Original Research

Grotesque bodies in the book of Job: A psychoanalytic perspective

Pieter van der Zwan
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 44, No 1 | a2689 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v44i1.2689 | © 2023 Pieter van der Zwan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 August 2022 | Published: 11 April 2023

About the author(s)

Pieter van der Zwan, Department of Ancient Texts: Text, Context, and Reception, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


Job is suffering from illness without understanding it. His impairment and exclusion render him disabled in an abled, gloating but threatened society for which he is the laughing stock despite his exceptional piety. His psychic and spiritual breakthrough comes when God makes him reflect on and in the mirror of the wild and disorderly bodies of the two monstrosities, Behemoth and Leviathan, elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible exemplifying chaos, but now unexpectedly celebrated. Even as possible relief thanks to light-hearted humour these grotesque bodies emancipate the object of body-politics by subverting the centre of certainty and power. In this study the Bakhtinian critique of the ‘monologisation’ of the human body and its experience promised to be fruitfully combined with psychoanalytic insights about imprisoned body-images to enrich the relevance of the book of Job.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The interface of biblical hermeneutics and exegesis with other research fields in the social sciences and humanities such as psychoanalytic theory and literary criticism expanded the horizon of insight for all parties involved, not only for biblical studies.


book of Job; disability; illness; psychoanalytic; grotesque; Bakhtin; monster.


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