Thread: Job 19:25-27 life after death or something else? Board: Oblivion / Ship of Fools.

To visit this thread, use this URL:;f=70;t=028331

Posted by leo (# 1458) on :
This passage is often understood to be one of the earliest accounts of belief in lie after death in the Old Testament?

But is it?

Job is speaking in the context of being vindicated against his 'friends'. The 'redeemer' can be translated as a go-between, a barrister for his defence.

'In the flesh' is understood by many Jews to be a reference to circumcision, so it is something about God being faithful to his covenant.

I've heard of one translation which puts a question mark after 'flesh' - which turns any sense of after life upside down and becomes a statement of doubt.

What do people think?
Posted by Hart (# 4991) on :
It's certainly not a clear example of anything (except obscurity, maybe). Take, for instance, the min- adjoined to 'flesh.' Min has an ablative sense ('from'). So, it could be "from my flesh" (ie. I am in my flesh when I am doing the seeing) or "away from my flesh" (ie. I'm not!). As for what's often rendered at the last (temporally), it could mean "in the West" (spatial) or "behind me" (like, "I've got your back") or even "even if he were the last one standing one earth, my redeemer would be there."

Anyone who tells you they can give a definitive account of what these few verses mean should be treated with skepticism. But, here's my best guess, conveyed via paraphrase:

"Even I know that my vindicator is alive! At the last possible moment (when I've suffered as much as possible), he will come into this dusty waste. And with my skin ravaged by infection, in this too too solid flesh of mine, I will be granted a vision of God. I will see him for myself and no-one else will (for who has such suffering as me?)"

[ 21. February 2014, 16:02: Message edited by: Hart ]
Posted by Mudfrog (# 8116) on :
That's a very tortured result of cobbling together a load of phrases that seem to be included simply because they do not give the traditional meaning.

The Complete Jewish Bible says:
25 “But I know that my Redeemer lives,
that in the end he will rise on the dust;
26 so that after my skin has been thus destroyed,
then even without my flesh, I will see God.
27 I will see him for myself,
my eyes, not someone else’s, will behold him.
My heart grows weak inside me!

The Orthodox Jewish Bible says:
25 For Ani yadati Goeli chai (I know that my Redeemer liveth), and that he shall stand up at Acharon (at the Last) upon aphar (dust, the earth);
26 And though after my ohr (skin) has been thus destroyed, yet from my basar I shall see Eloah;
27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold and no other; my heart faints within me.

Posted by leo (# 1458) on :
But the life-after-death meaning seems odd, given that every other mention of death by Job seems to be to a shadowy half-existence in Sheol.

e.g. 14:1-2, 3-6, 7-12, 13-17 where he asks if it is possible to live again, 18-22 where he sees hope destroyed, 7:7 where there seems to be no coming back and 21:13
Posted by Charles Had a Splurge on (# 14140) on :

I don't think that the CJB or the OJB could be considered particularly reliable readings. And the titles are misleading as the OJB is not orthodox (Messianic Jewish), and both are over-complete (including the New Testament books).

Consider the Jewish Publication Society's (1985) version:

But I know that my Vindicator lives;
In the end He will testify on earth-
This, after my skin will have been peeled off.
But I would behold God while still in my flesh,
I myself, not another, would behold Him;
My heart* pines within me.

*lit. kidneys.

The JPS is a genuinely Jewish Bible and looks quite close to Hart's version.

Dosen't seem to be any resurrection here.
Posted by leo (# 1458) on :
I thought I smelt a rat in Mudfrog's quotations.
Posted by Mudfrog (# 8116) on :
I got them from Biblegateway, which seems a respectable site; I didn't realise they were dodgy.

I suppose that I would simply have to side with Tradition on this one - that which has always and everywhere been believed/taught.

I think most Bibles and most Christians would accept the church's teaching that this is a reference to resurrection - accepting of course the variant readings and the difficulty in translation.
Posted by Not (# 2166) on :
I blame Handel. We're so used to hearing them sung as an exquisite aria of confidence in the resurrection, that, even unconsciously, that 'reads back' into the text.
Posted by Hart (# 4991) on :
Originally posted by Mudfrog:

I suppose that I would simply have to side with Tradition on this one - that which has always and everywhere been believed/taught.

I'll certainly side with Tradition on the truth of the resurrection. But on the historical question of what the author(s) of Job were referring to, I'll use the critical faculties God gave me to investigate the question. I find it not proven.

It's one thing to find resonances of later doctrine in earlier texts (possible a very spiritually helpful thing), but to refuse to seek the texts' per se voice is to miss out on so much.
Posted by Mudfrog (# 8116) on :
We have had one Jewish version quoted. I wonder what the other ones say. What are the most common English translations used in synagogues?
Posted by Mudfrog (# 8116) on :
A thought occurs - it is surely not wrong to do what Jesus himself did and to see him in all the Law and the Prophets. We are not required only to interpret the Old Testament in the way that the Jews of the time - or even now - interpret it.

See this example of how the Apostles used the Law and the Prophets

[ 23. February 2014, 14:50: Message edited by: Mudfrog ]
Posted by Hart (# 4991) on :
This is where dialog gets difficult, Mudfrog, because as a Catholic I simply can't agree with what you've said, at least un-nuanced. This the teaching of the Church, from the Pontifical Biblical Commission's 2001 statement:


"The notion of fulfillment is an extremely complex one, one that could easily be distorted if there is a unilateral insistence either on continuity or discontinuity. Christian faith recognizes the fulfillment, in Christ, of the Scriptures and the hopes of Israel, but it does not understand this
fulfillment as a literal one. Such a conception would be reductionist. …Jesus is not confined to playing an already fixed role – that of Messiah – but he confers, on the notions of Messiah and salvation, a fullness which could not have been imagined in advance;…It would be wrong to consider the prophecies of the Old Testament as some
kind of photographic anticipations of future events. All the texts, including those which later were read as messianic prophecies, already had an immediate import and meaning for their contemporaries before attaining a fuller meaning for future hearers."

The same would apply, I think, to seeing reference to resurrection in early Biblical texts, with a slight caveat that while I think such a reference is unlikely in Job, the text is so unclear that I can't rule it out.

All I can say is to invite you to consider the "immediate import and meaning" texts had before considering (and marveling at) the "fuller meaning for future hearers." You can trust me, or at least take a risk, that there are great riches to be found by doing both of these things. Or you can choose not to. I don't see how arguing with each other any further is going to do anyone any good.
Posted by Mudfrog (# 8116) on :
I wouldn't disagree in the slightest with anything you have written there.

I am well aware and entirely in agreement with the idea that the prophecies have an immediate message to the contemporary situation. To suggest, for example, that the prophecy of 'the virgin shall conceive' can/must only refer to the Virgin Mary, is to dishonour and do injustice to Isaiah's (and God's) message to the people at the time.

As far as the Jews were concerned, the first and only meaning of Isaiah's prophecy for 750 years was that which Isaiah plainly meant. However, the message of the church from the time of Jesus - NB the explanation given by Jesus on the road to Emmaus - is that wonderfully the Scriptures were speaking of the Messiah as well.
Posted by Nigel M (# 11256) on :
Originally posted by leo:
...But is it?

That's one of the questions on the “to do” list (a rather long list and this item has been there for some time): work out if the author was assuming life after death or not. So this was a good opportunity for me to take a look at the text.

The thing about 19:25-27 is that it is quite a stable text; there are no major variations. This rather implies that those responsible for retaining, copying, and transmitting it had no real problem with understanding what was meant. Obviously we have problems with the phraseology today; it is a difficult passage to understand now.

The thought occurred to see whether any similar passages in Job could shed some light and I wonder about chapter 14. A similar question could be asked about this chapter, how it starts and ends with apparent pessimism, but in the middle rises to suggest an alternative future. The chapter can be found here in a few versions.

The impression given from the beginning and the ending is that humans do not survive death. For example:
Job 14:1-2
Man, born of woman, lives but a few days, and they are full of trouble.
He grows up like a flower and then withers away;
he flees like a shadow, and does not remain.

...there is hope for a tree: if it is cut down, it will sprout again,
and its new shoots will not fail. ...
But man dies and is powerless; he expires – and where is he?

As a mountain falls away and crumbles, and as a rock will be removed from its place,
as water wears away stones, and torrents wash away the soil, so you destroy man’s hope.
You overpower him once for all, and he departs.

The pictures the author chooses to compare humans with seem pretty unambiguous. Man dies and that is that. No reviving like fresh shoots, just dust. But then in the middle we have ambiguity thrown in:
Job 14:11-17
As water disappears from the sea, or a river drains away and dries up,
so man lies down and does not rise;
until the heavens are no more, they will not awake nor arise from their sleep.
O that you would hide me in Sheol, and conceal me till your anger has passed!
O that you would set me a time and then remember me!
If a man dies, will he live again?
All the days of my hard service I will wait until my release comes.
You will call and I - I will answer you;
you will long for the creature you have made.
Surely now you count my steps; then you would not mark my sin.
My offences would be sealed up in a bag; you would cover over my sin.

The highlighted bits are those that imply an alternative future, some time when a proper judgement would be passed, not as at the present when Job seems to be at the receiving end of a capricious act from a cruel God.

A second thought: I wonder how far we can take the main section of this book (chapters 3-37) as a reflection on the God we think of – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and of Jesus the Messiah. I get the impression from the whole setting that this work was constructed to give a rhetorical take on philosophical debates about the nature of the supreme ancient near eastern deity, El. Chapters 3-37 present Job and his debating partners discussing god (El) at a remove – El never enters joins the discussion. He is the absentee landlord god, who takes little interest in the affairs of humans, but could act capriciously on a whim. There are reflections of this god in some Greek philosophical debates on the nature of god as well.

Job is placed outside of Israel and is a foreigner, but not so far away as to be out of sight; he is close enough for Israelite readers to have a comfort zone while at the same time being prone to a literary prod or two to bring home some uncomfortable truths. Perhaps an Israelite reader of this book would start with a jarring note about his or her God, Yahweh, apparently doing betting deals with the Adversary (the Satan) to the disbenefit of a devout and faithful man. Then the reader settles into the bulk of the book and notes that Job and his debaters are talking Greek (in static Greek philosophical style, anyway) about El. This is, the reader might think, a book about what others outside of Israel think about God, and that they are of course deluded because we (the Israelite readers) know that El is in fact our Yahweh. Then in chapter 38 the reader is treated to Yahweh intervening noisily into what had been a perfectly respectable theological debate.

So it could be that the aim of the whole piece was not to offer final and definitive reflections on God, but to play off one understanding of El with another understanding of Yahweh as El. In this context perhaps the rhetorical swings around the subject of death need to be seen as a view from outside Israel.
Posted by leo (# 1458) on :
Thanks for that thoughtful and copnsidered post.

© Ship of Fools 2016

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classicTM 6.5.0