Before I go any further, I need to clarify that I am not questioning the real historical existence of all biblical characters. I am also not reducing the Bible to the level of pure fiction. T.C. recently questioned that ambiguity in my previous post, so I want to be clear. I believe archaeology provides strong circumstantial evidence for the existence of certain biblical people, like David, for example. The best explanation of the Tel Dan inscription is that it refers to a real Davidic dynasty. Certain biblical characters like Abraham, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, David, and Solomon are central to the story of salvation history. I’m not questioning their existence, even though I can’t prove it definitively.
The issue is whether an “honorable mention” by another biblical writer is a reference to a historical person or a literary figure. The default position seems to be to take the reference historically. Earlier I dealt with NT references to OT characters, but what about OT references to other characters?
A few days ago Jeff posted “Was Job a Real Person?” His answer: “Of course he was!” with appeal to Ezek 14:14 for confirmation.
I realize that Ezekiel is filled with dream-like imagery, but this message from the Lord (and the rest of the section) certainly confirms to me that they were real individuals. Not that I needed any more convincing.I’m not criticizing Jeff’s conclusion. It is a valid answer to the question, but I don’t think it’s the only reasonable answer. A commenter on his post also drew in James 5:11 to support Job’s existence and commented how he believed Jonah historical as well for similar reasons. But why jump to conclusions? Why assume the biblical writer meant to allude to a historical personage? As a 21st century reader, do you follow the reference because it’s historical or because you know the literary text that it alludes to? That’s easy . . . you know the text. You know the story.
Let’s look closer at the references in Ezekiel 14:14 (repeated in v. 20).
even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD.Commentators often take this as a reference to 3 non-Israelite “saints.” The non-Israelite identity is important for the larger theme of general or universal retribution in Ezekiel 14. The connection of righteousness or virtue with these three is also key. Gen 6:9 reads “These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.” Job 1:1 says “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” Noah and Job are clearly held up as ideal paragons of virtue. (More to come on "Daniel.") Their righteousness is known not from history but from literature. Does the point of v. 14 require their stories to have actually happened or does it simply require one knows the story - much like a parable teaches a point?
The details given about Job’s status, wealth and family don’t prove the story is not a parable or folk tale. We don’t know where the land of Uz is. Job is identified by his character, not his patronymic (that is, no “son of SO & SO” to give a family identification). The circumstances of his suffering and restoration have all the ring of the classic West Semitic epics like Aqhat or Kirta. The fact that the reference to “Daniel” is almost certainly to a character from a non-biblical West Semitic epic further strengthens the conclusion that Job and Noah are evoked here for their literary significance, not their historical existence. (Was there a historical Noah and a worldwide flood? Still thinking that through, but I knew you’d ask.)
Acknowledging that some OT characters, like Jonah and Job, might simply be literary figures with no historical existence in no way undermines the accuracy or inerrancy of the biblical text. The issue is with the reader, not the text. The reader is demanding something of the text it never intended to give. Searching for a historical Job is, in my mind, about as likely to turn up solid results as a quest for the historical Prodigal Son (Luke 15).
Comments and discussion are welcome. My thoughts on this issue are continually in process.
 Daniel in this text presents a special problem that I’ll address in another post.
 See Leslie C. Allen, Ezekiel 1-19, WBC, and Moshe Greenberg, Ezekiel 1-20, AYB.
 Jonah, of course, was known from the historical books - 2 Kgs 14:25. But his literary fame comes from the book of Jonah and his fish story - a story, IMO, borrowing the character of an otherwise little known prophet.