Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job (hereafter HTBJ) by Hugh Ross provides unique insight into one of my favorite books of the Bible, Job. Rather than approaching this book as a treatise on the problem of pain, Hugh Ross dives into it in search of scientific truths. What he finds is surprising.
Ross begins with an exhortation to Christian leaders to stop avoiding the issue of Creation and to come up with a reasonable “strategy of engagement. Christians who take the Bible as a trustworthy revelation from God need to study science and engage with scientists at the highest academic and research levels” (12). I pray Ross’s words will not fall on deaf ears.
Ross goes on to point out the historical backdrop of the book. The debaters present, Job, Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad were “likely the intellectual powerhouses of their day…” (28). Along with Elihu, who most likely recorded the book, they comprise the major characters. Interestingly, Eliphaz was named as a Temanite. Teman, Ross points out, “was famous in the ancient world for its exceptionally wise scholars” (28). Contrary to some who may accuse Ross of demeaning the historical value of Scripture, it is clear that he affirms the historical realism of the Book of Job.
Interestingly, HTBJ doesn’t start with the scientific questions; it dives in to “timeless questions” about God. Ross points out answers given throughout Job about the reason for death (39-40), the shorter lifespans of humans (40-41), blessings for the wicked (43ff), and more. Ross provides an argument about what is often called “natural evil.” He points out Job’s rejection of a “direct cause-and-effect relationship between destructive natural events and the people affected by them” and goes on to argue that scientifically, these “acts of God” are necessary for life (49). Hurricanes, for example, bring a number of benefits (51).
Ross quickly moves into scientific questions throughout the book of Job. He argues that God’s challenges to Job and friends reject naturalism, deism, evolutionism, and young-earth creationism (54). Job specifically points out that God continually interacts with creation. Perhaps most interestingly, Ross points out that in Job the Bible specifically points towards the Big Bang–with language of God “stretching out the heavens.” This, thousands of years before any scientific evidence existed (56-58). Not only that, but the book also alludes to dark matter. Rather than treating darkness as the “absence of light” as was the belief historically, Job points out the actual existence of darkness and its separation from light. Here again there is evidence that Job lines up powerfully with science (60-63).
Another fascinating aspect of the Book of Job, argues Ross, is its ability to speak to current situations like Global Warming (63ff).
Central to Ross’ argument in HTBJ is the thesis that the book of Job can be used as an interpretive backdrop for the Genesis creation account. Ross argues that Job 38-39 can be read in their entirety as a creation account (72). This opens the gate for interpreting other creation accounts through the lens of Job 38-39. He points out that there are areas of Moses’ creation account that Job makes explicit. Some of these points include a correct interpretation of “heavens and earth” (74); an outline of when plants were created (78-79); and perhaps most interestingly, one of the best explanations of the problem of light before the sun I’ve ever seen (80-84). Ross argues that, contrary to most interpretations, the Genesis account does not explicate that there was no sun before light, but rather that the light had been hidden by the atmosphere (82-83). Again, this would serve as powerful scientific confirmation of the Bible.
Ross is unafraid to pull his punches. He takes on the question of the extent of the flood (92ff) and argues convincingly that the flood was localized to all of humanity. Perhaps the most controversial point Ross makes is in regards to one of the best arguments for young-earth creationism–death and the Fall. Often, the young-earth argument is that the Bible excludes any possibility of death before the Fall. Ross argues that, given Job 38-39’s creation account, that interpretation can no longer be valid. He urges that Job 38:39-41 coincides with creation day five, and because these verses include death before the fall, this argument for a young-earth is unsuccessful. Ross’s argument here will really depend upon how convincing his assertion is that all of Job 38-39 lines up with the days of creation. Ultimately, I think, most young-earth creationists will remain unconvinced and argue that only the early part of Job 38 is a creation account. In Ross’s favor is the continuing tense (it appears as though the verbs throughout the section are in the Qal stem). But Ross doesn’t make this argument. Thus, it seems that this part of Ross’s argument will be convincing only to those willing to agree that Job 38-39 are, in their entirety, a creation account.
Later, Ross soundly demolishes the young-earth argument that Job provides evidence for dinosaurs living with humans. He convincingly argues that the behemoth is a hippopotamus (178-180) and the leviathan a crocodile (180-183).
Ross doesn’t leave the book of Job without discussing what seems like its primary question: suffering. He presents evidence that Job argues for both a greater good theodicy along with a free-will defense (190ff). Both of these sections are interesting, if brief.
There are many areas of interest within HTBJ I have left unexplored. Ross focuses extensively on soulish creatures and the differences between humans and animals. Most interestingly is Ross’s explication of the list of 10 “soulish” creatures named in Job and their import for humans (150-165). Suffice to say that there is much more content in the book worth reading.
There were times as I read Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job that I was filled with marvel at the magnificence of creation. At one point I stood up and surprised my wife, saying “Can you believe what God has made? And we know it from the Book of Job! Can you believe this!?” as I described some of the things Ross reveals in the book. There are some astounding ways that the Bible lines up with the evidence we have from cosmology, astronomy, biology, and other sciences. While some Christians may remain unconvinced by Ross’s argument for interpreting Genesis 1 through the lens of all of Job 7-39, the book deserves a reading and response by even those who disagree. Ultimately, readers of Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job will come away with some powerful evidence from science for the truths of Scripture–and vice versa.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of this book by Reasons to Believe. You can learn more about this science-faith think tank at reasons.org.
Source: Hugh Ross, Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2011).
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