The relationship between the lengthy poetic middle section of the book of Job and the brief prose frame has typically been treated by scholars as a question of compositional history or, occasionally, of genre (Gattung). What is missing from these approaches is a sustained consideration of the form-bound literary resources of ancient Hebrew prose and verse. Such a consideration suggests that, regardless of how many authors the book of Job may have had, poetry is present because it allows the book to do things that by convention could not be done in prose. In contrast to biblical Hebrew prose, verse is used almost exclusively for nonnarrative genres, consistently takes the form of direct discourse (rather than objective narration), is often employed for the expression of feeling or thought, and exhibits no qualms about the elaborate use of figurative language and visual imagery. The book of Job relies on these elements of biblical poetic style, largely unavailable to biblical prose narrative, in order to achieve the working out of its plot and to stage the intellectual debate essential to the book.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.