With book #9, we turn to the next step in learning the Bible—studying an individual book. I’ve picked one out of very many possibilities for this stage of learning: Raymond Scheindlin’s translation and commentary on the book of Job.
You have to remember that the Bible is not a book but a library. The books that make up the Bible were written over the course of 1,000 years, by different authors with different purposes. You may start out by being more interested in the prophets, the psalms, or the histories, so you’ll begin your more concentrated study with one of those books. I’m particularly interested in what’s called “wisdom literature” (more on this in a later post), so I’ve selected Scheindlin’s Job as my example.
And it’s a great one. Scheindlin is not a biblical scholar, but he worked closely with Stephen Geller (one of my teachers), who is a top scholar. That means his book is informed by the best scholarship but is written for a general readership. What Scheindlin himself brings to the project is that he’s a world-class translator of poetry—and the poetry of Job is not only amazing, it’s essential to understanding the book.
For a sample of Scheindlin’s work, compare these translations of Job 28:4:
The flood breaketh out from the inhabitant; even the waters forgotten of the foot: they are dried up, they are gone away from men. (KJV)
They open up a shaft far from where men live,
In places forgotten by wayfarers,
Destitute of men, far removed. (NJPS)
He bursts a channel from his dwelling
to places footfall-forgotten,
folk-thinned, wandered from. (Scheindlin)
“Folk-thinned” conveys the intensity of this poetic language far better than “destitute of men.” And “footfall-forgotten” is an inspired coinage.
Job is the original Jewish meditation on the question of “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People,” or as it is traditionally expressed, צדיק ורע לו (tzaddik v’ra lo, a righteous man who has it bad). The book will repay a lifetime of study. In addition to a wonderful poetic translation, Scheindlin’s version will guide you through the book, showing you its structure and explaining the major questions that the book raises.
The individual books in the Jewish Study Bible begin this process on a small scale, but you’ll want to continue your study of a biblical book with an entire volume devoted to the book you’ve chosen. Job is particularly difficult to study on your own, but you’ll discover that every biblical book will repay the same kind of closer look. So choose a book, find a commentary, and begin to learn.
Tags: Job 28:4