Ross, Hugh. 2011. Hidden treasures in the book of Job: How the oldest book in the Bible answers today’s scientific questions. Grand Rapids, MI: BakerBooks.
Reviewed by Karl J Franklin, GIAL and SIL International
Hugh Ross (PhD, University of Toronto) is founder and president of Reasons To Believe (www.reasons.org) Based on his background as an astronomer, he addresses students and campuses on science-faith topics.
Ross tells us that his friends cautioned him not to write this book: that personal suffering would follow. Dismissing this initially, Ross found that over the course of writing the book, he had coronary and prostate surgery, his father and father-in-law both died suddenly, and his son was violently stabbed. Ross set out to comment solely on science and creation but changed his mind to include something on the meaning of suffering, having experienced it first hand.
Ross has already written a number of books that deal with creation, for example, The Creator and the Cosmos, More Than a Theory, and Why the Universe Is the Way It Is. He is therefore well aware of the criticisms and theological camps that exist regarding comments on creation. Nevertheless, he believes that we cannot ignore teaching on the subject because we need to debate the skeptics on controversies and show that the world of nature is representative of God and his existence. He believes that this book helps to fulfill “a strategy of engagement” (12) and that Job “is loaded with powerful apologetics tools” (13).
Hidden Treasures in the book of Job consists of 15 chapters, with 8 of them providing “answers” to Today’s Issues: (ch.1), Timeless Questions (3), New Questions (4), Creation-Day Controversies (5), More Genesis Controversies (6), Dinosaur Questions (12), and Our Greatest Need (14).
Job therefore addresses issues that are current today, including the interpretation and contribution of natural history as a part of and a clarification of creation. This means that we can examine Genesis 1-11 and not consider it a “scientific embarrassment”. Instead, we should see it as “supernaturally inspired, trustworthy, and relevant revelation to mankind” (19). Further Ross does not shy away from examining the roles of “soulish” animals (20), nor the “age-old problem of evil and suffering” (22).
Ross considers the debates in Job as a “Gathering of the Greatest Minds” (the title of chapter 2), where God and Satan, Job, his three friends (Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad), and God are the key disputants. He also depicts Elihu, the youngest of the men, as the recorder, primarily because as the note taker he has little to say in the debates.
The book of Job, according to Ross, is the earliest of the Bible books, preceding the Pentateuch. It “closely coincides with the Era of Abraham (initially Abram), the patriarch” who was some 660 years before Moses (31). In addition, Job makes no reference to the Mosaic sacrificial system, nor the political or economic conditions of that day. Ross also says that Job “foreshadows Moses’s final words in Deuteronomy” (33) concerning the problem of evil.
In respect to the “Timeless Questions”, Ross is well acquainted with the “paradoxical issues of science and Scripture and life” (35), having taught and researched the question for years. He knows, for example, that critics want the existence of God to be more obvious and he outlines and answers ten questions that are common: 1) Who, what or where is God? 2) Does God care about me? 3) Why doesn’t God answer my questions? 4) How can God be near and yet beyond my reach? 5) Why does God allow suffering and death? 6) Why is human life so short? 7) Why do good things happen to bad people? 8) Why do bad things happen to good people? 9) How does God communicate to us? and 10) Do angels really exist?
The answers from Ross are revealed throughout the book. He observes, in particular, that in debates about death with his friends, Job did almost all the talking. Job saw his life as brief, even though he lived decades longer than anyone would today. An observation of Ross about Job’s conversations is that “a person’s view of death reflects his or her view of what life is about” (39). In addition, a limited lifespan and death is necessary for population control—certain “natural disasters” are beneficial to mankind and the environment.
Ross understands the complexity of things like the Big Bang theory, cosmic dark energy density, different kinds of dark stuff in the universe, and global warming. He relates these to comments by Job and his friends.
One of the most interesting chapters is Ross’s answers to creation day controversies and he sees Job as providing answers that are not in Genesis. Ross claims that theistic evolution as a framework for creation demonstrates “interpretive gymnastics” (81). He provides his own interpretation of how the Belgic Confession (the “two books doctrine”, i.e. nature and Scripture) provides the necessary components for understanding creation. All creation miracles were “front loaded” and Job describes some 12 of them in Chapters 37-39.
Ross does not believe that the Genesis Flood was global (93) and refers to Psalm 104:9 where “God transformed Earth’s surface on creation day three, raising up continents and separating the landmasses and the oceans” (93). However, the most divisive issue for creationists is the question of animals experiencing death prior to Adam and Eve’s sin. This brings into account what Ross and others have called “soulish animals” (called nepesh in Hebrew), those that have intelligence and emotional expression, such as the lion, raven, hawk and eagle.
What makes us human? Where does wisdom come from? Why do humans exhibit spiteful behavior and not only not believe in God, but also despise him? Again, it is humans alone that have spiritual qualities, that is, the ability to make things, to foresee and to have symbolic thought. Humans are also different from soulish animals because of their desire to worship. Still the nepesh have played an important role and Ross outlines Job’s top ten: the lion, raven, goat, deer, donkey, wild ox, ostrich, horse, hawk and eagle. They teach us about God, about ourselves, how to live together, components of humility, and the way back to God.
Ross also answers the “dinosaur questions”, in which the “behemoth” and “leviathan” described in Job 40 and 41 are sometimes linked to dinosaurs. Ross points out that there is a problem in timing because it “implies dinosaurs lived long after well-established dates of their extinctions” (176) and overlooks the fact that knowledge of them is relatively recent. In addition, there is no evidence that they possessed characteristics associated with nepesh and they vanished long before most of the nepesh species arrived (177). They “first appeared shortly after a massive extinction… 251 million years ago” (183). Only the hippopotamus fits the picture that Job describes (179).
Ross points out that the literary genre of Job is mainly in the structure of an epic poem, characterized by figurative language and colorful imagery. It follows that interpreting Job’s metaphors and similes literally is inappropriate and leads to many problems.
Hidden treasures in the book of Job can be summed up with this statement: “From a human perspective, God’s creative activity in preparation for our arrival seems radically overdone. Yet God cannot be accused of waste. Whatever he does fulfills a purpose” (189). Ross, through the book of Job, points out God’s sovereignty, love and perfect creation. Job also turns out to be a fine tuned argument against atheism (195).
Ross exemplifies the joy of discovery and the gift of discernment in the many facets of nature and Scripture. He is evangelistic in his message (for example, there are sidebars on “Job’s discernment of God’s redemptive plan”) and convincing in his arguments. I believe that students, in particular, would benefit from reading Hidden Treasures and that it will challenge us to read more carefully the book of Job.