« PreviousContinue »
the time of Jerom, that all but the introduction and conclusion is in
But as it was the custom of Antiquity to write their gravest works of Religion, Law, and History, in verse ; this circumstance alone should, I think, have little share in determining the nature of the Composition. And as little, I think, on the other hand, ought the frequent use of the Arabic dialect to be insisted on, in support of its high original, since, if it be of the nature, and of the date, here supposed, an able writer would chuse to give his Fable that air of Antiquity and verisimilitude.
2. But when we take the Sentiments along, and find throughout the whole, not only verse but poetry, a poetry animated by all the sublimity of figures and luxuriance of description; and this, on the coolest and most abstracted subject; we cannot chuse but conclude it to be a work of imagination. Nor is it sufficient to say, that this is owing to an Eastern genius, whose kindling fancy heats all his thoughts into a glow of expression : for if the two ends be his who wrote the middle, as we have no reason to doubt, they shew him not unused to the plainest form of narration. And as to that Eastern genius itself, though distinguishingly sublime when a poetic subject has enflamed its enthusiasm, yet in mere history, nothing can be more cool and simple ; as all acquainted either with their ancient or modern writers can inform us. But, what is more to our purpose, the sacred Prophets themselves, though wrapt in ecstasy of the divine impressions, when treating of the question here debated, namely, Whether and wherefore the Good are frequently unhappy and the Bad prosperous, a question that came sometimes in their way, while they were reproving their impious and impatient countrymen, who by their repeated apostasies had now provoked God to withdraw from them, by degrees, his extraordinary providence; when, I say, they touch upon this question, they treat the matter with the utmost plainness and simplicity.
3. But the last and most convincing circumstance is the form of the composition. And here I shall not urge, as of much weight, what hath been observed by some who take this side of the question, the scenical image of Job and his friends sitting together on the ground seven days and seven nights without a word speaking. * Because we reasonably suppose no more to be meant than that excess of mutual grief making them unfit to give, and him to receive consolation, they were some days † before they entered on the subject of their visit.
This rather is the thing to be admired, (if we suppose it all historic truth) that three cordial friends should make a solemn appointment
+ « Eo quod Hebræi soleant multiplicare per septem (h. e. septe. narium numerum pro multitudine ponere)."- MAIMON, More Nevochim, p. 267.
• Job ii. 13.
to go mourn with Job and to comfort him ; * that they should be so greatly affected with his extreme distresses, as to be unable to utter a word for seven whole days together ; and yet, after this, to be no sooner set in, than intirely to forget their errand, and (miserable comforters as they were) instead of mourning with him in the bitterness of his soul, to wrangle, and contradict him in every word he spoke ; and this without the least softening of Friendship; but with all the fierceness and acrimony of angry Disputants contending for a victory. It was no trifle neither that they insisted on, in which indeed disputations men are often the warmest, but a contradiction in the tenderest point. They would needs have it, against all Job's protestations to the contrary, that his misfortunes came upon him in punishment for his crimes. Suppose their friend had been wrong in the judgement he passed on things, Was this a time to animadvert in so pitiless a manner on his errors ? Would not a small share of affection, pity, or even common humanity, have disposed them to bear one seven days longer with their old distressed Acquaintance ? Human nature is ever uniform ; and the greater passions, such as those of friendship and natural affection, shew themselves to be the same at all times : But we have an instance in these very times, in that amiable domestic story of Joseph. This Patriarch had been cruelly injured by his brethren. Providence at length put them into his power ; and, in just resenta ment of their inhuman usage, he thought fit to mortify and humble them : but no sooner did he find them begin to be unhappy, than his anger subsided, violated affection returned, and he melted into their bosoms with all the tenderness of a fellow-sufferer. This was Nature: This was History. And shall we suppose the feelings of true Friendship to be inferior to those of Family-affection? David thought otherwise, where, speaking of Jonathan, he declares their mutual love was wonderful, surpassing that of the strongest natural affection, the passion between the two sexes. The same have always been the Friendships of good men, when founded on virtue, and strengthened by a similitude of manners.
So that it appears, these three friends were of a singular complexion ; and deservedly gave occasion to a proverb which sets them in no very honourable or advantageous light.
But suppose now the work to be dramatical, and we immediately see the reason of their behaviour. For had they not been indulged in their strange captious humour, the Author could never have produced a piece of that integrity of action, which a scenic representation demanded : and they might as well have held their tongues seven days longer, as not contradict, when they did begin to speak. This, as to what the Drama in general required. But had this
† See note E, at the end of this book.
• Job ii. 11.
been all we could say for their conduct, we should needs confess that the divine Writer had here done, what mere mortal Poets so frequently do; that is, had transgressed nature in such a representation of friendship) for the sake of his Plot. But we shall shew, when we come to examine the MORAL of the poem, that nature is exactly followed ; for that under these three miserable Comforters, how true friends soever in the Fable, certain false friends were intended to be shadowed out in the Moral.*
But now the dispute is begun and carried on with great vehemence on both sides. They affirm, they object, they answer, they reply; till, having exhausted their whole stock of arguments, and made the matter more doubtful than they found it, the Author, in this embarras, has récourse to the common expedient of dramatic writers, to draw him from his straits,-eos ánò unxavñs. And if ever that precept of the masters of composition,
Nec Deus intersit, nisi dignus Vindice nodus, was well followed, it was here. For what can we conceive more worthy the presence of a God than to interfere with his Authority, to silence those frivolous or impious disputes amongst men concerning the MYSTERIOUS WAYS OF PROVIDENCE? And that this interposition was nothing more, I think, is evident from hence : The subject, as we observe, was of the highest importance, namely, Whether, and why, good men are unhappy, and the evil prosperous ? The disputants had much perplexed the question by various answers and replies ; in which each side had appealed to reason and experience; so that there wanted a superior Wisdom to moderate and determine. But, to the surprise of all who consider this attentively, and consider it as a strict History, they find God introduced to do this in a speech which clears up no difficulties ; but makes all hopes of deciding the question desperate, by an appeal to his Almighty power. A plain proof that the Interposition was no more than a piece of poetical Machinery. And in that case we see the reason why the knot remains untied : for the sacred Writer was no wiser I when he spoke poetically in the Person of God, than when he spoke in the person of Job or his friends.
On these accounts, and on many more, which will be touched upon in the course of this dissertation, but are here omitted to avoid repetition, I conclude, that those Critics who suppose the book of Job to be of the dramatic kind do not judge amiss.
Nor does such idea of this truly divine Composition at all detract from the proofs we have of the real existence of this holy Patriarch, or of the truth of his exemplary Story. On the contrary, it much
+ See note G, at the end of this book.
. See note F, at the end of this book. See note H, at the end of this book.
confirms them : seeing it was the general practice of dramatic Writers, of the serious kind, to chuse an illustrious Character or celebrated Adventure for the subject of the Piece, in order to give their poem its due dignity and weight. And yet, which is very surprising, the Writers on both sides, as well those who suppose the Book of Job to be dramatical, as those who hold it to be historical, have fallen into this paralogism, That, if dramatical, then the Person and History of Job are fictitious. Which nothing but inattention to the nature of a dramatic Work, and to the practice of dramatic Writers, could have occasioned. Lactantius had a much better idea of this species of composition : “ Totum autem, quod referas, fingere, id est, ineptum esse, et Mendacem potius quam Poetam."
But this fallacy is not of late standing. Maimonides, where he speaks of those whose opinion be seems to incline to, that say the book of Job is parabolical, expresses himself in this manner.* You know, there are certain men who say, that such a man as Job never existed. And that his HISTORY is nothing else but a parable. These certain men were (we know) the Talmudists. Now, as, by his History, he means this book of Job, it is evident he supposed the fabulosity of the book concluded against the existence of the Patriarch. Nay, so insensibly does this inveterate fallacy insinuate itself into our reasonings on this subject, that even Grotius himself
not to be quite free from the entanglement. Who, although he saw these two things, (a real Job and a dramatic representation of him) 80 reconcileable, that he supposed both; yet will not allow the book of Job to be later than Ezekiel, because that Prophet mentions Job.t Which argument, to have any strength, must suppose Job to be unknown until this Book was written ; consequently that his Person was fictitious ; contrary to his own supposition, that there was a real Job living in the time of Moses. I After this, it is no wonder, that the Author of the Archæologiæ Philosophicæ, whose talent was not critical acumen, should have reasoned so grosly on the same fallacious principle. $ These learned men, we see, would infer a visionary Job from a visionary History. Nor is the mistake of another celebrated Writer less gross, who would, on the contrary, infer a real history from a real Job. Ezekiel and St. James (says Dr. Middleton, in his essay on the Creation and Fall of Man) refer to the BOOK OF Job in the same manner as if it were a real history. Whereas the truth is, they do not refer to the BOOK OF Job at all.
II. The second question to be considered, is in what Age this book was composed.
'Nósti quosdam esse, qui dicunt Jobum nunquam fuisse, neque creatum esse ; sed HISTORIAN illius nihil aliud esse quam Parabolam. + Ezek. xiv. 14.
1 Vid, GROTI Praf. in Librum Job. § See note 1, at the end of this book.
1. First then we say in general, that it was written some time under the Mosaic Dispensation. But to this it is objected, that, if it were composed in those Times, it is very strange that not a single word of the Mosaic Law, nor any distant allusion to the Rites or Ceremonies of it, nor any historical circumstance under it, nor any species of idolatry in use during its period, should be found in it.*
I apprehend the objection rests on one or other of these suppositions, Either that the book is not a Work of the dramatic kind; or that the Hero of the Piece is fictitious. But both these suppositions have been shewn to be erroneous ; so that the objection falls with them. For to observe DECORUM is one of the most essential rules of dramatic writing. He therefore who takes a real Personage for the subject of his poem will be obliged to shew him in the customs and sentiments of his proper Age and Country; unmixed with the manners of the Writer's later Time and Place. Nature and the reason of the thing so evidently demand this conduct, and the neglect of it has so ungracious an effect, that the polite Roman Historian thought the Greek tragic Writers were to blame even for mentioning the more modern name of Thessaly, in their pieces of the Trojan War. And he gives this good reason for his censure, Nihil enim ex Persona Poëtæ, sed omnia sub eorum, qui illo tempore virerunt, dicerunt. But to lay no greater stress on this argument than it will bear;
I confess ingenuously, that were there not (as the objection supposes) the least distant relation or allusion to the Jewish Law or History throughout the whole book, it might reasonably create some suspicion that the Author lived before those times. For though this rule of decorum be so essential to dramatic writing, yet, as the greatest Masters in that art frequently betrayed their own Times and Country in their fictitious Works, I we can hardly suppose a Jewish Writer more exact in what only concerned the critical perfection of his Piece. But as DECORUM is one of the plainest and simplest principles of Composition, we cannot suppose a good writer ignorant of it; and so are not to look for such glaring absurdities as are to be found in the dramatic writings of late barbarous ages ; but such only as might easily escape the most exact and best instructed Writer.
Some slight indecorums therefore we may reasonably expect to find, if the Author were indeed a Jew : and such, if I am not much mis
• “ Jobus Arabs woAUKNELTÓS Kai wolvuaons, in cujus historià multa occurrunt antiquæ sapientiæ vestigia, antiquior habetur Mose. Idque multis patet indiciis : Primo, quòd nullibi meminerit rerum à Mose gestarum, sive in Ægypto, sive in exitu, sive in deserto.- Secundo, quod, cùm vir pius et veri numinis cultor fuerit, legi Mosaicæ con. traiverit, in sacrificiis faciendis.—Tertio, ex ætatis et ritæ suæ mensura, in tertio, plus minus, á Diluvio sæculo collocandus esse videtur : vixit enim ultra ducentos annos.Cùm de Idololatria loquitur, memorat primum ipsius genus Solis et Lunæ adorationem. --Neque Sabbathi neque ullius legis factitiæ meminit.--His omnibus adducor ut credam, Mosi Jobum tempore anteisse."--Archæol. Philos. pp. 265, 266. + See note K, at the end of this book.
See note L, at the end of this book.