Monday, February 23, 2015

Was Job Patient?

     In James 5:11 the American Standard Version says,  "Ye  have  heard  of the
patience  of  Job"   This  reading  has  been  the  basis  of  many  sermons  and
discussions about the "patience" of Job. A careful  reading  of  the  book of Job
leaves a person with a radically different impression about the man Job. So, we
ask, "Was Job patient?"

     Patience  is   the   quality  of   bearing  with  pain,  trouble,  or  misfortune
without complaining. So, we ask, "Did Job complain?" Or, did he bear with his
catastrophic misfortune without complaint?

     Yahweh asked the adversary, Satan, twice, "Have you considered my servant
Job?" (Job 1:8; 2:3) The adversary was granted permission to bring calamity
upon Job's possessions and family, and finally upon Job himself. Job was "afflicted
with severe boils or skin inflammation from the soles of his feet to the crown of his
head." (Job 2:7) His suffering was so great that when his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad,
and Zophar went to comfort him, that they did not recognize him from far away,
and they raised their voices, and wept, and tore their robes and sprinkled dust on
their heads toward heaven." (Job 2:11-12) Furthermore, "they sat down with him
on the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spoke a word to him: for
they saw that his suffering was very great." (Job 2:13)

     After this Job speaks. The text says he "cursed the day of his birth." Job opened
his mouth, and among other things he said, "Let the day perish on which I was born;"
"Why did I not die from the womb? Why did I not die when my mother gave birth
to me?" "I am not at ease, neither am I quiet, neither do I have rest; but trouble
comes!" (Job 3:1, 11, 26) This clearly shows us that Job complained! Job was very
impatient. But what about James 5:11, where the ASV says, "Ye have heard of the
patience of Job?"

     Interestingly, the  ASV  gives  an  alternate reading in a footnote that says, "or
endurance." In  other  words,  the  "minority  judgment"  of  the   translators who
translated the letter of James for  the  ASV  New  Testament  committee  placed
the  accurate translation in a footnote. It should have been placed in the text.

     The Greek word in James 5:11 is hupomone. It means endurance, perseverance,
steadfastness. It describes the capacity for resolute continuance in a course of
action. James' point is  not that Job was patient, in that he did not complain; (he
did), but he endured great suffering. He did not give up! This is why translations
such as  the RSV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, and ESV speak of the steadfastness,
endurance, or perseverance of Job.

     Once  again  we  have  shown the  importance  of  comparing  several  good
translations when studying the scriptures. Perhaps the wisdom of the writer of the
Proverbs is applicable for those who lock themselves into using only one version
in Bible study: "Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in the abundance
of counselors there is safety." (Proverbs 11:14, ESV)

                                                                                                              R. Daly
Copyright 2015


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