ecclesiastes martin landert "meaningless! meaningless!" says the teacher. "utterly meaningless!...
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- Ecclesiastes Martin Landert "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless." (Eccl. 1:2 NIV) Student
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- 1. Introduction Few biblical writings have sparked such an array of opinions as to what they mean as Ecclesiastes. Trying to figure out the gist of its message is as tantalizing and frustrating as it is important. The book presents us with a chest full of puzzles. Each time we open it we have to cope again with its style, track down its arguments, decode its imagery. And when we do we sense God at work, we see our human problems laid bare, we find warnings against our simple solutions. We sharpen our longings for the One whose cross and resurrection are windows on the fullness of what God wants human life to be. Lasor, 497. Few biblical writings have sparked such an array of opinions as to what they mean as Ecclesiastes. Trying to figure out the gist of its message is as tantalizing and frustrating as it is important. The book presents us with a chest full of puzzles. Each time we open it we have to cope again with its style, track down its arguments, decode its imagery. And when we do we sense God at work, we see our human problems laid bare, we find warnings against our simple solutions. We sharpen our longings for the One whose cross and resurrection are windows on the fullness of what God wants human life to be. Lasor, 497.
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- 2. Title of the Book The Hebrew title Qoheleth is taken from verse 1. Ecc. 1:1 The words of the Teacher son of David, king in Jerusalem. Qoheleth means one who assembles or calls together. Ecclesiastes: transliteration of the Greek title in the LXX ekklesiastes = assembly or a member of the assembly.
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- 3. Authorship Traditionally, both Jewish and Christian scholars have attributed the book of Ecclesiastes to King Solomon. Internal evidence pointing to Solomonic authorship: The authors self-claimed ancestry, position and wisdom (1:1, 12, 16); His impressive accomplishments, explorations of pleasure and unparalleled wealth (2:1-10), and Display of proverbial wisdom & reference to his collection of proverbs (ch. 7).
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- 3. Authorship Arguments against Solomonic authorship: Critical analysis of the text led scholars to adopt a postexilic theory also based on internal evidence: No mention of the name Solomon Only cryptic (obscure) references (1:1, 12, 16; 2:9) Even these references disappear after chapter 2. Anti-royalty/Solomonic and non-royalty allusions A king would not point to injustice in his own land The perspective is one from outside the court.
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- 3. Authorship Language & Syntax Two Persian loanwords in Ecclesiastes (all others in the Bible: postexilic). High frequency Aramaic loanwords and sentence structures also point to fifth century B.C. or later. Language of Ecclesiastes similar to other postexilic works like Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther. Masculine name pattern similar to Qohelet, e.g. Soperet and Pokeret found only in postexilic books (Ezra and Nehemiah), i.e. Persian period. Based on Choon Leong Seow, Ecclesiastes (The Anchor Bible, New York: Doubleday, 1997), 12-19. Summary An unknown author, a Jewish thinker. Taking on Solomonic guise. Intent: Not deception but identification to capture attention
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- 4. Date & Place Those who think that the tone of the book points to it being written by Solomon place the date of authorship late in Solomons life. Those who do not accept Solomonic authorship identify a postexilic date of writing: 400-200 B.C. Internal evidence from the text (climate and vegetation) point to a writing in Palestine, addressing an urban audience.
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- 5. Setting If we assume a postexilic date of writing, more specifically 450 to 350 B.C., we are looking at the time of Nehemiah. The socioeconomic context: valuable insights for the understanding of Ecclesiastes. Monetary and commercial economy: Prominent role of money in postexilic times (Persians spread use of coins) Used everywhere, a commodity: taxes, everyday business, bribes Ecclesiastes for an audience deeply concerned with the acquisition of money. - Who loves $ has never enough (5:10) & has indigestion (5:12) - What is the bottom line? (1:3; 3:9; 5:16) - Qoheleth: many economic terms - Jerusalem: competitivework on Sabbath (Neh. 13:15-22)!!!
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- 5. Setting Economic opportunities and risks Persian system of property grants The fruit of labour enjoyed alive (5:18: 9:6) Gap between haves and have nots, increasing injustice (5:8-9) Envy drives people to work harder (4:4-6) Some are favoured and some are not Middle-class people in a changing world The rich have substitutes for militarybut they face battle of death themselves (8:8) An uncertain world Upside-down, outside ones control (10:5- 7) Exorbitant interest (> 60% p.a.), default on loans often, also Jews (Neh. 5:3-5). People hoard wealth, are tight and keep waiting for perfect time Social Problems Helplessness
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- 6. Literary Style Various proposals for the unique style of Ecclesiastes A theological anthropology where Qoheleth looks at humanity with respect to what God has done in the universe Ecclesiastes is performative: the reader participates in discovering how hard it is to see how life, and therefore the book, fits together. Ecclesiastes is not just Wisdom Literature but should be put in connection with other genres of the Old Testament. Possible Styles A dialogue between Qoheleth & his heart, evaluating various perspectives. The work of one man who tries to make sense of life as he experiences it.
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- 6. Literary Style Characteristics Rhethorical features: Repetition, reflection, proverbs, description, tension Solution: Ecclesiastes is similar to Jobuse similar reading strategy The ending provides the proper perspective, especially 12:13-14. Apply proper hermeneutical principles: read in context Recognize: tensions placed strategically to serve author's intent.
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- 7. Structure 1A:Reflection: Everything is transient & unreliable 1)Preface (1:2-11) 2)Nothing is ultimately reliable (1:12- 2:26) 3)Everything is in the hand of God (3:1- 22) 4)Relative good is not good enough (4:1-16) 2A: Reflection: Everything is elusive 1)No one knows what is good (6:10-7:14) 2)Righteousness & wisdom are elusive (7:15-29) 3)Its an arbitrary world (8:1-17) 1B: Ethics: Coping with uncertainty 1)Attitude before God (5:1-7) 2)Enjoyment, not greed (5:8-6:9) 2B: Ethics: Coping with risks & death 1)Carpe diem (9:1-10) 2)The world is full of risks (9:11-10:15) 3)Living with risks (10:16-11:6) 4)Enjoy life & remember God & death (11:7-12:8) Epilogue: Fear God and keep his instructions (12:9-14)
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- 8. Theme Keyword: The word Hebel translated vanity (NRS, NKJ, NAS) or meaningless (NIV) is the literal word for Breath or Vapor. The metaphorical senses are Emptiness: Lacking in substance Temporariness: Disappears quickly Meaninglessness: Impossible to grasp Enigma Ecclesiastes reports Qoheleths search for meaning, purpose and satisfaction in life.
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- 7. Theme Qoheleths quest based on his own intellect Life is thoroughly enigmatic Not starting with the fear of the Lord as in Prov 9:10 results in folly. Augustine: I was trying to find the origin of evil, but I was quite blind to the evil in my own method of research. (Confessions 7.5) Qoheleths journey: any aspect of life & enterprise is found to be meaningless/fleeting Things do not last, neither money nor achievements. Tensions and contradictions cannot easily be explained away. Largely based on C. Bartholomew and R. ODowd. Old Testament Wisdom Literature: A Theological Introduction (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2011), 193-200.
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- 7. Theme And yet, life is meaningful and good Carpe diem (seize the day), (2:24-26; 3:10-22; 8:10-15; 9:7-10; 11:7- 12:7). Contrast with reality. Tension resolved in 7:23-29 as Qoheleth sees his wisdom as folly, remembering (11:7-12:7) God as creator of everything (12:1). The epilogue: What life is really about Fear God and obey him (12:13-14)the conclusion of the entire quest. By now, the narrator agrees with Qoheleth who found his way (back) to God. Barth: Basically, and comprehensively, therefore, to be a man is to be with God.
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- 7. Theme Ecclesiastes today Many struggle with meaninglessness of life, also Christians. Quick answers dont work. Dont dwell on reasons, trust that resolution will follow the struggle. What wisdom is Wisdom is not just knowing how to live. Wisdom needs to be embodied: our life/person should image of God. In this process of sanctification, suffering is unavoidable. Redemption and authenticity We know Jesus: our redeemer & full embodiment of wisdom. We are called to be authentic in our Christian life, even in our questions/struggles.
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- 7. Theme Ecclesiastes & the New TestamentA perspective Qoheleth did not have When Jesus died, he took all the hebel of separation from God on himself, giving us access to the Kingdom of God, so that we find meaning in Christ. Death is not the end: but the beginning of life in Gods presence. The Gospels abound with imagery of meals, celebration & feasting. Jesus linking his eating and drinking to wisdom (Matt. 11:16-19) Jesus talks about the banquet in the kingdom (Matt. 22:1-14)
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- 8. Purpose To teach the hearer/reader to
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