One of the few chapel messages I remember from my seminary days was delivered by Dr. Jack Scott. He began by outlining all the supposed orthodox statements made by Job’s “friends.” He then asked: “Right or wrong?” Not waiting for a response, he nearly shouted, “Wrong!”
Some of the comments I’ve received in emails, private messages, and on Facebook come from “miserable comforters.” Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar attempt to apply their orthodoxy to Job led him to declare “miserable comforters are you all” (Job 16:2). Dr. Scott’s message has stayed with me all these years. A person can be right but dogmatically wrong in how he or she presents his case.
Pushing the Antithesis
Pushing the Antithesis consists of twelve chapters that include study questions, an answer key, a glossary of terms, and a comprehensive bibliography. If you want to be equipped to present the truth of the gospel in a compelling way, then Pushing the Antithesis is required reading.Buy Now
There are right ways and many wrong ways to handle disputes. While I have received many encouraging messages from people around the world for asking some of the same questions they have been asking for years, there some people who are downright nasty. I guess there’s no category for “heretic” in their cases. Here is a perfect example:
The arrogance of Terry W. West shines bright. He “knows” what my answer will be, and he must assume that his answer is the only way to deal with the question. Several people have asked me to comment on Job 19:25-27 because they believe it settles the argument about the resurrection. No matter what I say, people like Terry W. West will not be satisfied. It’s typical of “miserable comforters.” What I often do is research a topic to see how other commentators have handled a passage. Sola Scriptura does not mean Solo Scriptura as my work over the years demonstrates. It didn’t take me long to learn that there are different sound exegetical interpretations of Job 19:25-27, that, according to David Thomas in his Problemata Mundi: The Book of Job Exegetically and Practically Considered (1884), “[t]hese three verses have given rise to great controversy amongst Biblical critics.” John E. Hartley in his commentary on Job in “The New International Commentary on the Old Testament” (1988) series, states that “scholars are quite divided in the way they answer these questions [about whether Job will see God’s witnessing for him before or after his death], especially since the text of v. 26 is so obscure.” He then goes on to list “four prominent interpretations” going back to the early church fathers who “failed to find any reference to the doctrine of the resurrection in this passage (e.g., Chrysostom).” (pages 295-297)
If more people would do some research instead of being “theological parrots,” they wouldn’t be so quick to display their arrogance and ignorance. Here’s how Bible commentator Albert Barnes begins his interpretation of Job 19:25-27:
For I know that my Redeemer liveth — There are few passages in the Bible which have excited more attention than this, or in respect to which the opinions of expositors have been more divided. The importance of the passage Job 19:25-27 has contributed much to the anxiety to understand its meaning — since, if it refers to the Messiah, it is one of the most valuable of all the testimonials now remaining of the early faith on that subject. The importance of the passage will justify a somewhat more extended examination of its meaning than it is customary to give in a commentary of a single passage of Scripture; and I shall
(1.) Give the views entertained of it by the translators of the ancient and some of the modern versions;
(2.) Investigate the meaning of the words and phrases which occur in it; and
(3.) State the arguments, pro and con, for its supposed reference to the Messiah.
But for “miserable comforters,” this type of in-depth analysis isn’t necessary and shouldn’t be considered. The claim that Job 19:25-27 does not refer to a future bodily resurrection of the dead in Christ including Job does not discount that there is a future bodily resurrection of the dead in Christ. It’s only to show that passages in defense of one view or another needed to be studied and just parroted.
I want to be as fair as possible by taking myself out of the equation. Terry W. West can argue with Albert Barnes (1798-1870), “best known for his extensive Bible commentary and notes on the Old and New Testaments, published in a total of 14 volumes in the 1830s.” My copy of his commentary on Job was in its 10th printing in 1971 when it was published by Baker Books. His commentaries are still in print and used by online Bible search programs like BibleHub.com. What you read below is Barnes’s analysis of two views that follow his verse-by-verse exegetical comments on Job 19:25-27. Notice that his conclusions (below) follow his exegetical work (here). It’s a study on how to approach the Bible when there are different interpretations:
It has already been observed, that very various views have been entertained of this important passage of Scripture. The great question has been, whether it refers to the Messiah, and to the resurrection of the dead, or to an expectation which Job had that God would come forth as his vindicator in some such way as he is declared afterward to have done. It may be proper, therefore, to give a summary of the arguments by which these opinions would be defended. I have not found many arguments stated for the former opinion, though the belief is held by many, but they would be probably such as the following:
I. Arguments which would be adduced to show that the passage refers to the Messiah and to the future resurrection of the dead.
(1) The language which is used is such as would appropriately describe such events. This is undoubted, though more so in our translation than in the original; but the original would appropriately express such an expectation.
(2) The impression which it would make on the mass of readers, and particularly those of plain, sober sense, who had no theory to defend. It is probably a fact, that the great body of the readers of the Bible suppose that it has such a reference. It is usually a very strong presumptive proof of the correctness of an interpretation of Scripture when this can be alleged in its favor, though it is not an infallible guide.
(3) The probability that some knowledge of the Messiah would prevail in Arabia in the time of Job. This must be admitted, though it cannot be certainly demonstrated; compare Numbers 24:17. The amount of this is, that it could not be regarded as so improbable that any such knowledge would prevail as to demonstrate certainly that this could not be referred to the Messiah.
(4) The probability that there would be found in this book some allusion to the Redeemer — the great hope of the ancient saints, and the burden of the Old Testament But this is not conclusive or very weighty, for there are several of the books of the Old Testament which contain no distinct allusion to him.
(5) The pertinency of such a view to the case, and its adaptedness to give to Job the kind of consolation which he needed. There can be no doubt of the truth of this; but the question is, not what would have imparted consolation, but what knowledge he actually had. There are many of the doctrines of the Christian religion which would have been eminently fitted to give comfort in such circumstances to a man in affliction, which it would be exceedingly unreasonable to expect to find in the book of Job, and which it is certain were wholly unknown to him and his friends.
(6) The importance which he himself attached to his declaration, and the solemnity of the manner in which he introduced it. His profession of faith on the subject he wished to have engraved in the eternal rocks. he wished it transmitted to future times. He wished a permanent record to be made, that succeeding ages might read it, and see the ground of his confidence and his hope. This, to my mind, is the strongest argument which has occurred in favor of the opinion that the passage refers to the Redeemer and to the resurrection. These are all the considerations which have occurred to me, or which I have found stated, which would go to sustain the position that the passage referred to the resurrection. Some of them have weight; but the prevailing opinion, that the passage has such a reference. will be found to be sustained, probably, more by the feelings of piety than by solid argument and sound exegesis. It is favored, doubtless, by our common version, and there can be no doubt that the translators supposed that it had such a reference.
II. On the other hand, weighty considerations are urged to show that the passage does not refer to the Messiah, and to the resurrection of the dead. They are such as the following:
(1) The language, fairly interpreted and translated, does not necessarily imply this. It is admitted that our translators had this belief, and without doing intentional or actual violence to the passage, or designing to make a forced translation, they have allowed their feelings to give a complexion to their language which the original does not necessarily convey. Hence, the word “Redeemer,” which is now used technically to denote the Messiah, is employed, though the original “may,” and commonly “does,” have a much more general signification; and hence, the phrase “at the latter day,” also a technical phrase, occurs, though the original means no more than “afterward” or “after this;” and hence, they have employed the phrase “in my flesh,” though the original means no more than “though my flesh be all wasted away.” The following I believe to express fairly the meaning of the Hebrew: “I know that my deliverer, or avenger, lives, and that he will yet appear in some public manner on the earth; and though after the destruction of my skin, the process of corruption shall go on until ‘all’ my flesh shall be destroyed, yet when my flesh is entirely wasted away, I shall see God; I shall have the happiness of seeing him for myself, and beholding him with my own eyes, even though my very vitals shall be consumed. He will come and vindicate me and my cause. I have such confidence in his justice, that I do not doubt that he will yet show himself to be the friend of him who puts his trust in him.”
(2) It is inconsistent with the argument, and the whole scope and connection of the book, to suppose that this refers to the Messiah and to the resurrection of the body after death. The book of Job is strictly an “argument” — a train of clear, consecutive reasoning. It discusses a great inquiry about the doctrines of divine Providence and the divine dealings with people. The three friends of Job maintained that God deals with men strictly according to their character in this life — that eminent wickedness is attended with eminent suffering; and that when people experience any great calamity, it is proof of eminent wickedness. All this they meant to apply to Job, and all this Job denied. Yet he was perplexed and confounded. He did not know what to do with the “facts” in the case; but still he felt embarrassed. All that he could say was, that God would “yet” come forth and show himself to be the friend of those who loved him and that though they suffered now, yet he had confidence that he would appear for their relief.
Now, had they possessed the knowledge of the doctrine of the “resurrection of the dead,” it would have ended the whole debate. it would not only have met all the difficulties of Job, but we should have found him perpetually recurring to it — placing it in every variety of form — appealing to it as relieving his embarrassments, and as demanding an answer from his friends. But, on the supposition that this refers to the resurrection, it is remarkable that the passage here stands alone. Job never adverted to it before, but allowed himself to be greatly embarrassed for the lack of just such an argument, and he never refers to it again. He goes on to argue again “as if” he believed no such doctrine. He does not ask his friends to notice this: he expresses no surprise that they should pass by, in entire neglect, an argument which “must have been seen” to be decisive of the controversy. It is equally unaccountable that his friends should not have noticed it.
If the doctrine of the resurrection was true, it settled the case. It rendered all their arguments worthless, and would have met the case just as we meet similar cases now. It was incumbent on them to show that there was no evidence of the truth of any such doctrine as the resurrection, and that this could not be urged to meet their arguments. Yet they never allude to so important and unanswerable an argument, and evidently did not suppose that Job referred to any such event. It is equally remarkable that neither Elihu nor God himself, in the close of the book, make any such allusion, or refer to the doctrine of the resurrection at all, as meeting the difficulties of the case. In the argument with which the Almighty is represented as closing the book, the whole thing is resolved into a matter of “sovereignty,” and people are required to submit because God is great, and is inscrutable in his ways — not because the dead will be raised, and the inequalities of the present life will be recompensed in a future state. The doctrine of a “resurrection” — a great and glorious doctrine, such as, if once suggested, could not have escaped the profound attention of these sages — would have solved the whole difficulty; and yet, confessedly, it is never alluded to by them — never introduced — never examined — never admitted or rejected — never becomes a matter of inquiry, and is never referred to by God himself as settling the matter — never occurs in the book in any form, unless it be in this. This is wholly unaccountable on the supposition that this refers to the resurrection.
(3) The interpretation which refers this to the resurrection of the dead, is inconsistent with numerous passages where Job expresses a contrary belief. Of this nature are the following: Job 7:9, “As the cloud is consumed, and vanisheth away, so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more;” Job 7:21, “I shall sleep in the dust thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be;” see Job 10:21-22, “I go whence I shall not return — to the land of darkness, and the shadow of death; a land of darkness as darkness itself;” Job 14 throughout, particularly Job 14:7, Job 14:9-10, Job 14:11-12, “For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. But man dieth, and wasteth away; yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up, so man lieth down and riseth not; until the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.”
Job 16:22, “when a few years are come, then I shall go the way whence I shall not return.” These passages all imply that when he should die, he would not appear again on the earth. This is not such language as one would use who believed in the resurrection of the dead. It is true, that in the discourses of Job, various and sometimes apparently contradictory feelings are expressed. He was a severe sufferer; and under strong conflicting emotions he sometimes expressed himself in a manner which he at other times regrets, and gives vent to feelings which, on mature reflection, he confesses to have been wrong. But how is it “possible” to believe that a man, in his circumstances, would ever deny the doctrine of the resurrection if he held it? How could he forget it? How could he throw out a remark that “seemed” to imply a doubt of it? If he had known of this, it would have been a sheet-anchor to his soul in all the storms of adversity — an unanswerable argument to all that his friends advanced — a topic of consolation which he could never have lost sight of, much less denied. He would have clung to that hope as the refuge of his soul, and not for one moment would he have denied it, or expressed a doubt of its truth.
(4) I may urge as a distinct argument what has before been hinted at, that this is not referred to as a topic of consolation by either of the friends of Job, by Elihu, or by God himself. Had it been a doctrine of those times, his friends would have understood it, and it would have reversed all their theology. Had it been understood by Elihu, he would have urged it as a reason for resignation in affliction. Had God designed that it should be known in that age, no more favorable opportunity could be conceived for the purpose than at the end of the arguments in this book. What a flood of light would it have thrown on the design of afflictions! How effectually would it have rebuked the arguments of the friends of Job! And how clear is it, therefore, that God did not “intend” that it should then be revealed to man, but meant that it should be reserved for a more advanced state of the world, and particularly that it should be reserved as the grand doctrine of the Christian revelation.
(5) A fifth consideration is, that on the supposition that it refers to the resurrection, it would be inconsistent with the views which prevailed in the age when Job is supposed to have lived. It is wholly in advance of that age. It makes little difference in regard to this whether we suppose him to have lived in the time of Abraham, Jacob, or Moses, or even at a later period — such a supposition would be equally at variance with the revelations which had then been given. The clear doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, is one of the unique doctrines of Christianity — one of the last truths of revelation, and is one of the glorious truths which seem to have been reserved for the Redeemer himself to make known to man. There are, indeed, obscure traces of it in the Old Testament. Occasionally we meet with a hint on the subject that was sufficient to excite the hopes of the ancient saints, and to lead them to suppose that more glorious truths were in reserve to be communicated by the Messiah. But those hints occur at distant intervals; are obscure in their character, and perhaps if all in the Old Testament were collected, they would not be sufficient to convey any very intelligible view of the resurrection of the dead.
But on the supposition that the passage before us refers to that doctrine, we have here one of the most clear and full revelations on the subject, laid far back in the early ages of the world, originating in Arabia, and entirely in advance of the prevailing views of the age, and of all that had been communicated by the Spirit of inspiration to the generations then living. It is admitted, indeed, that it was “possible” for the Holy Spirit to communicate that truth in its fulness and completeness to an Arabian sage; but it is not the way in which revelation, in other respects, has been imparted. It has been done “gradually.” Obscure intimations are given at first — they are increased from time to time — the light becomes clearer, until some prophet discloses the whole truth, and the doctrine stands complete before us. Such a course we should expect to find in regard to the doctrine of the resurrection, and such is exactly the course pursued, unless “this” passage teaches what was in fact the highest revelation made by the Messiah.
(6) All which the words and phrases fairly convey, and all which the argument demands, is fully met by the supposition that it refers to some such event as is recorded in the close of the book. God appeared in a manner corresponding to the meaning of the words here upon the earth. He came as the Vindicator, the Redeemer, the גאל gō’el, of Job. He vindicated his cause, rebuked his friends, expressed his approbation of the sentiments of Job, and blessed him again with returning prosperity and plenty. The disease of the patriarch may have advanced, as he supposed it would. His flesh may have wasted away, but his confidence in God was not misplaced, and he came forth as his vindicator and friend. It was a noble expression of faith on the part of Job; it showed that he “had” confidence in God, and that in the midst of his trials he truly relied on him; and it was a sentiment worthy to be engraved in the eternal rock, and to be transmitted to future times.
It was an invaluable lesson to sufferers, showing them that confidence could, and should be placed in God in the severest trials. So far as I can see, all that is fairly implied in the passage, when properly interpreted, is fully met by the events recorded in the close of the book. Such an interpretation meets the exigency [requirement] of the case, accords with the strain of the argument and with the result, and is the most simple and natural that has been proposed. These considerations are so weighty in my mind that they have conducted me to a conclusion, contrary I confess to what I had “hoped” to have reached, that this passage has no reference to the Messiah and the doctrine of the resurrection. We do not “need” it — for all the truths respecting the Messiah and the resurrection which we need, are fully revealed elsewhere; and though this is an exquisitely beautiful passage, and piety would love to retain the belief that it refers to the resurrection of the dead, yet “truth” is to be preferred to indulgence of the wishes and desires of the heart, however amiable or pious, and the “desire” to find certain doctrines in the Bible should yield to what we are constrained to believe the Spirit of inspiration actually taught.
I confess that I have never been so pained at any conclusion to which I have come in the interpretation of the Bible, as in the case before us. I would like to have found a distinct prophecy of the Messiah in this ancient and venerable book. I would like to have found the faith of this eminent saint sustained by such a faith in his future advent and incarnation. I would like to have found evidence that this expectation had become incorporated in the piety of the early nations, and was found in Arabia. I would like to have found traces of the early belief of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead sustaining the souls of the patriarchs then, as it does ours now, in trial. But I cannot. Yet I can regard it as a most beautiful and triumphant expression of confidence in God, and as wholly worthy to be engraved, as Job desired it might be, in the solid rock forever, that the passing traveler might see and read it; or as worthy of that more permanent record which it has received by being “printed in a book” — by an art unknown then, and sent down to the end of the world to be read and admired in all generations.
The opinion which has now been expressed, it is not necessary to say, has been held by a large number of the most distinguished critics. Grotius says that the Jews never applied it to the Messiah and the resurrection. The same opinion is held by Grotius himself, by Warburton, Rosenmuller, Le Clerc, Patrick, Kennicott, Dalthe, and Jahn. Calvin seems to be doubtful — sometimes giving it an interpretation similar to that suggested above, and then pursuing his remarks as if it referred to the Messiah. Most of the fathers, and a large portion of modern critics, it is to be admitted, suppose that it refers to the Messiah, and to the future resurrection.
Will the above have any effect on Terry W. West and similar critics? Don’t count on it. For some, pointing out problems with eschatological systems is a one-way street. Any irregularity found in the majority position is dismissed, ignored, or covered up to “save the phenomena,” as R.C. Sproul put it in his Foreword to the 1993 book And It Came to Pass. If a paradigm is true, we should welcome any testing, because putting it to the test makes it stronger.
Apologetics 101: Defending the Christian Faith
Apologetics 101 is an in-depth study of defending the Christian faith. The Greek word apologia simply means ‘defense,’ and apologetics is the art and act of giving a defense. Christian Apologetics then is the art and act of defending the Christian faith, not a proof of God in general. The Christian apologist must be ready to answer truth claims about the Bible, not claims about Hinduism, Islam, or any other false religion. The Bible makes the bold claim that Jesus is the ONLY way, and the Christian apologist must set his sights on the Bible alone, not on a defense of arbitrary theism.Buy Now