In many places the speeches of Job's comforters are beautiful, they appear to be true, and Paul quotes one of them. Yet, at the end of the book the Lord condemns them for speaking falsely. Yet, all the scripture is God-breathed for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

How did the Church fathers deal with this paradox? And how did they use the speeches of Job's comforters?

2 Answers 2


How do the Church Fathers approach the Speeches of Job's Comforters?

How did the Church Fathers deal with this paradox? And how did they use the speeches of Job's comforters?

If any Church Father would or could explain the paradoxes involved in the speeches of Job’s friends, it would definitely be St. Gregory the Great.

Saint Gregory's Commentary on Job, or Moralia, sive Expositio in Job, sometimes called Moralia in Job or Magna Moralia, was written between 578 and 595, begun when Gregory was at the court of Tiberius II at Constantinople, but finished only after he had already been in Rome for several years. It is Gregory's major work, filling some 35 books or 6 volumes, a commentary on the Book of Job entitled "An Extensive Consideration of Moral Questions".

This is a colossal written works of Pope Gregory I.

Depending on the particular text you are are examining, St. Gregory will dive into to Scriptural works interpreting the texts from the view point of a mystical interpretation, historical interpretation, allegorical interpretation and a moral interpretation. Thus each text could be viewed independently from another form of interpretation. This would help explain any paradoxes you may encounter.

St. Gregory examines each chapter in depth and the issues of Job’s friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. These comforters have plenty to say, and Job isn't their biggest fan. He calls them "miserable comforters" (16:3), and he spends Much of the book arguing with them.

Accordingly Job has to complain (Job 6:15-17) that his friends on whom he had relied were like the winter torrents, brawling strongly, flowing bravely when less needed; but drying up in the summer heats and leaving caravans, which hoped to drink of their waters, to perish with thirst. But amidst the bewilderment which marks all his friends, and the general shrinking of those who should have tried to comfort, there are three of his old friends — apparently from what they say themselves, and what Elihu says of them, all men at least as old as Job himself — who strive to console him. Not at the very outset of his calamity, but at a time when Job can say (Job 7:3), "I am made to possess months of vanity"; these three men make an appointment with each other and go together to comfort him. Job himself flouts them, saying, "Miserable comforters are ye all"; doing thereby not quite justice to men whose task was not so easy to accomplish as some of their critics think. I think that great and obvious as their faults were, perhaps they were better comforters to Job than any others would have been. They did not find a solace for him, but they did something better, they helped him to find the true solace for himself.

Gregory‘s Morales English translation is not the easiest to read or comprehend, but here it is for your to peruse at your leisure:


The purpose of Paul's quotation of Eliphaz's speech as poetry

I believe you are referring to Paul quoting Job 5:13 in 1 Cor 3:19-20. First, I think your assertion that there is a "paradox" is not correct. This very short explanation shows how St. Paul quoted Job 5:13 without agreeing with Eliphaz.

The long passages in Job are functioning as wisdom literature, including poetry of the human condition and poetry of the principle of God's justice (that the righteous are rewarded and the wicked are punished). In the Book of Job, that principle itself is not repudiated by God, only that God refused to explain the why in Job's case the principle does not seem to work, because Job was a righteous man but yet he suffered greatly.

God condemned the three friends in Job for their persistent but false accusation of Job as being sinful. But when Paul quoted Job 5:13 Paul was not agreeing with Eliphaz in his condemnation of Job. In the passage (1 Cor 3), Paul's purpose in quoting the Book of Job (as poetry) was to warn self-righteous people who are deceiving themselves.

From Job 5:9-16 (NLT):

 9 He does great things too marvelous to understand.
   He performs countless miracles.
10 He gives rain for the earth
   and water for the fields.
11 He gives prosperity to the poor
   and protects those who suffer.
12 He frustrates the plans of schemers
   so the work of their hands will not succeed.
13 He traps the wise in their own cleverness
   so their cunning schemes are thwarted.
14 They find it is dark in the daytime,
   and they grope at noon as if it were night.
15 He rescues the poor from the cutting words of the strong,
   and rescues them from the clutches of the powerful.
16 And so at last the poor have hope,
   and the snapping jaws of the wicked are shut.

Example of a church father quoting the same verse (Job 5:13)

I believe the Church Fathers also quoted the Book of Job as wisdom literature like St. Paul did, by lifting the poetical parts of Job's comforters to make a point.

For example, St. Clement of Alexandria, in The Stromata, Book I, Chapter III (Against the Sophists), quoted Job 5:13 for a purpose similar to Paul in 1 Cor 3: to warn proud people (in this case, the Sophists) who used fine but empty rhetoric to exalt themselves rather than to speak true wisdom and to honor God. Quotation from the chapter (emphasis is quotation from Job 5:13):

There is a great crowd of this description: some of them, enslaved to pleasures and willing to disbelieve, laugh at the truth which is worthy of all reverence, making sport of its barbarousness. Some others, exalting themselves, endeavour to discover calumnious objections to our words, furnishing captious questions, hunters out of paltry sayings, practicers of miserable artifices, wranglers, dealers in knotty points, ...


This, I think, is signified by the utterance of the Saviour, “The foxes have holes, but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head.”1840 For on the believer alone, who is separated entirely from the rest, who by the Scripture are called wild beasts, rests the head of the universe, the kind and gentle Word, “who taketh the wise in their own craftiness. For the Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain;”1841 the Scripture calling those the wise (σοφούς) who are skilled in words and arts, sophists (σοφιστάς).


1840: Matt. viii. 20; Luke ix. 58.

1841: Job v. 13; 1 Cor. iii. 19, 20; Ps. xciv. 11.

  • -1 simply because the question asks for an answer about the Church Fathers, and this starts off with "Although my answer doesn't quote a church father"
    – user54757
    Mar 29, 2022 at 22:51
  • You've convinced me :)
    – user54757
    Mar 29, 2022 at 23:41
  • @SupportiveDante Thanks. I removed my (now) irrelevant comments to avoid clutter (best practice in SE sites). Mar 29, 2022 at 23:45
  • Is it not more likely that Clement is quoting Paul? Mar 30, 2022 at 5:17
  • @KyleJohansen Yes, I suppose so. I just haven't had time to research further into other church fathers' references to Job. But I hope I managed to put your paradox to rest. If you find some references that illustrate your concern, please update the question or add comment here. Mar 30, 2022 at 5:23

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