Job for Everyone – Book Review

Author: John Goldingay
Publisher: SPCK
ISBN 13: 978-0664239367

Reviewed by Dr Tim Davy, Lecturer in Biblical Studies and Mission at Redcliffe College. He is the Director of Redcliffe’s Centre for the Study of Bible and Mission and has a PhD on a missional reading of the book of Job.

Part of SPCK’s For Everyone series, John Goldingay’s book is one of a number of commentaries on Job published in the last couple of years by well-known scholars. [1] Goldingay, a British scholar based for a number of years at Fuller Theological Seminary, is the author of the Old Testament series. This follows the popular New Testament titles written by Tom Wright, and attempts to combine concise and accessible study of the text with devotional reflection. It also includes a fresh translation of the text composed by the author.

Apart from a few exceptions (for example, chapters 1, 31 and 38) each chapter of Job receives a single reflection lasting around three pages. Often this begins with a relevant story followed by a discussion of the text. Sometimes Goldingay leaves a sting in the tail, winsomely making the reader think about how the text might be challenging our own assumptions and attitudes.

He writes in a striking and personable manner which communicates his deep and imaginative scholarship very effectively. He also deals with the complexities of the book well, making the reader aware of issues without getting bogged down in them, and acknowledging when he is unsure himself. This is particularly impressive given the sheer number of interpretive questions involved in reading this most enigmatic and probing of biblical books.

As I begin a new year of teaching the Bible and mission at Redcliffe there are three things I want to highlight from Job for Everyone.

First, the most impressive aspect of the book is the way in which Goldingay locates his considerable scholarly insight within the context of his own vulnerability. He is clearly someone who has wrestled with many of Job’s questions and makes frequent reference to the many years of caring for his late wife while she lived with multiple sclerosis. Certainly there are degrees of appropriateness to such vulnerability, but to what extent am I willing to share myself in this way in the classroom and in other contexts of community life?

Secondly, his comments on Job 28 struck an obvious chord, concerning as they do ‘seminary’ education:

Many people come to seminary because they think they may find there answers to theological questions that have puzzled them and that discovering these answers will sort them out. In the seminary they can get a degree and thus a document that is implicitly a certificate declaring that they have insight. They get this document without anyone asking questions concerning their piety or morality, their submission to God or their rejection of evil. It looks as if seminary certificates are therefore spurious. People may have collected information by means of their program, but it is not an indication that they have acquired insight. (p.135)

It is a sober picture Goldingay paints and is certainly a possibility. I find it another challenge to work hard to play my part in making Redcliffe’s commitment to integrating knowledge, character and skills a reality in and outside of the classroom.

Finally, I was struck by the following story in the final reflection, which complements well one of my personal commitments: to help students learn the language of lament and how it might be considered pastorally and missionally:

A little while ago, a couple I know had a baby who died a few days after he was born. His memorial service incorporated a series of verses from the book of Job that expressed pain and protest, submission and hope. Someone who attended said she would start coming to the church because she did not know another church where these feelings and questions could be voiced. (p.210)

In Job for Everyone John Goldingay models an accessible, vulnerable scholarship that will benefit preachers, devotional readers, students and teachers. It is a very welcome addition to the ever-growing literature on this ever-important biblical book.

[1] These have differed considerably in length, accessibility, intended audience and price. The others include: Clines, D.J.A. Job 38-42, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011); Crenshaw, J.L. Reading Job: A Literary and Theological Commentary, Reading the Old Testament (Macon: Smyth & Helwys, 2011); Longman, T. Job, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012); O’Conner, K.M. Job, New Collegeville Bible Commentary (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2012); Seow, C.L. Job 1-21: Interpretation and Commentary, Illuminations (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013); Walton, J.H. Job, NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012).

Please Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Redcliffe College.

Return to Issue 46.

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