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Job’s Wisdom: When Ethics and Aesthetics Collide. An Exegetical Study on Job’s Final Stance before YHWH

Mod.: Prof. R.P. Michael Francis KOLARCIK

    This dissertation is an exegetical study on Job’s final stance before Yhwh. Job 42:1-6 represents the culmination of the journey of maturation in Job’s understanding of God, in his relationship with God and with himself. In this journey, Job goes through different stages of development, starting with an initial integration, passing through different levels of disintegration, and achieving finally reintegration at the end. This study proves that the final stance of Job displays a sapiential attitude which can only be properly understood when one takes into account the collision between the two essential viewpoints supported by the book as a whole, that is, ethics and aesthetics.
    After examining how the ethics of retribution is implanted in the narrative prologue (Job 1–2), the thesis analyses Job’s disintegration as affected by the misapplication of the retributive principles during the disputes between Job and his three friends (Job 3-31). Actually, both Job and his friends move within the limited framework of retributive ethics. Interpreting Job’s suffering as divine punishment, the friends conclude that Job’s immorality must have been the cause of his suffering and earnestly advise him to repent. As for Job, although he too interprets his suffering as divine punishment, Job stubbornly insists on his innocence, thus arriving at various accusations against God. The ethical principles of retribution bring the various conflicting arguments of the disputers to a dead end. As a turning point, the change of perspective from ethics to aesthetics, advocated by the two divine discourses (Job 38-41), offers an effective way out of the dead end of misapplied retributive ethics. To answer Job’s various questions, Yhwh trains him to contemplate the entire creation through different eyes and from different perspectives. This radical change of view liberates Job from the framework of retributive ethics and encourages him to celebrate the aesthetics of life. By means of poetic descriptions, Yhwh provides the suffering protagonist with alternative resources to transform his perspectives on the world, on God, and indeed on his very own existence.
    Job’s final stance is thus examined through a close reading of Job 42: 1-6, in light of the results of studies on the collision of ethics and aesthetics in the book of Job. This reading proceeds in two stages. The first identifies Job’s confession of ignorance in Job 42:2-3 as a manifestation of enlightened wisdom that sheds plenty of light on the understanding of Job 42:4-6. The second highlights Job’s change of mind in the direction towards reconciliation with God and the consolation of humanity.
    The study concludes with the assertion that throughout the drama of Job’s story, the author of the book of Job does not present the protagonist as a penitent, but rather as a righteous sufferer. Through all the vicissitudes of his life, Job reaches the maturity of a true sage, an authentic fearer of God and a fuller human being.