The Question of Job and Carl Jung
Job is a very interesting story. On the surface it tells us about a bet god made with satan. God points out a man and says: Look at Job. It’s great isn’t it? This guy is righteous and he fears me. He’s just the best.
Satan then relies: Sure. You give him everything, Why shouldn’t he worship you? But does he fear you for nothing? Take away what you gave him and let’s see how righteous he is when he has reason to fear you.
So god says: Ok, do your worst. But don’t touch him.
Satan then goes down and through a series of events Job loses everything. But he resigns himself to his fate and he doesn’t get angry at god.
So god and satan meet again, and this time after some more back and forth god allows satan to do harm to Job, but not kill him. Job starts getting sick and his wife even tells him to piss off god so at least his misery will be over in death. Job will not do it.
But his friends come to fee him and he laments to them that he would rather be dead, yet he never gets angry at god, who everyone knows is clearly in charge of all this mess.
In the end god has a little talk with Job and then he gives him back all he lost and more.
Why Jung decided to interpret Job I don’t know. But he did a horrible job of it in my opinion.
Jung’s interpretation of Job says nothing new about the way the story starts in that the god of this story, and I emphasis the word story, seems to fall into satan’s web, so to speak. But is that accurate?
To me it shows a god that does not know everything (how else could he be led?) and is therefore not omnipotent. Jung claims that god is omnipotent but that his omnipotence itself precludes him having self awareness. To me that is unfounded. How can omnipotence preclude self-awareness? Jung claims it is because god does not have a body and has no point of reference for self.
This idea contradicts what the bible tells us. The rest of the bible show clearly that the god of the story is very self aware. It is a tyrant egomaniac throughout the entire bible, insisting everyone worship and glorify it. How can you do that without a very acute feeling of superiority and self awareness? He feels entitlement, in fact. He feels entitled to worship and obedience without question. It is his right.
This is the same idea as kingship. Kings and queens often felt entitled to their position and far above the mere peasants they ruled. It is clear that this god is modeled on that kind of mentality. The all powerful are entitled to use their power in whatever way they see fit, and use us to do their will.
Remember what original sin is supposed to be? Eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If you look at that as a metaphor then it can obviously be seen as a story of how humans attained consciousness, and in particular, self consciousness. And what does god say? “behold, they are like one of us.” Meaning we had become conscious of self in a more profound way than we had been before. Knowledge of good and evil is only the symptom. To have knowledge of opposites you have to be able to deliberate and discern. You can’t do that without self awareness.
A single celled animal needs to be aware of self in a rudimentary way, for goodness sake, or it would continuously bang its head on the same rock and never get by it to the food on the other side. A god can surely do better than that?
How indeed can a god or anything need to take stock of itself and it’s actions, as Jung says of gods final answer to Job, unless it is self aware? He overanalyzed it and wasn’t seeing the big picture. A fault that is common to both Fraud and Jung in my opinion.
The Jews themselves see the satan in this story as god’s own second thought, or doubt. But that too precludes the god from being omnipotent. It is clearly the case when he says that he repented making mankind. How can a god know all in advance and regret anything? He would have known in advance what a headache we would have been and not bothered. And there are plenty of other places that show that god is not all wise, all knowing or omnipotent.
What the Jews say is that he is the power and that therefore he can do what he likes because he is entitled to do what he likes by virtue of his power alone. He is above morality because he decrees what morality is and is not. So nothing he does is immoral no matter how immoral it is.
Now you have to also note that the satan in the story is not a fallen angel. He is gods accuser. He is a cop, so to speak. That’s what satans were. They were the watchers of mankind and they went back and forth telling god about our sins. There are a lot of ancient texts that tell us this including Enoch and Jubilees. Humans had the same problem with gods cops as we do with human cops. They sometimes accuse or suspect the wrong people. A bad satan to the Jews was one that knowingly falsely accused a human.
However, in at least one German prison camp the Jews did put god on trial for crimes against his chosen people. God was found guilty, of course. Some probably did this in hopes that god would bring them a swift end, like Job’s wife wanted him to do. But god didn’t do a thing.
I, unlike Jung, do not see the satan falsely accusing Job. I see him doing what a lot of security people do. They are naturally suspicious. In this case perhaps the satan was just thinking in the best interest of god? “What if this Job is not as righteous as you think?” he says. “ Lets test him, it’s the only way to know for sure.”
So was god really bamboozled? Or didn’t he know for sure? Yes, the satan planted the doubt, but if god can doubt then he does not know all. The satan didn’t know for sure, he lost the bet. And if you notice, the satan did not do a single thing god did not instruct him to do. For most Christians that is righteous behaviour even if what he did to Job was cruel.
The Fundamentalists have a different take. It is complex because it has to be to get around the obvious. It usually starts by saying god tested Job, but he knew Job would pass. But to pass god had to test him. You can’t actually pass a test unless you do it. He wasn’t fooled by satan, he just had to use satan to test Job. Free will and all that nonsense. God was doing Job a favour. Nice, but what about the people that died? No one cares about them, the story only allows us to care about Job. He gets it all back in the end including a new wife and family. It all ends so positively... except for the other family he lost. If they meant nothing to him then he may have been righteous but he sure wasn’t a loving human being, and that’s not what the story says. It says he missed his family very much. But god didn’t care about his family. Oh yes, they all went to heaven, or perhaps some went to hell.... oh well. We all have to die sometime. It reminds me of a Rambo movie where everyone dies and no one cares about them or their families, only about Rambo.
Job is actually an older story than the one the Jews tell. The Sumerians had a version of it, but of course it concerned several gods testing a man, not one god and his helper. The story is very similar and the Jews probably adapted it.
The moral was that if you continue to worship, “fear,” and have reverence for god even if he or they hand you dung, they will reward you in the end. Adversity is just god or the gods testing you.
But if they kill you then you were just the expendable guy in the red shirt on Star Trek, and he was testing someone else. Bad luck.
That kind of thing show this to be just a story like any other, not a factual account of anything historical. No doubt tough that there were people throughout history who lost it all just to regain it in the end. Some might even have acted like Job did in response. But that doesn’t mean a god did it to them. That’s just something people said because they already believed in a god and attributed both good and bad events to him.
After all, how would Job know about the bet? How would the author of the story know about it? Oh yes, divine inspiration. I almost forgot.
If you read the bible as a fiction loosely based on some historical places, people and events, then you get a clear picture of this god’s character and disposition. It is no different from the disposition of any earthly king who thought he was the son of some god or other and was above all else. You also see that it allows you to glimpse the minds of primitives as they try to work out what is going on and why life sucks. This story and their belief in a god allowed them to believe that if they suffered through and kept the faith, they would be rewarded in the end, even if only after they died as the Christians later believed.
Thank goodness they didn’t let that stop them from trying to make life better. Our life is infinitely better than theirs was on the whole. Less people suffer in the ways they did. But there are still far too many that do.
Take the god myth for what it is. Be glad it’s a myth.