Over 25 years ago, I made some notes in preparation for my public oral debate with Stephen Wiggins. Since that time, I have heard that Stephen has earned his doctorate.
At any rate, I can’t remember whether or not this text came up in the debate, but it surely has come up since that time. Recently, those new to Covenant Eschatology have presented Job 19 25-27 as an objection to the parousia of Christ having occurred in 70AD.
Their argument follows the line of most reasoning for a yet future physical return of Christ to the earth. Usually, a sentence fragment is quoted to prove the point. The entire sentence is somehow overlooked and omitted. I submit the entire text below:
Job 19:25-27 NKJV For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; (26) And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, (27) Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
To say that this is not a controversial and much disputed text by scholars would be naive. To approach it with a cavalier mindset is irresponsible.
To give some idea of what I mean, note the scholars who have weighed in on one of the most controversial parts of the text, i.e. v. 26.
“And after my skin hath compassed this body, Then from my flesh I see God: Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible, p. 344, Robert Young.
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, (NKJV) The marginal reference has “out of my flesh”.
“And when the skins worms have destroyed my body, in my flesh, I shall see God, that is in my posterity I will see the One to come, Not in the flesh that he would lose in death, but in his posterity.
And its worth mentioning again, that Albert Leser who’s the finest and most distinguished Hebrew Scholar actually stated that the preposition in the Hebrew is without, and that he actually said that without my flesh I shall see God, which is the doctrine of immortality, But in my flesh would mean that in his posterity he would see the One to come”. Keynotes of Scripture, Foy E. Wallace, Jr.
And though. (Margin). Or, after I shall awake, though this body be destroyed, yet out of my flesh I shall see God, ) Barnes, p. 327
And though with this skin this body be wasted away, Yet in my flesh shall I see God,” Noyes.
And, after the disease hath destroyed my skin, That in my flesh I shall see God. Dr. Good
And when after my skin…they consume…this, that is, this structure of my bones–my body–yet without my flesh–with my whole body consumed, shall I see God.”
The Hebrew is literally, “and after my skin.”
After they shall have destroyed my skin, this shall happen–that I will see God.” Gesenius
Yet in my flesh. Heb. “From my flesh…The literal meaning is, ‘from , or out of, my flesh shall I see God.” It does not mean in his flesh…but there is the notion that from or out of his flesh he would see him; that is clearly, as Rosenmuller has expressed it, tho’ my body be consumed, and I have no flesh, I shall see him…It is rather, that through without a body…Barnes, pp. 327-329.
Finally, we have the quote by Keil & Delitzsch. Also note that several quote Rosenmuller.
“And after my skin, thus torn to pieces, and without my flesh shall I behold Eloah.
If we have correctly understood ?????? ver.25b, we cannot in this speech find that the hope of a bodily recovery is expressed. In connection with this rendering, the oldest representative of which is Chrysostom, ????? is translated either: free from my flesh = having become a skeleton…but this????? if the is taken as privative, can signify nothing else but fleshless=bodiless; or: from my flesh, i.e., the flesh when made whole again, p. 356.
Luther also cuts the knot by translating: (But I know that my Redeemer liveth), and He will hereafter raise me up out of th eground, which is an impossible sense that is word for word force upon the text., p. 358.
Free from such violence is the translation: and after this my skin is destroyed, i.e. after I shall have put off this my body, from my flesh (i.e. restored and transfigured) I shall behold God). Thus is understood by Rosenmuller, Kosegarten p. 359.
From the above quotes and to the fair-minded student, a dogmatic approach to the text is totally unwarranted.
Secondly, the scholarship favors the view that the Hebrew means “out of my flesh”.
Thirdly, the Hebrews regarded their “immortality” in the flesh as living on through their posterity. This can be seen over and over again in the Scriptures.
For example, God promised to give Abraham the land of Canaan. Yet, this did not occur until 400 years after the promise was made and Abraham had been dead for over 300 years. Yet God promised it to him for a possession. The obvious meaning is through Abraham’s seed or posterity he possessed the land. See Gen. 15:13-18; Ex. 12:40, Acts 7:1-18.
God promised David that according to the flesh he would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, saying it would be one who would come from His own body. Yet, the promise would be fulfilled after David slept with his fathers and God would set up his seed after him. See 2 Sam. 7:12-14; Acts 2:29-34.
Jon Levinson, Albert A.List Professor of Jewish Studies, Harvard University, in his book, Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel, Yale University Press, discusses this concept in the chapter, “Individual Mortality and Familial Resurrection.”
From the above, it is the author’s conclusion that Job 19:25-27 expresses the idea of Job seeing God out of his flesh through his posterity. This poses no conflict when we see that Job’s flesh extends through his posterity and that is his “physical” immortality. To argue for a literal resurrection of physical bodies on the earth is therefore, totally amiss of the intent of the text.