The Catholic University of America

Final Examination of

Rev. Alexander G. K. Salakpi

for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

2:00 p.m., Caldwell Room 125-15

Committee in Charge

Chair: Rev. Sidney H. Griffith, S.T., Ph.D.

Secretary: Dr. Joseph Shields, Ph.D.

Director: Rev. Joseph Jensen, O.S.B., S.T.D.

Reader: Rev. Christopher Begg, S.T.D., Ph.D.

Reader: Rev. Francis Gignac, S.J., D.Phil.

Summary of Coursework

Biblical Hebrew and Greek

Biblical Hebrew Poetry



The Psalms

Deuteronomistic History

The Gospel According to John

Exodus Tradition in the Hebrew Bible

Wisdom of Ben Sira

The Mountain of Transfiguration- Archeological Research


Social Alienation as a Consequence of Human Suffering in the Book of Job: A Study of

Job 19:13-22

Alexander Salakpi

Director: Joseph Jensen, S.S.L., S.T.D

The Book of Job has attracted the attention of exegetes and theologians for centuries. Several topics have been the focus of scholarly consideration, most importantly the problem of theodicy. Job suffers undeservedly, and the consequences of his affliction are manifold. Among his sufferings are a progressive alienation from his social network, his friends, and even his closest family leading to his total social breakdown despite his struggle for reintegration into society. This reintegration fails and the result is the continuation of his rejection and alienation. This social disorientation reaches its first climax in chap. 19, particularly in 19:13-22, where Job claims that everyone has abandoned him. Nowhere else in the Book of Job does Job express this social alienation as strongly as in 19:13-22. His social estrangement exacerbates his alienation from God, but this unexpectedly results in his strongest expression of hope (19:23-25).

The dissertation examines how social isolation aggravates the suffering of Job. Taking social estrangement recounted in Job 19:13-22 as its point of departure, the dissertation studies how the concept of "deed and consequence" relates to the suffering of Job and what theological solution the author of the Book of Job suggests. The dissertation explores this important issue. Job strongly believed that he had done nothing wrong to deserve his fate; yet, part of wisdom tradition held that God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. According to this principle held by his friends, Job is suffering for the wrong he has done. His family, friends, and loved ones reinforce that notion by making judgments on behalf of God. However, while his personal suffering is thus made even more unbearable by those who loved him, Job's demand for a hearing by God becomes ever more urgent. Hence, Job repeats and intensifies his affirmation of innocence in chaps. 29-31, where he also contrasts his glorious past with his deplorable present. Particularly in 30:1-31, Job describes the painful rejection by society that his suffering has brought upon him. It is at this point of his forcefully maintained claim of innocence that the theologically based mechanism of divine retribution proposed as one of the concepts of traditional wisdom literature begins to crumble in the Book of Job.

Physical and mental suffering is not always, as it now emerges in the Book of Job, a punishment from God, and the social rejection the sufferer goes through in the society is ethically wrong and unjustified. On the basis of the elucidation from 19:13-22 and chaps. 29-31, the dissertation explores the many dimensions of the rejection of the afflicted individual by his family and friends. Since social isolation as a sufferer's fate is not uncommon in the Old Testament, diachronic and intertextual approaches of the relevant materials were used to analyze the problem fully. In that regard, the dissertation supports its argument of Job's social alienation with theories of social concepts, studies of some similar stories of human suffering like Job in the ancient Near East and in the Book of Psalms. The findings are evaluated against the background of postmodern societies.