The Kennedy-Khrushchev Rapport and the Man to Uncover JFK’s Assassination: Part 3
The Catholic at the Door

The Book of Job: Do the Birds Fret About What They Must Have Done Wrong?

Early on, Kushner draws on the real-life example that his wife feeds the birds but every so often she forgets. When she does and the birds arrive to find nothing where they have always found abundance, do they fret about what they must have done wrong to merit such a calamity? This little parable speaks to us because my wife also feeds the birds but every so often she forgets. When she remembers, you can hear the creatures chatter: “She did it! That nice lady filled up the feeders again with scrumptious seed! Come, fellow birds, eat up!”

But what do they think when either wife forgets? I’ve never thought to ask the question. Kushner has. He doesn’t know for sure, he says, but he doesn’t think they fret much. Probably, they just fly off to find another stash of food. It is only humans who say, ‘What did I do wrong?’ Thus is set up a central premise in Job.

‘Nothing,’ Job says, ‘I did nothing wrong at all.’ ‘Of course you did!’ his comforters say, pounding as with sledgehammers the point that he must have done something wrong to be punished the way he plainly seems to be. Just like that post I wrote long ago about the New Orleans preachers: They all agreed post-Katrina that the city must have done something wrong, disagreeing only on what that something was.

Had Job’s three comforters pondered a book yet to be written, the Book of Ecclesiastes, they might have come to realize that “time and unexpected events overtake them all.” It’s no one’s fault. That is why “the swift do not always win the race, nor do the mighty win the battle, nor do the wise always have the food, nor do the intelligent always have the riches, nor do those with knowledge always have success.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11) Wrong place at the wrong time is all.

Of course, had the comforters access to Ecclesiastes and been swayed by it, they still would have been wrong. How were they to know, or anyone, the heavenly drama unfolding in the first two chapters of Job whereby the man became a test case for keeping integrity under adversity? With Job, it is not just boilerplate, ‘Just as fish are caught in an evil net and birds are caught in a trap, so the sons of men are ensnared in a time of disaster, when it suddenly overtakes them.’ It is targeted ‘Just as fish are caught in an evil net and birds are caught in a trap, so the sons of men are ensnared in a time of disaster, when it suddenly overtakes them.’ (Ecclesiastes 9:12)


Jehovah’s Witnesses break ranks with nearly the entire church world, in fact, nearly the entire religious world, for saying that, at death, one lapses into nothingness. Humans do not have souls. They are souls. When they die, their soul dies. Any hope of future life lies in an also-future resurrection. In the meantime, death is the end—a belief that flies in the face of almost all religion.

If the church model holds true than when someone dies they don’t really die because their soul lives on, you’d almost expect that to be on every page of the Bible—it being part of the continuum of life. ‘So and so died, and up to heaven he went. Another fine person died and also ascended. But this lout passed, and down went his soul to the inferno.’ Instead, you never see it, save for a few brief snippets that bear all the earmarks of allegory—you really have to stretch the point to take them as literal. If you are determined to do it nonetheless, then demand to see the bush every time someone says you must not beat around it.

Nowhere is the ‘death is the end of all things’ model more explicit than in the Book of Ecclesiastes. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do with all your might, for there is no work nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom in the Grave, where you are going.” (9:10) The lesson to be drawn? There is nothing in the Grave but nothing. “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing at all, nor do they have any more reward, because all memory of them is forgotten.” (9:5)

‘Yeah, well,’ said an evangelical to me, circling the wagons to protect his immortal soul belief, ‘Solomon was bummed when he wrote that,—he was down on life.’ I admit, that is something I never thought of, as though his 700 wives had driven him to distraction to the point where (were the thought not sacrilegious) he wished he were gay. My own Bible student had encountered women problems but assured me that he had “stopped well short of 700.”

‘No wisdom in the Grave’ says Ecclesiastes 9:10. Grave is capitalized in the New World Translation because it is the common grave of humankind, not just an individual grave. The original Hebrew word is Sheol. When the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek, (the Septuagint) Hades was selected as the proper rendering of Sheol. (Compare Psalm 16:10 to Acts 2:31, where Sheol in the first becomes Hades in the second.)

Modern English Bibles sow confusion when they translate original language words into their equivalent English meanings. It makes sense that they would do that, particularly when cultures unfamiliar with Judeo-Christian terminology are apt to read Sheol or Hades and figure it must be references to some place of geography, such as Seaol or Hanoi. But it becomes harder thereby to discern the origin of certain nonbiblical doctrines. Both Sheol and Hades have often been translated as ‘hell.’

Says the book, ‘The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life,’ In the Hebrew Scriptures of the Bible the word “hell” is translated from the Hebrew word sheolʹ. This word occurs 65 times in all. The King James Version of the Bible, however, translates sheolʹ 31 times as “hell,” 31 times as “grave,” and 3 times as “pit.” The Catholic Douay Version of the Bible translates sheolʹ as “hell” 63 times and as “pit” once and as “death” once. In the Christian Greek Scriptures the word “hell” is sometimes translated from the Greek word hádes. Both the King James and Douay versions translate hádes as “hell” in each of its ten occurrences.’

They’ll translate Sheol and Hades every which way, and this is with old Bibles. Newer Bibles are far worse, far more apt to translate Sheol as Grave. They are better for conveying meaning but worse for conveying origin.


It’s an aside. I digress. But Job’s visitors and Job himself might have been adjusted by Ecclesiastes. If I digress, it is in the same manner that G K Chesterton would digress. He would review an author and take the occasion to say whatever he wanted to say. He gave the author no short shrift in doing so. He commentaries on Dickens (Charles Dickens: A Critical Study (1906) are considered among the finest ever written and, in fact, revived the author from the obscurity he might otherwise have fallen in to.


******  The bookstore


Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'


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