Is the book of Job a true story or a parable/allegory?Question: "Is the book of Job a true story or a parable/allegory?"
Answer: The book of Job is one of the world’s oldest, most influential, and most powerfully written works of literature. Because it is very old and the book does not identify the author, there is no way to be entirely sure who wrote Job or exactly when it was written. Some theorize that the story of Job was recorded by Samuel, Moses, or an even earlier Hebrew author. The setting for the story itself is ancient, making no reference to the priesthood or temple sacrifices. The book is also written mostly in poetic form. As a result, some wonder if the book of Job is, in fact, a parable or allegory. Jesus often told parables, and in such stories the characters and situations are not assumed to be actual, but simply a means to make a point. Could the book of Job be non-literal, too?
In the case of Job, there are several good reasons to interpret the book as historical rather than allegorical. These include the way in which Job is introduced, references to Job in the book of Ezekiel, and references to Job in the book of James.
In the first chapter of the book of Job, Job is introduced as a man from a specific location: the country of Uz. The book also goes into great detail about Job’s finances and family. While it is possible that these might simply be vivid details of a parable, such particulars were not common in ancient allegorical literature. The general way that Job, the man, is described suggests that this was a real person.
The Old Testament consistently refers to Job as though he were a real, historical person. In Ezekiel 14:14 and 20, God mentions Noah, Daniel, and Job as examples of righteousness. The context of this statement would not make sense if Job were merely a literary figure. The assumption of this text is that Job was as real as Noah and Daniel.
The New Testament makes a similar reference to Job. In James 5:11 Job is mentioned as an example of spiritual endurance. Every other figure mentioned in the book of James is an actual, historical person, including Abraham, Rahab, and Elijah. As with Ezekiel’s reference to Job, James’ allusion makes the most sense if Job is an actual person whom we are to emulate.
All in all, there is more evidence suggesting Job to be an account of history than a parable or allegory. Based on current information, we can’t say for sure when it was written or by whom. However, both internal and external evidence seem to suggest that Job is meant to be read as fact, not fiction.
Recommended Resource: Job: A Man of Heroic Endurance by Charles Swindoll
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Questions about Job
Is the book of Job a true story or a parable/allegory?