Original Research

Images of the dead (body) and the missing corpse in the Book of Job

Pieter van der Zwan
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 78, No 1 | a7265 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v78i1.7265 | © 2022 Pieter van der Zwan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 29 November 2021 | Published: 21 June 2022

About the author(s)

Pieter van der Zwan, Department of Religion Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


The Song of Songs is regarding Eros, whereas the Book of Job seems to be about Thanatos. Despite the dominance of the theme of death in this biblical book, no word for a corpse or even a dead body occurs. Absence is, however, hermeneutically so important that it probably constitutes its essence in that only gaps leaving questions can be interpreted. The theory of the French psychoanalyst, Mária Török, about a phantom in a psychic crypt as unknown parental bequeathal can shed some light in the darkness of this mysterious absence: God never reveals the secret deal with the Satan to the traumatised Job who consequently cannot see the hidden wisdom – the truth – of the ‘corpse’. It is possible that death is more צַלְמָוֶת [a shadow of death, a word that occurs more in Book of Job than in any other biblical book], than a body, explaining something of Job’s ambivalent attitude to physical death.

Contribution: The interdisciplinary research into biblical texts as literature from a psychoanalytical perspective adds to the broader horizons within which these texts can be analysed and interpreted. This is in line with the current shift of psychoanalytical interpretations away from psychiatry to literary studies.


Book of Job; psychoanalytical; corpse; death; secret


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Crossref Citations

1. Hearing the invisible: The ears of Job, a psychoanalytic perspective
Pieter Van der Zwan
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies  vol: 78  issue: 1  year: 2022  
doi: 10.4102/hts.v78i1.7412