Howard Dean: Theologian

After speaking in a church, and finally openly talking about religion, it appears that Howard Dean is now a theologian:

Touring with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Dr. Dean also visited Galilee, where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. “If you know much about the Bible — which I do — to see and be in a place where Christ was and understand the intimate history of what was going on 2,000 years ago is an exceptional experience,” he said.

Asked his favorite New Testament book, Dr. Dean named Job, adding: “But I don’t like the way it ends.” “Some would argue, you know, in some of the books of the New Testament, the ending of the Book of Job is different,” he said. “I think, if I’m not mistaken, there’s one book where there’s a more optimistic ending, which we believe was tacked on later.”

Job, the Old Testament story of a righteous man who suffers hardships as a test of his faith, ends with the Lord restoring his fortunes and the protagonist living to be “an old man, and full of days.” Some scholars have posited that the original ending may have been more dour.

An hour after his comments, Dr. Dean returned to the clutch of reporters, saying he realized he had misspoken because Job is not in the New Testament.

“Many people believe that the original version of Job is the version where there is not a change, Job ends up completely destitute and ruined,” he said. “It’s been a long time since I looked at this, but it’s believed that was added much, much later. Many people believe that the original ending was about the power of God and the power of God was almighty and all knowing and it wasn’t necessary that everybody was going to be redeemed.”

Asked again about his favorite part of the New Testament, Dr. Dean said, “Anything in the Gospels.”

His press secretary, Doug Thornell, telephoned late Friday night to say that Dr. Dean did not mean to imply he was some kind of expert.

“He obviously has read the Bible and knows the passages fairly well,” Mr. Thornell said, “but just in terms of having a theologian’s knowledge of the Bible, he doesn’t want to pass on the impression that he does.”

Now I could poke fun all day at the grievous error that Dean, who “knows much about the Bible,” made in putting Job in the New Testament, but that would be almost too easy. The part that concerns me most is Dean’s reliance on liberal Old Testament scholars’ interpretation of Job.

The book of Job ends with God restoring to Job many of the things that he had taken away from him. Apparently this ending is just too uplifting for some liberal scholars to deal with. There is no textual evidence for this view that I know of, it’s just an assumption on the part of scholars who do not believe in the authority of Scripture.

This type of revisionist thinking is somewhat akin to the notion of time-travel. If there is something in the past that these scholars do not like, they simply say that it happened differently.

Howard Dean, presidential candidate/theologian, likes this viewpoint. What’s ironic that “religious talk” of this kind (which is obviously a politcal move to win Southern voters) will actually end up further alienating any evangelical voters that he had hoped to woo. Evangelicals do like to talk about things like the OLD Testament book of Job, unlike Dean, however, we actually believe it.

3 thoughts on “Howard Dean: Theologian”

  1. I can’t believe that anyone really takes this guy seriously. He constantly has to come back and explain some mistake he said. I tell you if Dean gets the democratic nomination them there are quite a few people out there with not loose screws but no screws at all. If he were anywhere near smart he would at least read upon whatever he is going to be an expert on that particular day.

  2. It’s not just an assumption. There’s a clear difference in style between the narrative portions of Job that bookend the rest and the main poetic dialogues.

    They do assume that the narrative portion is the addition. Other mainstream scholars have the reverse — the poetic dialogues were written to flesh out an already-existing narrative.

    Either way, it doesn’t necessarily undermine scripture’s authority. The historical books indicate sources used in compiling what we now have. Does that undermine the authority of scripture? How God worked through people’s actions in writing, compiling, and editing is irrelevant to whether God did do so. The book doesn’t tell us the who or the how of its origins.

    Also, I think you’re a little quick to dismiss the careful study of scholars simply because they don’t believe in the authority of scripture. There’s much of value in mainstream wok on historical context, languages, archeology, etc., though it takes care to sift the wheat from the chaff.

  3. Jeremy,

    I appreciate your comment and I do want to clarify that I’m not simply dismissing without reason the work of scholars who don’t believe in biblical authority.

    The problem is that with Job, these scholars begin with a premise (that the text is not authoritative) that will allow them to go down any road they choose in interpretation.

    I believe I am correct in saying that there is no textual evidence to support the view that Job did not originally contain the ending. The Masoretic text and the LXX both have the complete text of Job. That means that we do not have a text that gives us Job without the ending. Therefore any claim that Job didn’t have the ending must be speculation–speculation from thousands of years away, no less.

    As for the difference in style between the narrative and the poetic portions, why is that such a surprise. Newspaper articles today have a “lead” paragraph to grab interest or introduce the material–followed by the content of the body, and then a conclusion. Each of these can be different styles of writing within the same piece. Just because the styles of writing in Job differ does not by any means necessitate the ending not being present.

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