The Book Of Job -- By: William G. Ballantine
BSac 47:185 (Jan 1890) p. 54
The Book Of Job
The whole Bible is so real a book in all its parts that it seems unnecessary to raise the preliminary question whether the incidents and characters of the book of Job are historical or merely the creations of the poet’s fancy. We shall assume it as conceded that Job and his friends were real men, Satan a real devil, the property which Job lost real marketable wealth, the disease, the ashes, and the potsherd real, the thoughts and mental states historical, and only the presentation of the facts poetical.
The book of Job is, beyond question, the sublimest poem in all literature. Leaving out of view, for the moment, the fact of divine inspiration, looking at it simply as literature, as we look at the Iliad, the Prometheus, the Æneid, the Divine Comedy, King Lear, Hamlet, Paradise Lost, or Faust, it plainly surpasses all these masterpieces in the sublimity of its purpose, the consummate skill of its plot, the jewelled richness of its materials, the repose of its manner, the resistless rush of its thoughts, the consenting unity of all its parts.
There has been much shallow criticism of Hebrew poetry. Our literature took its rise in Greece. Ancient and Modern Italy, France, England, Germany, and America—all trace their letters back to Cadmus. Aristotle is the father of our systematic rhetoric. Because the poetry of the Bible does not fall readily into a Greek classification, the impression has gone abroad that Hebrew poetry
BSac 47:185 (Jan 1890) p. 55
is of a nondescript character, lacking in artistic symmetry and perfection of type. Never was impression more unjust. The poetic types of the Psalms, the Song of Songs, and of Job are as perfect as the lyric and dramatic types of Attica.
The question has been debated whether Job is a tragedy. Perhaps not, if the word “tragedy “is defined in a narrow fashion, combining essential characteristics with the accidental developments or accessories of the Dionysiac stage of Athens. It is not adapted to be acted in a theatre. But all the fundamentals of tragedy are present in a striking degree. The plot, as in the best Greek tragedies, takes in God and man. The protagonist is of just that character which Aristotle has pronounced the best subject for tragedy—one not deeply guilty nor altogether innocent. In enlarging upon this canon, Barron says: “The proper characters for tragedy should be possessed of high virtues to interest the spectators in their happiness, but they should be exhibited as liable to errors and indiscretions arising from the weakness of human nature, the violence of passion, or the intemperate pursuit of objects commendable and useful. The misfortunes of such persons properly painted...
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