In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. (Job 1:22 ESV)

Job is described in the prologue to the book as a perfect man, blameless, upright, sinless, pious, and possibly the wisest of the wise [1]. The Hebrew word translated “blameless” (or “perfect” in KJV) is תם and means whole, complete, lacking in nothing, fully integrated. In other words, he represented humanity at its best. Even if the story was based on an actual historical character the language used to describe him suggests that we are looking at a parable about humankind. In testing Job the Adversary is also putting God on trial. If Job, the best of the best, fails the test then all of humankind fails with him.

There are echoes here of the Garden of Eden: one “representative” human couple being put to the test, with consequences for humanity; the test administered by a snake in one story and by the Adversary in the other [2]. However, it’s the Genesis story which has received the most attention by theologians and which has had the greatest impact on Christian dogma about sin, suffering and human nature (although less so in Jewish dogma). No doubt this has been the result of the huge impact which Augustine had on the formation on Christian dogma. Augustine argued that suffering is not caused by God; rather, the exercise of free will by humans has led to sin and suffering in the world as just punishment for Adam’s disobedience. Augustine’s view was that all of humanity was seminally present in the loins of Adam, so all of humanity is punished. The sin of Adam (or, in some Protestant theologies, the consequences of his sin) is inherited by all human beings so that humanity is utterly depraved in nature. Augustine’s view differed in this from Irenaeus who earlier argued that evil comes from God in order to allow humans to develop morally and spiritually.

But both viewpoints are challenged by the Book of Job where:

  1. God is directly responsible for Job’s suffering
  2. Job suffered “for no reason” and as he was “whole, perfect, fully integrated” no moral or spiritual development was necessary
  3. Job is not presented as in any way depraved or sinful – on the contrary, he is upheld as blameless and sinless
  4. Suffering is not a punishment or consequence for sin.

So while Augustinian theodicy, and all theologies based on it (both Catholic and Protestant) argue from a particular reading of Genesis these views are rendered null and void by Job. If the authority of both books (Genesis and Job) is accepted, then Genesis has been misunderstood and needs to be reinterpreted.


[1] Job is described as “the greatest of all the people of the east” (1:3) and as the people of the east were proverbially considered to be wise this may be another way of saying that Job was the wisest of the wise (although “wisdom” is not a major theme of the book and isn’t mentioned outside the Hymn to Wisdom in chapter 28).

[2] The Genesis account of the temptation of Adam and Eve does not specifically mention “Satan” although Paul refers to the defeat of Satan in Romans 16:20 (“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet”), in language which appears to have been influenced by Genesis 3:15 (“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head …”). Revelation 20:2 refers to “the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan” and the linking of these terms suggests that the writer may have understood the snake/serpent in the garden of Eden to have played a similar role to the Adversary or the Prosecutor in Job. I should discuss these texts when I come back at some time in the future to explore the idea of the “fall” of Satan.