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Perspectives on Conversion in the Book of Job and the Testament of Job

Though the same figure is central both to the biblical book of Job and the Testament of Job, these two texts offer strikingly different, even opposing perspectives on conversion. In the Hebrew Bible, the righteous Job is faced with multiple calls to convert, to “turn” or “return” to God (e.g. Job 22:23). Yet he refuses to heed them, choosing instead to persist in a form of piety that is rendered to God hinnam, that is, without expectation of reward. In the end, it is God, surprisingly, who “turns” (shub) when he “turns aside the captivity” (shub shebut) of Job and restores him to prosperity (42:10). Job’s piety consists, then, in a refusal to “turn.” In the Greek Testament of Job, however, Job is presented as the ideal convert. Initially stirred by rational dissatisfaction with idol worship, he heeds an angelic call to embrace a new form of life. The angel promises Job renown, prosperity, and resurrected life if he maintains his opposition to idolatry. Job agrees to the test. He endures heroically in his new allegiance to the one God, despite opposition from the devil, and he is finally integrated by marriage into the people of Israel before his soul his taken to heaven. The Job of the Testament undergoes a conversion that begins with private reasonings about the divine, includes perseverance in a newly adopted faith, and culminates in a new ethnic-religious identity. By examining the book of Job, the Testament of Job, and early Jewish traditions about Job, we are able to identify distinct perspectives on conversion that correspond to discrete historical situations: the questioning of Deuteronomic theology at the time of the Babylonian exile and the commendation of Judaism as a virtuous path to immortality in the first centuries of the common era.

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