Is the Book of Job a Play?

Something I’ve always wondered about is whether the Bible book of Job was originally a play. To clarify, I am not suggesting that the story is not factual — rather that it was adapted to be performed. Why do I think this?

  1. A very limited number of scenes, actors, and props are required:
    There are a very limited number of scenes, props, and people required. There are probably only about 3 in the entire story. The first, the dialogue in Heaven, could be carried out in almost total darkness. Here are the scenes. They are either performed in front of a curtain

    1. Verses 1:1-2: Announcer speaks from in front of curtain.
    2. Verses 1:3-12: Still in front of curtain, the Devil and a few angels could come on stage and the voice of God can come in from offstage.
    3. Verses 1:13-22: Curtains open, job is eating when catastrophe strikes Props consit of tables, chairs, dishes.
    4. Verses 2:1-8: Curtains close, Devil returns briefly.
    5. Verse 2:9 to the end: Final scene. No props on stage.

    The entire cast consists of:

    1. Job’s wife
    2. Job
    3. Job’s 3 friends
    4. The 3 messengers
    5. God (always off stage)
    6. The Devil (maybe some angels)
    7. The announcer

    If you double up on a few of the roles this could probably be performed by 5 men and a woman.

  2. Contrived dialogue: Verses 1:13-17 when the three messengers come in all at once, each describe a catastrophe, and then each finishes with “I am the only one who has escaped to tell you” just sounds more theatrical than natural. Also, the speeches exchanged by Job and his 3 friends in the last scene are rather long, poetic, and sound more literary than natural. How often have you heard people argue without interrupting each other?
  3. I have heard it said that the book of Job is some of the most difficult Hebrew of the Bible. This might well be the case if composed by a master writer.

I have no idea how a theater company would have fit in to the life of ancient Israel, or why this one work should be the only example of it that survived (assuming it is, I don’t know of any others). I haven’t read the theory that this book is really a play anywhere else. Are the Bible Scholars out there who have heard it before? I can’t believe that I’m the first to come up with it.

All I know is that every time I read this book, I am always impressed how much it sounds like a performance.

This entry was posted in Theology. Bookmark the permalink.