The book of Job is the longest and most thematically and linguistically challenging of the “wisdom books” in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. In the book’s prologue (Job 1–2) the narrator introduces readers to a man named Job (Hebrew ‘iyyōb; etymology unclear). Job’s prosperity extends into all areas of his life, and seems at least potentially linked to his moral status as completely righteous and blameless before God. The earthly scene then gives way to a heavenly setting, where a figure called “the accuser” (literally “the satan”; haśśātān) appears before God. God boasts about Job’s righteousness, but the accuser counters, suggesting that Job’s moral achievement has been merely the byproduct of God’s protection. The accuser and God enter into a bet: Job’s children will be killed, Job’s possessions stripped, and Job’s body afflicted with a painful disease—all to see whether Job will curse God. Job initially responds to the distress with pious statements, affirming God’s authority over his life. In a state of intense suffering, Job is joined by three friends—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, and then eventually a fourth, Elihu—who offer rounds of speeches debating the reasons for Job’s situation (Job 3–37). Job responds to the friends in turn, alternately lamenting his situation and pleading for a chance to address God directly and argue his case as an innocent man. The friends accuse Job of committing some great sin to deserve his fate; they urge repentance, and defend God as a just ruler. God enters the dispute in a forceful whirlwind (Job 38), and proceeds for several chapters (Job 38–41) to overwhelm Job with resounding statements on creation (38:1–38), animal life (38:39–40:14), and visions of two powerful creatures, Behemoth (40:15–24) and Leviathan (41:1–11). The book ends with Job acknowledging to God the fact that he is overmatched in the face of divine power. God condemns the friends for not speaking “what is right, as my servant Job has” (42:7), and then restores Job’s lost possessions and children (42:10–17). Job has enjoyed a rich reception history in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and, perhaps more than any other book in the Bible except Genesis, as a world literary classic in its own right. Within the Bible, it is the most bracing statement on the problem of suffering, as it presents a situation wherein a clearly righteous person suffers immensely—putting it at odds with more straightforward descriptions of why people suffer in Proverbs, Deuteronomy, and other texts. Scholarly research on Job has focused on the book’s place among other ancient Near Eastern wisdom materials, on questions of language (given the large amount of difficult Hebrew terms in the book), on historical-critical concerns about authorship and the way the book may have come together in its present form, and on the history of the translation of the text into Greek and other ancient languages. In the 21st century, interpreters have increasingly taken up readings of Job that situate it among concerns related to economics, disability, gender, and the history of its reception in many different eras and communities.
Ancient Greek religion was a polytheistic religion without a book, church, creed, or a professional priestly class. Due to the extraordinarily rich regional varieties in cult, fragmentary evidence and conjectural interpretations of it, conflicting mythological accounts, and the span of time treated, not a single absolute statement can be made about any aspect of Greek religion and exceptions exist for every general rule stated here. Since Ancient Greeks perceived all aspects of nature as either divine or divinely controlled, and all aspects of individual and social life were thought to be subject to supernatural influence, paying proper respect to the gods and heroes was understood to be a fundamental necessity of life. Since no aspect of individual or social life was separate from “religion,” scholars refer to Ancient Greek religion as “embedded.”1 The closest Ancient Greek comes to the English word “religion” are the noun thrēskeia (“acts of religious worship, ritual, service of gods”) and the verb thrēskeuō (“to perform religious observances”). Basic components of religious worship were the construction and upkeep of divine precincts, statues, altars, and temples, the observance of festivals, performance of sacrifices, bloodless offerings and libations, prayer, hymning, and observance of ritual abstinences and purifications. The closest Greek equivalents to “belief” were eusebeia (“reverent piety,” “respect”) and pistis (“trust in others” or “faith”).2 Both words could qualify a relationship between humans, as well as a relationship between humans and a supernatural entity. Since the Ancient Greeks did not have authoritative or divinely sent books of revelation, there was no script telling them what or whom to believe in and outlining the reasons why. The Greeks did not have professional priests who preserved, interpreted, and disseminated religious norms.3 However, Greek literature is brimming with gods, and the stories about the gods, which they (and we) call “myths,” were not only in all their texts, but everywhere around them: depicted on their pottery, painted on their walls, chiseled on the stones of their buildings.4 In the public space, there were countless divine statues, and the temples, altars, sacred groves, and divine precincts were everywhere around them. Ancient Greeks learned about the gods by hearing, watching, and doing: by seeing their parents perform a sacrifice, by observing them as they prayed, swore an oath, or performed libations, by participating in processions, singing and dancing in the chorus, eating the sacrificial meat in the sanctuaries, and by drinking wine, the gift of Dionysus. Ancient Greeks had no immediate need for theodicy, for the gods could be either benevolent, or angry, and their benevolence was perceived as a sign that the worship the community offered was appropriate, whereas natural catastrophes, crippling defeats in wars, or epidemics were interpreted as manifestations of divine anger, provoked by some human error or misstep.5 Ancestral gods and heroes and the traditional way of worshipping them formed the cornerstone of Greek religiosity.