"Now my eyes have seen you" : re-visioning Job's wife in the Book of Job.
This thesis argues that the book of Job charts the journey of transformation undertaken by Job to a new vision of God and a liberated experience of faith; and that a key catalyst in this journey was his wife. This view of Job’s wife is laid against the backdrop of the three broad interpretive traditions that can be discerned in the reception history of Job’s wife – seen in the Septuagint, the Rabbinic corpus, the Testament of Job, Christian tradition, art history and modern biblical scholarship. The first tradition presents an unambiguously negative picture of her as the agent of Satan who demonstrates her unfaithfulness as a wife by tempting her husband to betray his faith. The second presents a more sympathetic picture by acknowledging that she was also a victim of great suffering with her own story of loss and grief to share. The third focuses on the productive effect of her words on Job. One of the exceptional receptions of Job’s wife is found in William Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job, a work that offers a stunning visual exposition of Job’s journey of transformation and imagines Job’s wife as being faithfully present with him throughout it. Blake’s radical re-visioning of Job’s wife invites a return to the biblical text to consider afresh her prominence and influence within the book as a whole. Insights from within and behind the text indeed establish the central place and indispensable part that Job’s wife occupied within the social and economic fabric of Job’s world. A detailed analysis of the words of Job’s wife reveals the inherent ambiguities within them that have given rise to a range of diverse interpretations of the meaning of her speech. The particular reading suggested in this study hears in her words a biting critique of the organising paradigm of Job’s world, as well as the offer of a bold alternative to the rigid order and control that marked his anxious existence. It will be argued further that each of the core elements that make up her speech – the inadequacy of Job’s worldview; the (paradoxical) posture of contestation; the experience of otherness; and the centrality of unitive consciousness – finds a sublime echo in the divine speeches. In response, Job’s own ambiguous and subversive use of language – like that of his wife and Yahweh – testifies to the renewed perspective within him, and the genuine transformation that can occur at the threshold of speech and silence.