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Answer to Job

Book Number: 
Date Fred Read: 
December 2018
Fred's Rating: 
C. G. Jung
Total Pages: 
Princeton Press

This book is a 108-pp extraction from C. G. Jung’s Collected Works, Volume II, Bollingen Series XX (paragraphs 560 – 758), 1958 by the Bollingen Foundation. Jung’s story uses the Book of Job to describe how Job caused God to change his character and nature.

I bought the paperback edition but I give here Amazon’s website for the Kindle edition:

[None of the ISBN-10, ISBN-13, or ASIN numbers on Amazon’s websites for the three editions (Kindle, hardcover, or paperback) are recognized by Amazon, thus the ‘no image Circle' appears. I think this new change by Amazon is not good. However, you can see the images of this book's covers at the website above.]

At the beginning of the Home page Amazon gives a two-paragraph summary of Answer to Job. This summary intrigued me enough to next look further down the Home page at the ‘Top Customer reviews.’ I recommend reading the first two. Jeremy David Stevens’ review is called ‘Very difficult but very worthwhile. John G. Pollard’s review is called ‘A must read book for anyone who has a serious interest in religion.’ These reviews stirred my interest in this book. Upon reading it I found Jung’s story very unusual but, as with any hard-to-put-down book, I ended up wondering why I not earlier encountered this unusual view of the nature and character of God. To call Jung’s story ‘controversial’ is an understatement.

I recommend you to use Amazon’s ‘Look inside’ option for the Kindle edition, for it contains the 4-pp Foreword to the 2010 Edition, the 2-pp Prefatory Note, and the 5-pp Lectori Benevolo – but it ends just before the beginning of Jung’s Answer to Job. One should regard these three as previews to the very unusual story that Jung creates to explain his insightful ‘picture’ of God before and after Job.

In the following I retell Jung’s story of Job while in a skeptical state of mind before and after reading Jung’s story. My mindset quickly became skeptical because of the characters Jung used to complete his story. The first character was Satan, who Jung said was God’s first son, whose mother was Israel. We never encounter the mother Israel again in Job’s story. Why did Jung name Satan’s mother if she is never an active character in Jung’s story? If God was Satan’s father, Satan had to have, according to Jung’s story, a mother. This is a minor point, for God’s love for Satan was a major task for Jung to solve. We should wonder why God never saw the evil in the things that Satan did. What Satan did to Job is the only evil thing named in Jung’s story. Before I had read of Jung’s explanation of God’s tolerance of Satan’s evil nature, Jung had ‘induced’ me to think more deeply about the concept of ‘unconditional love’ as it pertains to us and as we try to think about it as it pertains to God.

Jung does not focus on unconditional love. His story proceeds to explain God as being in his omnipotent state of mind at all times (as I interpret Jung’s story) before encountering Job. This encounter occurs, of course, only after Satan had done his evil on the ever-faithful Job. So Jung ‘explained’ that God ‘never consulted' his omniscience while he was the omnipotent God of ‘fear and obedience’ prior to his encounter with Job. Reread this last sentence – Jung did indeed say God ‘never consulted’ his omniscience – this is a concept I had never read or heard before. I discuss it further in the following.

How does Jung have God change his nature to one of ‘love and compassion?' Jung first states: “There can be no doubt that he [God] did not immediately become conscious of the moral defeat he had suffered at Job’s hands. In his omniscience, of course, this fact had been known from all eternity, and it is not unthinkable that the knowledge of it unconsciously brought him into the position of dealing so harshly with Job in order that he himself should become conscious of something through this conflict, and thus gain new insight.” …”At all events, it was he [Satan] who placed these unforeseen incidents in Yahweh’s way, which omniscience knew to be necessary and indeed indispensable for the unfolding and completion of the divine drama. Among these the case of Job was decisive, and it could only have happened thanks to Satan’s initiation.” What Jung seems to imply is that God can change his mindset from omnipotence to omniscience. I think Jung does not mean a two-fold split personality with neither knowing of the other.

Since I believe the concept of an “ineffable Godhead” (aka a “mystery”) above a “cloud of unknowing,” which is above the limited capability of the human mind. But I take with a grain of salt the human need to have an anthropomorphic vision of God. For the human idea of our being in the ‘image and likeness’ of God, I have favored ‘likeness’ over ‘image’ since I was four years old, when I realized I wanted very much to have the ‘likeness’ of my Grandpa, who taught me a lot when his daughters said he was teaching me too much for my age. But I wanted to look like me at my age, not like his image at his age. Anyhow, my main point here is I cannot fathom an “ineffable Godhead” as having a split personality. Specifically my view of the Godhead must recognize the ability to simultaneously have both omnipotence and omniscience (as well as other attributes that we humans cannot even imagine).

Back to Jung’s main argument: God has realized that the new insight is the concept of good and evil. So how does Jung’ story have God come to know good and evil. God, having finally come to realize what Job knew and Yahweh, as the God of omnipotence, didn’t then know. It became clear to God, in Jung’s story, that God had to become human to know what Job knew. So God became Jesus – both human and god at the same time, each knowing the other, at least as fully as possible, that is, without contradiction, which I think Jung would have both having the same character which is the same in both the human and the divine being as their unity or sameness. Jung thus has elevated the “Answer to Job” book as the most important book in the Old Testament, for Yahweh’s belated knowledge of morality came from Job. So Jung's story has a mere human, albeit a very special one, teach Yahweh about a human's concept of morality. Wow!

I’m not sure how a Christian or a Jew of today would respond to Jung’s book Answer to Job. To me, despite having read much about human religions, I have never encountered or heard anyone else refer to this story by Jung. I’m not even sure Jung was seriously proposing this story as true. Perhaps he had the idea of proposing an adequate answer to Job by recognizing Job as being right and God as avoiding Job’s plea for an answer of why this happened to him. If so, I wonder if Jung would have been disappointed at the seeming avoidance of discussion of this book. It was first published in 1958 and Jung died in 1961, so there may not have been time enough for this book to have been seriously debated.

I was very much surprised by Jung’s story and by how it tied together the OT and NT in a very unusual way – that is, by elevating the consequences of Job’s suffering to new heights. I think it might be a very thought-provoking book for discussion by Christians and Jews. For these characteristics, I rate it at four stars. (But with four to become five stars if some of the difficult words are made less difficult in a new translation that replaces these difficult words with more appropriate words for today's Christians and Jews.)