22 August 2010

Aug 22

Reference links:
Old Testament

The key thing to remember while reading the speeches of Job and his friends is that the prologue has set Job up as righteous. It is something of a tradition to try to figure out what what Job had done wrong so as to justify his suffering, but that defeats the purpose and power of the book. The book of Job expounds upon the observation that suffering cannot always be seen as punishment (for even when suffering comes to one who is not completely righteous, it is often vastly disproportionate to what would seem to be a just punishment). Without the basis of Job's righteousness, this becomes nothing more than yet another overly simplistic theology which does not align with real world data. With the basis of Job's righteousness, it becomes a powerful (if, as we'll see, ultimately unsatisfying) attempt to address the problem of evil and human suffering.

In today's reading, Eliphaz the Temanite responds to Job's despair. He accuses Job of not being strong in the face of adversity and of being guilty before God (and therefore deserving of punishment). Eliphaz focuses on the good that God does in language that is probably not unintentionally reminiscent of the  proverbs. Eliphaz argues that if only Job makes himself right with God, then all will be well again. Eliphaz's argument is comforting, but does it account for reality where both the good and wicked suffer, both the good and wicked succeed?

Job's response defends his right to complain. He does not accuse God of being unfair, but he does maintain that his complaints are no sin. He also points out that his despair is more than he can bear. This passage provides an interesting pairing with 1 Corinthians 10:13 which implies that the trials of believers are never more than they can bear.

There is one line of Job's response that sheds light upon the response of Eliphaz:
You have seen my calamity, and you are afraid.
Eliphaz's explanation is so temptingly comforting because no one wants to believe that they are a slight turn of events away from despair and misfortune. Eliphaz wants to believe that Job is quantitatively different from him. He wants to believe that he would not be like Job in a similar situation but, even more, Eliphaz wants to believe that he would never be in such a situation. This is human nature. People always assume that bad things will never happen to them. "Worse case" scenarios are never really worst case. Job acts as a direct affront to such deeply held beliefs.

New Testament

Paul continues on about how the gift of prophecy is more important than the gift of speaking in tongues. He then talks about particular rules for making sure that the worship sessions are orderly. As part of this he says the following:
Women should be silent during the church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak. They should be submissive, just as the law says. If they have any questions, they should ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for women to speak in church meetings.
Now, there is some controversy about which (if any) of the Corinthian passages about the proper behavior of women are genuinely Pauline. This passage makes it clear, to me at least, that one of this or 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 must be questionable. As much as there is to dislike in the earlier passage, it makes it pretty clear that women are allowed to prophecy and pray as part of public worship.
But a woman dishonors her head if she prays or prophesies without a covering on her head, for this is the same as shaving her head.
Is it right for a woman to pray to God in public without covering her head?
I cannot see how to reconcile that as consistent with the above passage from today's reading. Either Paul is inconsistent and uncertain about his approach to women in the church (quite possible) or one both of these passages were inserted by later redactors.

Psalms and Proverbs

Nothing particularly interesting to me.