I remember reading Jean Daniel’s esteem for the “Book of Job”, to which he often referred. A Protestant friend always has it with her and flips through it for a moment of meditation. I too, following their example, tried to read this biblical text from so far back in time and asking the essential questions. I did not succeed, the language, perhaps, a poor translation removing all poetry, all breath. So I gave up.
During a meeting with this friend, I told her about my failure and she lent me Alain Houziaux’s book Job, or the problem of evil. And it is a plunge into the history of this rich merchant to whom life smiles and who suddenly finds himself dispossessed of everything, fortune, family, esteem. He only has three friends left… and God. The question that Job asks, why me, what have I done ?, is deployed under several approaches, that of his guilt, expressed by his three friends, that of his personality, that of the nature of the God that he calls out. , especially that of evil.
God’s answers are not understandable if we take a conformist and traditional point of view. But we are invited, in a text with a clear cut, to a completely new reading when it comes to the posture of Job, narcissist, victimary with regard to what he endures without reason, he claims. sitting on his pile of garbage, and enigmatic arguments that God deploys in his answer. The evil that Job faces is absolute evil, evil for nothing. Contrary to what his friends want to persuade him. The question that the Book of Job it’s this one : “Is God the name to be given to Justice […] or is he the Author and the Cause of what is for us incomprehensible and absurd? “
In fact, for the author, there is no harm unless he is absurd, discordant, beyond comprehension and representations. It is a reflection on our possibilities of understanding the world, fragmented, constrained by our own limits. Finally, it is a completely new vision of God. Could he be the author of absolute evil, far from the avenging God of the Bible or the God of mercy, as he can show himself in the texts of the evangelists through the character of Christ?
Reading this text does not require any effort from us, it is clear and accessible, whether one is a believer or an atheist. It is exciting as it raises the question of the relationship between man and transcendence, of faith, in a new and enlightening way, stripped of religious vocabulary. We are here before this question of absolute evil, dealt with many times by philosophers. Spinoza, Nietzsche, Simone Weil could find their way in this courageous and invigorating reflection on the idea of God and of evil. So, the two of us, Job!
Alain Houziaux Job, or the problem of evil. In praise of the absurd Editions du Cerf, 240 pp., € 18.