Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Enlightened Sunday School: Teaching Job Part 1: Satan in Heaven

A lot of Sunday school material is written with the goal of teaching kids theology through stories.  Because of this curriculum writers are prone to reshape a story from the Bible to conform to the doctrine they want to get across.  This comes across several ways in how we teach Job.  This post is concerned with how Sunday School curriculum (SSC) goes about identifying Job's tormentor.  Usually it is assumed that the Satan mentioned in Job is the same one who got Eve to eat the forbidden fruit and tempted Jesus in the wilderness.  We can all add "tormenting Job" to the list of awful things this guy has done throughout history.

Bible scholars understand that the word ha-satan (the word that is usually translated Satan) means "accuser" and that it is not written like a name.  The intent behind the text of Job is not that The Evil One is tormenting Job to win a bet with God but that Job has a divine accuser who, in looking out for the interests of God, believes that Job's faith is not real.  Because this leads to a lot of misfortune for Job I'm sure many Christians would like to argue that Satan is behind it.  This way God can be one step removed from all the catastrophe in Job's life and the ultimate culprit is Satan who has always had it in for us anyway.  While it may trouble us that one of God's servants would, in looking out for God's interest, cause all of Job's woes it is actually less disturbing than the alternative.

According to the traditional Sunday school view God is Satan's dupe.  If Satan wants harm to come to one of us, even the most faithful of us, all he has to do is accuse us of being fairweather believers.  Once he does that he can take away our stuff, infect us and kill our family.  I can accept Job's troubles being part of God's perfect will, what is troubling is Satan's evil will being able to subvert God's.  If the Bible is supposed to tell the story of God's supremacy and victory then I do not see how the book of Job fits in with the Satan-as-the-Evil-One interpretation.