I just received my finalized contract from Baker Academic for my next book. I signed the contract and sent it in a couple of weeks ago, and the counter-signed contract arrived yesterday.
The book is tentatively entitled The Silence of Abraham, The Passion of Job: Explorations in the Theology of Lament.
A Comparison of Abraham and Job
The focus of the book would be a comparison of Abraham’s ominous and silent attempt to sacrifice his son in Genesis 22 (known in Jewish tradition as the Aqedah or “binding” of Isaac) with Job’s outspoken challenge to God in response to his sufferings (which God finally affirms as “right” speech, at the end of the book).
I’m planning to work on the book over my next sabbatical, which begins in the summer of 2016. During the sabbatical, I will be presenting my research as the Thiessen lectures at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and also as Visiting Theologian-in-Residence at St. Barnabas’ College and St. Mark’s National Theological Centre, both in Australia (where I’ll be for four weeks).
The book would be framed by the important question of how Christians, who believe and trust in the God of heaven and earth, may respond to suffering. Given that the lament or protest psalms provide model modes of prayer in situations of suffering, the book would challenge traditional Christian interpretations of Genesis 22 and the book of Job. Whereas Abraham’s blind obedience in Genesis 22 to God’s command to sacrifice his son is typically seen as virtuous, God’s response to Job is usually thought to be a divine put-down for his audacity in challenging God’s running of the cosmos.
Some Exegetical Questions
Among the exegetical questions to be addressed in the book are:
- Why does Abraham shift from bold protest prayer on behalf of Sodom in Genesis 18 to ominous silence about the death of his own son in Genesis 22?
- What is the significance of the phrase “dust and ashes,” which occurs in the Bible only on the lips of Abraham (in Genesis 18) and Job (in Job 30 and 42)?
- In what sense is the term “God-fearer” applied both to Abraham (in Genesis 22) and to Job (in the first two chapters of the book)?
- Could the book of Job be thought of as a commentary on the Abraham story?
- If so, what are we to understand by this inner-biblical interpretation?
- And what are the implications of the differing responses to suffering of these two “patriarchs” (one Jewish, one gentile) for our understanding of faithful prayer in the face of suffering in the church today?
A Spirituality of Suffering
The book will draw on relevant teaching I have done on Genesis and Job and on academic papers I have presented on Genesis 22 and YHWH’s speeches in the book of Job.
But my engagement with Abraham and Job would not be geared to a purely academic outcome. This engagement is in the service of developing an honest, yet trustful, spirituality of suffering that could empower God’s people with hope in their daily lives, as they face a world full of chaos and pain.