeed, rather immoral.”38 However, from our overview of the terminology, we can see that like 4 Maccabees, the pairing of
But [the Law] teaches us self-control (4 Macc 5:23
σωφροσύνην), so that we master all pleasures ( τῶν ἡδονῶν) and desires, and it also trains us in courage ( ἀνδρείαν), so that we endure any suffering willingly ( πάντα πόνον ἑκουσίως ὑπομένειν).
Train yourself in self-imposed toils, that you may be able to endure (Isocrates, Demon. 1.2139
ὑπομένειν) those which others impose upon you. Practice self-control ( ἐγκράτειαν) in all the things by which it is shameful for the soul to be controlled, namely, gain, temper, pleasure ( ἡδονῆς), and pain.
Furthermore, enduring death for the sake of one’s nation (4 Macc 17:10) is not completely foreign to Greco-Roman sensibilities.40 Thus we may conclude with Adamopoulo that throughout Greek and Roman literature, the philosophical concept of endurance was understood “as a positive moral attribute” and most importantly it was thought of as “an aggressive, masculine, rational attribute of the soul” against internal and external hardships.41 Warriors and athletes were often instructive as models for imitation in didactic and psychagogic discourses, embodying the heroic virtues of endurance and courage.42
4 A Jamesian Reading of Job
The book of Job is complex and ambiguous (maybe even intentionally so). Commentators have wryly remarked how James’ Job fails to embody the complexity of the full story. One such commentator quips, “As chapter 3 begins, Job emphatically ceases to be patient. Perhaps James never read beyond chapter 2.”43 I find this to be a very curious comment, especially since the author of James explicitly relates Job’s
I think God’s conclusion (the
As God lives, who has taken away my right, and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter, as long as my breath is in me and the spirit of God is in my nostrils, my lips will not speak falsehood, and my tongue will not utter deceit. Far be it from me to say that you [Job 27:2–6 LXX
ὑμᾶςviz. the friends] are right; until I die I will not put away my integrity from me. I hold fast my righteousness, and will not let it go; my heart does not reproach me for any of my days.
As Richardson rightly notes, “at the end of Job’s testing, these words will be justified.”49
5 Joban Endurance in James
The Letter of James begins with a call to joyfully accept testing (
Blessed is the one who endures trial, because having been proved genuine he will receive the wreath (Jas 1:12
τὸν στέφανον) of life which the Lord has promised to those who love him.
Be patient (Jas 5:7–11 NRSV
μακροθυμήσατε), therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient ( μακροθυμήσατε). Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another ( μὴ στενάζετε), so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience ( μακροθυμίας), beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance ( ὑπομείναντας). You have heard of the endurance ( ὑπομονήν) of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
The eschatological orientation of the pericope is evident, the author of James exhorting his audience to wait patiently for the return (
We must be clear on one thing: endurance is not a key theme in the book of Job—neither in the Hebrew or Greek versions. All modern readings of Job are agreed on this. Rather, the theme only starts to gain prominence when Job’s satanic struggle and God-approved resistance to his friends’ speeches are viewed in terms of the Greco-Roman discourse of endurance.
We have then what we might call the “minimal facts” of the book of Job. These are the key, salient points of the Job story which the author of James must reckon with to produce his own congruent interpretation. In broad strokes, there are four things to keep in mind: (1) At the beginning of the book of Job, God declared Job as righteous. (2) At the end of the book, God’s approval of Job is upheld. (3) In the middle of the book, Job’s friends argue with Job, and Job resists their judgements. (4) At the end of the book, God disapproves of what the friends have said.
There is a lot more going on in the book of Job. And the “more” is complicated, both linguistically and theologically, but it is these minimal facts at important points in the narrative arc of the book that help the author of James navigate and mitigate the complexities of the text. What does the author of James do with the minimal facts of the Job story? What is the author’s hermeneutic as he attempts to make sense of the book of Job? The question is one of reception history. We are not asking, “What does the book of Job mean?,” but rather: “How on earth did the author of James read or hear the Greek book of Job, and think ‘endurance’ was Job’s most endearing quality? What world was he living in to get that out of the book of Job?” And the answer to that question is deceivingly simple: the Hellenistic world of the ancient Mediterranean. The world in which
In line with this rhetorical background, the author of James has reread the book of Job in such a way that esteems Job’s unrelenting antagonism to the words of his friends in the midst of his suffering as an example of
This work was supported by the University of Cambridge Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme.
David A. deSilva, The Jewish Teachers of Jesus, James, and Jude: What Earliest Christianity Learned from the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) 237–238.
Christoph Bultmann, “Hiob: Bild und Ton,” in Die Verheissung des neuen Bundes: Wie alttestamentliche Texte im neuen Testament fortwirken (ed. Bernd Kollmann; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2010) 226–245, at 236.
H.L. Ginsberg, “Job the Patient and Job the Impatient,” in Congress Volume, Rome 1968 (Leiden: Brill, 1968) 88–111; Hillel A. Fine, “The Tradition of a Patient Job,” JBL 74 (1955) 28–32, includes Job 27–28 in the “patient” stratum.
Aristeas the Exegete does not employ the language of
For discussion, see Cees Haas, “Job’s Perseverance in the Testament of Job,” in Studies on the Testament of Job (ed. Michael A. Knibb and Pieter W. van der Horst; SNTSMS 66; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989) 117–154.
Jens Herzer, “Jakobus, Paulus, und Hiob: Die Intertextualität der Weisheit,” in Das Buch Hiob und seine Interpretationen: Beiträge zum Hiob-Symposium auf dem Monte Verità vom 14.–19. August 2005 (ed. Thomas Krüger; ATANT 88; Zürich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich,
2007) 329–350, at 338. For further discussion of James’ and the Testament’s shared eschatological orientation, see Dankwart Rahnenführer, “Das Testament des Hiob und das Neue Testament,” ZNW 62 (1971) 68–93, at 80–83.
Luke Timothy Johnson, The Letter of James (AB; New York: Doubleday, 1996) 321; Bultmann, “Hiob: Bild und Ton”; deSilva, Jewish Teachers; Robert J. Foster, The Significance of Exemplars for the Interpretation of the Letter of James (WUNT 2/376; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014) 163; Kelsie Gayle Rodenbiker, “The Persistent Sufferer: The Exemplar of Job in the Letter of James,” Annali di storia dell’esegesi 34 (2017) 479–496.
Herzer, “Jakobus, Paulus, und Hiob,” 338; Joachim Hans Korn,
See Jason Floyd Gish, “The Exemplar of Job: A Study of Key Themes Relevant to Job and the Letter of James” (PhD diss., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2015), esp. 172–173.
Patrick Gray, “Points and Lines: Thematic Parallelism in the Letter of James and the Testament of Job,” NTS 50 (2004) 406–424, at 422.
Friedrich Spitta, “Das Testament Hiobs und das Neue Testament,” in Zur Geschichte und Litteratur des Urchristentums (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1907) 139–206, at 170–177.
Berndt Schaller, Das Testament Hiobs (JSHRZ 3/3; Gütersloh: Mohn, 1979) 325–374.
The Greek text of the Testament of Job is taken from P, which is generally considered the best extant witness for the work.
M.R. James was an early advocate of the Testament’s Christian origins; see M.R. James, Apocrypha Anecodota, 2nd series (TS 5/1; Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1897) xciii. The parallels in Table 2 are drawn mostly from James, ibid., lxxxvi–xciii; Rahnenführer, “Testament des Hiob”; R. Thornhill, “The Testament of Job,” in The Apocryphal Old Testament (ed. H.F.D. Sparks; Oxford: Clarendon, 1984) 617–648; and Steve Delamarter, A Scripture Index to Charlesworth’s Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002).
Cf. James R. Davila, The Provenance of the Pseudepigrapha: Jewish, Christian, or Other? (JSJSup 105; Leiden: Brill, 2005) 199. Through internal considerations, some have suggested an Egyptian provenance is feasible; Robert A. Kugler, “Of Echoes of the Jewish Scriptures and Adaptations of Livestock Inventories of the Testament of Job,” in Reading the Bible in Ancient Traditions and Modern Editions: Studies in Memory of Peter W. Flint (ed. Andrew B. Perrin, Kyung S. Baek, and Daniel K. Falk; Atlanta: SBL Press, 2017) 587–601, and that the description of the temple destruction in the opening narrative may find a historical referent in the mid second-century Jewish diaspora revolt in Alexandria; William ‘Chip’ Gruen, “Seeking a Context for the Testament of Job,” JSP 18 (2009) 163–179.
Too much weight has been placed on the words, “You have heard (
For helpful summaries of scholarship that reads James in light of its Greco-Roman background, see Matt Jackson-McCabe, “The Letter of James and Hellenistic Philosophy,” in Reading the Epistle of James: A Resource for Students (ed. Eric F. Mason and Darian R. Lockett; Atlanta: SBL Press, 2019) 45–71; John S. Kloppenborg, “James 1:2–15 and Hellenistic Psychagogy,” NovT 52 (2010) 37–71.
A. Carr, “The Patience of Job (St. James V. 11),” The Expositor, 8th ser., 6 (1913) 511–517, at 512 and 514.
Foster, Exemplars, 156.
Christopher Seitz, “The Patience of Job in the Epistle of James,” in Konsequente Traditionsgeschichte: Festschrift für Klaus Baltzer zum 65. Geburtstag (ed. Bartelmus von Rüdiger, Thomas Krüger, and Helmut Utzschneider; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1993) 373–382, at 380.
Foster, Exemplars, 158. See also Theresia Hainthaler, “Von der Ausdauer Ijobs habt ihr gehört” (Jak 5,11): Zur Bedeutung des Buches Ijob im Neuen Testament (Frankfurt am Main: Lang, 1988) 321, who thinks that the Job of the Hebrew book could be characterised in terms of endurance.
Johnson, James, 312, thinks “the verb hypomenein is fundamentally passive, meaning simply ‘to wait’”; see also K.A. Richardson, “Job as Exemplar in the Epistle of James,” in Hearing the Old Testament in the New Testament (ed. Stanley E. Porter; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006) 213–229, at 220.
Jeffrey D. Meyers, “Hypomonē as ‘Enduring Resistance’: Finding Nonviolence in the Book of Revelation,” BT 69 (2018) 40–55, at 45 with n. 11.
Meyers, “Hypomonē as ‘Enduring Resistance,’” 44. See also Susan R. Garrett, “The Patience of Job and the Patience of Jesus,” Interpretation 53 (1999) 254–264, at 256 and 263 n. 6.
Pedro Ortiz Valdivieso, “‘
Pedro Ortiz Valdivieso, “
Ortiz Valdivieso, “‘
Themistocles Anthony Adamopoulo, “Endurance, Greek and Early Christian: The Moral Transformation of the Greek Idea of Endurance, from the Homeric Battlefield to the Apostle Paul” (PhD diss., Brown University, 1996) 350 (here, summarising martial descriptions from the Iliad, Tyrtaeus, Thucydides, and Arrian).
Adamopoulo, “Endurance,” 350. Ortiz Valdivieso, “
Diogenes Laërtius, Lives 7.126: “Courage is concerned with things that must be endured (
Cited in Adamopoulo, “Endurance,” 86.
Diachronically, Adamopoulo shows how athletic endurance was a demilitarization of the same metaphor, since the warrior and athlete were originally one and the same (Adamopoulo, “Endurance,” 180–181).
Adamopoulo, “Endurance,” 179.
Translation by John W. Basore, Seneca: Moral Essays (LCL; London: Heinemann, 1928).
Adamopoulo, “Endurance,” 128.
Cited in Adamopoulo, “Endurance,” 134.
E.g., 4 Macc 1:11; 9:8; 17:4, 12, 17, 23; cf. also T.Jos. 2:7; 10:1; T.Job 1:5.
Brent D. Shaw, “Body/Power/Identity: Passions of the Martyrs,” JECS 4 (1996) 269–312, at 279.
Translation by George Norlin, Isocrates with an English Translation in Three Volumes (LCL; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980).
Diodorus Siculus 17.5.2: “[they should] gladly endure death (
Adamopoulo, “Endurance,” 150.
Adamopoulo, “Endurance,” 76 and 210. Shaw’s thesis has been critiqued by Stephen D. Moore and Janice Capel Anderson, “Taking It like a Man: Masculinity in 4 Maccabees,” JBL 117 (1998) 249–273, at 257 n. 22: “We also find that the masculine quality of endurance is assumed rather than argued in [4 Macc], suggesting that Shaw has overstated the novelty of this view of endurance. … Furthermore, if endurance were under question as a masculine value in 4 Maccabees, the irony of a feeble old man, seven young boys, and an aged woman exhibiting it as a mark of their manliness – a central irony in the book, as we argue – would be lost.” See also Colleen Conway, Behold the Man: Jesus and Greco-Roman Masculinity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008) 76–78.
E.M. Good, “The Problem of Evil in the Book of Job,” in The Voice from the Whirlwind: Interpreting the Book of Job (ed. Leo G. Perdue and W.C. Gilpin; Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1992) 50–69, at 54. Cited in Allison, James, 715.
Michael V. Fox, “The Meanings of the Book of Job,” JBL 137 (2018) 7–18, at 10.
Richardson, “Job as Exemplar,” 217.
There is little indication that the author of James is familiar with the additions to the OG (Job 42:17a–e LXX), though perhaps James’ eschatological focus in Jas 5:7–11 is reminiscent of Job’s anticipated resurrection in Job 42:17a LXX. Tobias Häner, “The Exegetical Function of the Additions to Old Greek Job (42, 17a–e),” Biblica 100 (2019) 34–49, at 40, has suggested that “42.17a encourages the reader to interpret the book [of Job] from the standpoint of the prediction of Job’s resurrection.” Certainly, James’ knowledge of the appendix is not impossible from a chronological standpoint. Annette Yoshiko Reed, “Job as Jobab: The Interpretation of Job in LXX Job 42:17b–e,” JBL 120 (2001) 31–55, at 40, writes, “[the] addition is best dated between the OG translation of Job circa 150 B.C.E. and the translation of Θʹ in the early first C.E. Given the use of the appendix by Aristeas the Exegete, the terminus ad quem is the quotation of Aristeas by Alexander Polyhistor, circa 60 B.C.E.”
Fox, “Meanings of the Book of Job,” 17.
I think it is noteworthy that Job’s anguished lament in chapter three only comes after the “foolish” words of his wife (Job 2:9) and the loud cries and prolonged silence of his three friends (2:11–13). Since the dialogue proper starts in chapter 4, Job’s soliloquy could well be understood as the climax of the narrative prologue, induced by the words and silence of those closest to him. On the inappropriate length of the friends’ silence, see David J.A. Clines, Job 1–20 (WBC 17; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015) 63–65.
Richardson, “Job as Exemplar,” 224.
On Jas 5:7–20 as the closing unit of the text, see Matt Jackson-McCabe, “Enduring Temptation: The Structure and Coherence of the Letter of James,” JSNT 37 (2014) 161–184, at 179–180.
Martin Dibelius, James (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1988) 241–242; Ernst Baasland, “Der Jakobusbrief als neutestamentliche Weisheitsschrift,” ST 36 (1982) 119–139, at 122.
Johnson, James, 314–15; Dibelius, James, 241; Jackson-McCabe, “Enduring Temptation,” 180.
Pace Johnson, James, 313, who thinks that “makrothymein/makrothymia means the active adoption of an attitude of ‘forbearance’ and ‘putting up with’ another.”
Dibelius, James, 244.
It has been suggested that Job is himself viewed as a prophet in the Letter of James (Richardson, “Job as Exemplar,” 214). This may reflect Job’s expanded intercessory role in Job 42:8 LXX, and the ordering of Job between Ezekiel and the twelve Minor Prophets in Sir 49:9 (Hebrew).
On the significance of the lexical switch, see Carr, “Patience of Job,” 513–514; Foster, Exemplars, 153, 156–157; Hainthaler, Zur Bedeutung des Buches Ijob, 338. Naturally, those who maintain a synonymous relation between
Fox, “Meanings of the Book of Job,” 16. Fox continues, “Intercession would not be necessary if their mistake lay merely in having maintained a misguided but universally held theological tenet, namely, that God is uniformly just. What angers God is that they have hurt Job. They have been disloyal to their friend” (ibid.).
Pace Johannes Evangelist Belser, Die Epistel des heiligen Jakobus (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 1909) 190, who seems to think that Job “alle Vorwürfe und peinlichen Reden seiner Freunde mit Geduld hingenommen und wenigstens im Grunde seines Herzens an Gott festgehalten [hat].” Indeed the very opposite is the case. Job’s rightful resistance to the attacks of his friends is noted in W. Beyschlag, Handbuch über den Brief des Jakobus (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1888) 221; Carr, “Patience of Job,” 513–514; R.J. Knowling, The Epistle of St. James (2nd ed.; London: Methuen, 1910) 133.