Mediterranean and Middle Eastern tradition

The Fate of the Poetry and Prose in the Reception of Literature about Job

  • Summary/Abstract

    Translation, and in the broader sense, meditation are important concepts in the study of the development of legends and other text to do with the figure of Job. It has been argued that ancient Near Eastern (Babylonian, Sumerian and Egyptian) righteous sufferer motifs have been ‘translated’ into the figure of Job in the Hebrew Bible, and this figure then finds himself ‘translated’ again in the Hellenistic Jewish milieus of the Septuagint version of the Book of Job, and of a different composition about Job, the Testament of Job. This composition differs significantly from the earlier traditions, as it is a narrative rather than (mainly) a poetic philosophical treatise, and the theme of the righteous sufferer is almost absent. The Testament of Job is better viewed as an independent composition about Job, rather than as a ‘translation’ (commentary, interpretation) of the Book of Job. Being aware of these wider issues, this paper will zoom in on the Testament of Job as a text in translation. While earlier scholars advocated the view that there was a Semitic (Hebrew or Aramaic) original, this view has now been abandoned in favour of the thesis that this composition was composed in Greek, probably in a Hellenistic Jewish milieu. Later this story was adopted by Christians and translated first in Coptic and later in Slavonic, and the Greek text also continued to be copied and adjusted in Byzantine Christian contexts. This paper will examine some of the differences between these three translations and try to come to an understanding of the nature of each the existing versions of the Testament of Job as a translation from the now lost original.

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