SEARCH THE ARCHIVE

? SEARCH TIPS
Exact phrase, enclose in quotes:
“keyword phrase here”
Multiple words, separate with commas:
keyword, keyword

Another question from a Wisconsin reader is as follows: “We read in Job 19:26, ‘And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.’ In I Cor. 15:50 we read, ‘Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.’ What does Job mean when he says that he will see God in his flesh?” 

Reply 

The problem in this question centers on the expression “in my flesh shall I see God,” in comparison with the statement in I Corinthians 15:50 that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” The correct assumption is that “flesh” (Job) and “flesh and blood” (Corinthians) mean substantially the same thing. Hence, if it is true that in our present earthly, corruptible bodies (flesh and blood) we cannot inherit the kingdom of God, how is it possible that Job says that he will see God in his flesh (that same earthly, corruptible, natural body)? 

The problem is complicated, perhaps, by the fact that this passage, from Job, as translated in our King James Version, has become a much loved expression of personal faith with respect to our bodily resurrection. For those who love sacred music, such as the oratorio Messiah, this complication is probably strengthened by the fact that we would not like to give up that inspiring solo based on this passage. For myself, at any rate, I know that for some time after having heard, the solo referred to I can carry that song about in my heart and thoughts. 

Was Job mistaken? I think not. 

Does Job contradict I Corinthians 15? Not at all. 

Does Job indeed express the hope of his bodily resurrection in this passage? I am convinced that he does. I surely cannot go along with the suggestion of some that Job only expresses the hope of a future bodily restoration on earth. And while the interpretation is at least more plausible, and also more acceptable, that Job is here referring to the so-called intermediate state, in which he shall spiritually behold God, but not in the body, I nevertheless believe that the passage says more than this. 

What, then, is the explanation? As I see it, it lies along the following lines: 

1) We must discard the rendering of the King James Version. It is not in harmony with the original on some important points, especially the one concerning Job’s “flesh.” Nor can I see how one can escape a contradiction between Job and Corinthians on the basis of the KJV without improperly stretching the meaning of “in my flesh.” 

2) What Job says in this verse is, indeed, quite the opposite of what the King James Version conveys. He actually says: “from (in the sense of: separate from, free from, outside of) my flesh shall I see God.” This translation is fully in harmony with the Hebrew preposition used in the text. This translation occurs in various forms in other versions. The American Revised Version has: “. . . Then without my flesh shall I see God.” And in the margin this same version has: “And after my skin hath been thus destroyed, Yet from my flesh shall I see God.” For those who can read Dutch, the Statenvertalling has: “En als zij na mijne huid dit doorknaagd zullen hebben, zal ik uit mijn vleesch God aanschouwen.” (italics added) Personally, I like the rendering by the commentator Delitzsch: “And after my skin, thus torn to pieces, And without my flesh shall I behold Eloah.” Thus translated, Job says here not that he shall see God in his present, earthly, corruptible body, or “flesh.” But he says the opposite: that he shall see God out of the flesh, when he has put off and been stripped of his present flesh.

3) But should we then understand Job as saying that he shall see God in the intermediate glory of the disembodied state immediately after death? If we take verse 26 all by itself, this would seem to be the case. If, however, we look at verse 27, it is rather plain, I think, that by implication Job expressed here the hope of the bodily resurrection. For in this verse Job speaks emphatically of beholding God in hiseyes: “Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” This is, I believe, too strong an expression to refer only to the bliss of the intermediate state, but presupposes that Job shall be raised in the body and in that body (the new, heavenly, glorified body of the resurrection) shall see God with his eyes.

Thus, briefly, I would interpret the passage in question and solve the problem posed by my questioner.