Commentary on Job

Written by St. John Chrysostom

(Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2007), 246 pp.

Reviewed by Colin Kerr

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I have not read as much Chrysostom as I would like. He was not a theoretician like St. Gregory of Nyssa or St. Augustine, and thus I have tended to look passed him. I read this book years ago while writing my doctoral thesis, but since it was not central to it, did not read it all that closely. It did impress me, but not as much as the closer second reading I recently finished impressed me.

In a few words, this book contains everything that it has become commonplace to say about Chrysostom: punchy, focused on moral issues, generally focused on the literal sense, etc. These are all true about this commentary and they all make for a fascinating read. But for all that, it is far from superficial. He comes up with a very reasonable and inspiring view of Job.  I firmly believed that Catholics are called to understand the Bible – the Bible as a whole, both New and Old Testaments. One of the great neglected books is Job, simply because people don’t know what to make of it from a Christian perspective. You can’t really go wrong with Chrysostom’s interpretation.

In general, Chrysostom sees Job as a great hero, but not one with the strength of ‘stone.’ He is a prophet, he is a saint, but he is weak and imperfect too. In these pages you will find a man greatly to be admired, but also one like yourself: one who gets fed up and reaches his limits and who thus needs to rely on God to persevere. Chrysostom is at his best getting into Job’s mind and heart.

It’s the kind of book you can either read cover-to-cover or take to the chapel with you for lectio divina. It’s a good intro to one of the problems that has always interested me as a Christian and as a theologian: how do the Old and the New Testaments relate? It is not a difficult book to understand, from which it is easy to draw a great deal of profit.

Holy Cross Orthodox Press has other volumes of Chrysostom’s writings as well which are definitely worth checking out.

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