PSCO Presentation: 10 November, 2011

“Job 1-2 and Reflections of the Divine Council in Biblical Literature”

Mark Smith (NYU)


The prose narrative in Job 1-2 about the figures of God, the satan and Job has been understood as setting the scene for the poetic dialogues that dominate the book of Job. The question is: what are the terms of this "setting"? Part of answering this question involves reflecting on the point and purposes of the divine council as a literary and religious phenomenon, especially as the contours of Israelite religion seem to be shifting. This include a shift in religio-cultural memory about the status of the members of the divine council.

It is usually assumed that Job 1-2 is "monotheistic" and that Israelite religion has "become monotheistic" by the time of the composition of these chapters. If so, what is the point of using the divine council, with its multiplicity of divine figures, as a setting within these chapters, and what implications if any does such a consideration have for understanding God and the figure of the satan in these chapters?

Meeting and Dining

All are welcome! Those wishing to dine together before the seminar will meet at 6:00 pm in the Cohen Hall Second-Floor Lounge to go next door to the food court in Houston Hall.

Suggested Reading

Mark Smith, The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts (Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2001; paperback edition, 2003), 41-66.

idem, God in Translation: Deities in Cross-Cultural Discourse in the Biblical World (Forschungen zum Alten Testament series I, volume 57; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008; republished by Eerdmans in 2010), 131-139.

idem, The Memoirs of God: History, Memory, and the Experience of God in Ancient Israel (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004), 101-119.

PDF copies of these articles are available on request.