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Thy fearful symmetry: Order and disorder in creation in the Book of Job

Maltas, Claire Camilla (2016) Thy fearful symmetry: Order and disorder in creation in the Book of Job. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Because of its complexity and profundity, the Book of Job has been many things to many people and few texts can have been more written about. I will argue in this study that it is, first and foremost, about creation and the theology of creation. If “beginning” and “ending” are creation terms, “birth” and “death” are their equivalents for the animate parts of creation. What happens between those two events in time, which is well-being and survival to an expected time, seen as order in creation for its animate constituents, or their opposites which is ill-being and untimely death, seen as disorder in creation, must also belong to creation theology as must measures to be taken to secure the former and avoid the latter. The diversity of views on the subject of order and disorder in creation is explored through the medium of argumentative speeches each of which has persuasion as its goal. Two striking features of the arguments are, firstly, the passion with which they are expressed and, secondly, challenges to their credibility. I suggest that the key to the interpretation of Job as a work about order and disorder in creation is a rhetorical criticism based on precepts which hold that persuasion is achieved through argument, emotion and the credibility of the speaker. Aristotle’s Rhetoric meets those requirements. Since persuasion is not achieved in a void, I look at the Mesopotamian literary context of Job. I look, first, at texts dealing with order and disorder in creation, second, at texts concerned with human suffering, and thirdly, at a small group of texts comprising a literary genre, the dispute poem. I contend that the Joban poet modelled his work on the dispute poem, the better to set out the different strands of thinking on order and disorder in creation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Supervisor(s): Boorer, Suzanne
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