knowing the times | an introduction to Ecclesiastes 3

knowing the times | an introduction to Ecclesiastes 3 August 17, 2021

Knowing the times: “Open your barns when it is the time to do so; and plant in season, and let the clusters be cut when they are ripe, and launch boldly in spring, and draw your ship on shore again at the beginning of winter, when the sea begins to rage.” (Gregory Nazianzius, On Holy Baptism.xl.xiv).

i. the times for everything, an introduction to Ecclesiastes 3

“It is clear, even with a moderate insight into the nature of things, that there is nothing by which we can measure the divine and blessed Life. It is not in time, but time flows from it; whereas the creation, starting from a manifest beginning, journeys onward to its proper end through spaces of time; so that it is possible, as Solomon somewhere says, to detect in it a beginning, an end, and a middle; and mark the sequence of its history by divisions of time (see Eccl iii.1-11). But the supreme and blessed life has no time-extension accompanying its course, and therefore no span nor measure.” (Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius.i.xxvi)

setup for Ecclesiastes 3 #shorts

Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzus compare the particularity of the times in Ecclesiastes with the keyrgma by the Apostles and the times they face. Therefore, as recipients of the Gospel and salvation, every Christian should be engaged in their particular work of salvation. What is God doing in the times of each of our lives? There are right things to do with our time and wrong things to do. Every time is the right time for prayer, but Theological reflection should be given a proper time…

Now about the last sentence, I would hate to question Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzus, but I would ask what one of my professors asked in our class, “Does anyone read deeply of Theology devotionally?”

I suddenly realized my hand was in the air and nobody else’s was.

Maybe it was a rhetorical question.

For those who have a bent toward Theology, whether historical or post-critical, or both, or some other branch, the literature itself serves as a devotional as we explore the Scripture.

ii. understanding the times

The poetry of Koheleth in this passage is deep, reflecting on the times and meanings of life. “To every thing there is a season, and a time . . .” (Eccl iii:1).

Koheleth is the term “preacher,” the pen-name of author of Ecclesiastes. To read about the authorship CLICK HERE

The language is both literal and figurative. “Every” is used, and can refer to everything or everyone, depending on the context. Koheleth often uses it to refer to everyone. The opening line of this poem could read, “For everyone there is a season.” A “season” is a set, appointed time, similar to our definition so far.

The term “time,” however, may be a little different than how we define it. Time includes the idea of regular, recurring events such as seasonal weather patterns.

It can also mean a set, or appointed time.

The times refer to something more than a chronological clock. Time refers to the events within life and the value of those events. Time also points to God who oversees everything that occurs.

iii. times transliterated from Hebrew and from the Greek Septuagint

This word for time in the Hebrew is eth. When the Hebrew Bible was translated into the Greek Septuagint, the term kairos was chosen to represent the value of the times.

The two primary Greek terms for time are chronos and kairos. Chronos represents the order of time, or quantity.

Kairos is often used to refer to the quality of time.

What is occurring during the times?

What opportunity is that moment in time affording?

Kairos is usually associated with opportunities to change our hearts, repent, etc.

iv. there is “a time for every matter” (verse 1)

Matter or purpose right there is a word which is also translated “will” and may also be used in reference to the will of God. It is interesting to note that the core meaning of purpose or will is delight and pleasure.

Purpose signifies what one longs for or delights in. We often have a formal concept of the will of God. But God is not toying with your life like a cosmic game of chess!

Here we see that the greater purposes of God are linked to something simpler, His delight, His passion, His emotion, His love, etc. Therefore discovering the will of God may be easier if we stop trying to guess His next move in some cosmic game of chess, and simply try to capture His heart “under heaven.”

v. Basil the Great exclaims that every matter includes our delight in our Lord

“We may praise God sometimes with the tongue (when this is possible or, rather, when it is conducive to edification); or, if not, with the heart, at least, in psalms, hymns and spiritual canticles, as it is written.” (The Long Rules xxxvii.ii)

The last part of Basil the Great’s thought references Colossians iii.16. Not only Pentecostal scholars, but others as well, refer to “spiritual canticles” (songs) as spontaneous singing in tongues within a congregation. For those who have been caught in the rapture of such a moment, there is Biblical and growing Theological evidence for the experience. Ephesians v.19 uses the same language.

When we understand time as Koheleth does, we see meaning in life. More than chronological time, our lives are made up of times within time, divine opportunities, brushes with eternity, events ordained by God.

“People’s lives, of course, appear to be different, since they start at different points and unfold in different ways, but what all share is the constant rhythm of change brought about by the coming and going of certain eternally established times.” (James L. Kugel, The Great Poems of the Bible: A Reader’s Companion with New Translations, Free Press, p. 311)

JVI | winter sun breaking through clouds & ice | Long Lake | 04.04.19

“Open your barns when it is the time to do so; and plant in season, and let the clusters be cut when they are ripe, and launch boldly in spring, and draw your ship on shore again at the beginning of winter, when the sea begins to rage.” (Gregory Nazianzius, On Holy Baptism.xl.xiv).

Rev. Jared Ingle

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I’ve been encouraged by a postgrad student to share some of the categories of my recent writings, this one being a favorite one of the student.

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