Re-reading Job: Understanding the Ancient World’s Greatest Poem
Part of our Contemporary Studies in Scripture series
Job is perhaps the most difficult to understand of all books in the Bible. While a cursory reading of the text seems to relay a simple story of a righteous man whose love for God was tested through life's most difficult of challenges and rewarded for his faith through those trials, a closer reading of Job presents something far more complex and challenging. The majority of the text is a work of poetry that authors and artists through the centuries have recognized as being one of--if not the--greatest poem of the ancient world.
In Re-reading Job: Understanding the Ancient World’s Greatest Poem, author Michael Austin shows how most readers have largely misunderstood this important work of scripture and provides insights that enable us to re-read Job in a drastically new way. In doing so, he shows that the story of Job is far more than that simple story of faith, trials, and blessings that we have all come to know, but is instead a subversive and complex work of scripture meant to inspire readers to rethink all that they thought they knew about God.
Praise for Re-reading Job:
“In this remarkable book, Michael Austin employs his considerable skills as a commentator to shed light on the most challenging text in the entire Hebrew Bible. Without question, readers will gain a deeper appreciation for this extraordinary ancient work through Austin’s learned analysis. Rereading Job signifies that Latter-day Saints are entering a new age of mature biblical scholarship. It is an exciting time, and a thrilling work.” — David Bokovoy, author, Authoring the Old Testament
“Warning: this is not your Sunday School teacher’s Job! Austin pays close attention to the structure of the book in an earnest attempt to understand its argument and appreciate its aesthetic and moral beauty. The conclusion may be startling for Latter-day Saints accustomed to dispatching with the entire book of Job in a quadrennial 30-minute lesson—not only does Job not support our cherished notions about how the righteous will eventually prosper; it interrogates these notions and then condemns them in the strongest possible terms. The reader is left, not with a settled and comforting fairy tale, but with a demanding invitation ‘to collaborate with the poet to produce better answers ourselves.’ Remarkably, Austin calls us to this task with prose so deft and witty that the work of understanding is not a chore, but a delight.” — Kristine Haglund, editor, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought
“There is something new under the sun! Michael Austin’s reading of Job is faithful and critical, learned and accessible, serious and witty. And while his primary focus is on literary concerns, he doesn’t neglect the historical development of the book. Austin has not only cracked open Job, but he has also set a new gold standard for Mormon writings about scripture by seamlessly blending serious biblical studies, the Western literary tradition, theological reflection, and personal insight into one remarkably well-written book.” — Julie M. Smith, author, Search, Ponder, and Pray: A Guide to the Gospels
“Many of us long for more meaningful engagement with the scriptures. Mike Austin’s new book, Re-reading Job, offers just that. While we typically focus only on the frame story, Austin demonstrates that the real message of Job is found in the poetic chapters in between the frame. As Austin puts it, ‘one of the most profound parts of the Bible has remained hidden in plain sight for more than 2000 years.’ Mike Austin is the Sunday school teacher many of us long for. Insightful, witty, and faith sustaining, Austin engages both our minds and our hearts in a conversation about the tough questions Job calls on us to contemplate. He challenges us to take seriously the ethical claims the book demands of us: to demand justice as we give compassion. Rereading Job demonstrates that Mike Austin is one of the most profound, funny, and kind voices hiding in plain sight among the LDS community.” — Boyd Jay Petersen, author of Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life and Dead Wood and Rushing Water: Essays on Mormon Faith, Culture, and Family
About the Author:
Michael Austin received his BA and MA in English from Brigham Young University and his Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He is the author or editor of seven books and more than 50 articles, book chapters, and reviews. His books include New Testaments, a study of biblical typology in the 17th and 18th centuries; That’s Not What They Meant!, an analysis of the debates of America’s Founding Fathers; and Useful Fictions, an exploration of the connections between cognitive psychology and literature that was named a CHOICE outstanding academic title for 2011. His composition textbook, Reading the World: Ideas that Matter, is used in more than 200 colleges and universities worldwide, and he has also written widely about Mormonism in literature, including articles on Angels in America, Big Love, The Book of Mormon: A Musical, contemporary mystery fiction, and the works of Terry Tempest Williams, Judith Freeman, and Vardis Fisher. He is currently the Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Newman University in Wichita, Kansas, where he lives with his wife, Karen, and his children, Porter and Clarissa.
ISBN 978-1-58958-667-3 (paperback); 978-1-58958-668-0 (hardcover)