This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Saturday, 1 November 2014


Welcome back, class, to the Eccles Bible project, in which we explain Holy Scripture to atheists and any others who require spiritual nourishment. And it's a big welcome to one or two scholars that we don't remember seeing before. We have Russell Brand (put that phoney-woney away, boy - no nuisance calls in class, please), and a contingent of cardinals fresh from the Extraordinary Synod in Rome, sent here by Cardinal Burke for a refresher course: so hello to Walter Kasper, Reinhard Marx ("Rhino" of the famous Marx Brothers), and of course our dear friend Vincent Nichols!

Job being gloomy

Cheer up, Job! It could be worse!

Well, the basic idea of the book of Job is that s*** happens. Job is rich and prosperous, and a truly religious person. Satan asks, "What would he be like if we took everything from him?" God says "Let's find out." So Job loses his oxen, asses, camels, sheep, servants, sons and daughters - this is called down-sizing - and gets afflicted with boils. At this stage, he is not really enjoying life. "Let the day perish wherein I was born," he says.

So what do you do if things go wrong? Well, it's good to have friends - in Job's case Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite* and Zophar the Naamathite - who can come along and console you by saying. "You know, Job, it's your own fault really. You must be a dreadful sinner."

"Who was the shortest person in the Bible? Bildad, as he was only shoe-height."

Job being blamed

It's all YOUR fault, Job.

Anyway, Job keeps moaning, with catchy lines such as "Man born of a woman, living for a short time, is filled with many miseries," so you can see that he is not looking on the bright side at this point. His friends continue to tell him "Serve you right. You're a great sinner. ROFL," and thus they get the somewhat exasperated response "You are all troublesome comforters."

Job sticks to his faith, in particular the idea that in the end God will make all things right. He gradually gets round to giving a little homily about wisdom - for one with a very grievous ulcer, from the sole of the foot even to the top of his head, he is still remarkably chatty - and he says some very sound things such as "Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom: and to depart from evil, is understanding."

I can see that I'm losing my audience here: some of you don't believe in God, and others are quite happy to compromise with evil, eh, cardinals? Still, Job doesn't quite see it your way.

And after more of the same, God comes back.

God and Job

Do you think there's someone outside?

God is not going to explain what's been going on, nor defend Himself. He makes the (if I may say so) very valid point that He (God) is infinitely wise and powerful, and Job is a mere human. "Canst thou draw out the leviathan with a hook, or canst thou tie his tongue with a cord?" asks God, and Job is fairly sure that he cannot.

The book has a happy ending, as God ticks off the three comforters and restores to Job his wealth, more than previously: namely, fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she-asses. He also has seven sons, and three daughters. Phew!

Job restored to happiness

Job and his (apparently, rather musical) family.

It's a good book to read if you're feeling depressed. Class dismissed.


  1. Job had a little known fourth friend - Cole Tarr the Anthracite

  2. What bewilders me in the Book of Job is God and Satan in cahoots with each other, trying to see how far Job's faith can be tested. One would think that Satan would strive to have nothing to do with God after Satan's fall -- and that God would not accept any dares from Satan.

  3. The main problem today in our recessionary era is that we have Job shortage.

  4. The five most disturbing words in the 42 chapter book are "...offer for yourselves a holocaust...". Not sure if that would be politically correct nowadays.

  5. Job's previous set of sons and daughters must have been delighted that he was provided with a new set. Made it all worthwhile.