Reading Ecclesiastes Christianly

Reading Ecclesiastes Christianly November 6, 2011

EerdWord, the blog of Eerdmans Publishing Co., has posted a brief segment from my upcoming Ecclesiastes commentary (due out this month).

In this segment I talk about reading a challenging book like Ecclesiastes from a Christian point of view. Among other things, I mention the notion of a “Christotelic” approach and “first and second readings.”

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  • peteenns

    I’ve gotten some very thoughtful comments this morning, and I ask that you give me a bit of time before responding. Busy day! Just wanted to thank you all in advance, and I will get to them as soon as I can.

  • Hi, Pete: I just ordered your commentary but until it arrives I have a question. Does Eccl. 3 teach determinism, “For everything there is an appointed, predestined, determined time,” or prudence, “consider all your options and choose wisely because some times are better than others.” I think Q is teaching the former (although I believe in free will). The latter doesn’t seem to fit the tenor of the book. I look forward to reading your commentary. Thanks.

    • peteenns

      Erik, I think ch. 3 has a deterministic outlook owing to Qohelet’s pessimism. It is not “teaching” for us to follow. So, it looks like we agree here.

      • Thanks! Your commentary arrived and I’m up to page 15. Your discussion of kol-ha-adam was fascinating and the frame narrator discussion was great. I’m going to learn a lot! Can’t wait to see what you say about multiple authors. I’ve been influenced by the 1919 book by Jastrow who builds a compelling case for six (or more!) redactors. So many good books to read, so little time. Thanks again for your comment.

        • peteenns

          Thanks, Erik. I’m not big on multiple authors for Eccl, though I can see why some are. I am on the Fox and Seow side of the discussion here: “Qohelet” is a persona of the author of the book, who wrote the frame. Of course, I may be wrong, but letting that play out theologically is interesting indeed.

  • I’m up to page 83 in your excellent commentary. Fascinating reading. I can’t wait to get to the theological reflections in the second half. It appears that you’ve exercised great restraint in not correcting all the popular treatments of Ecclesiastes that dismiss the book on grounds that Qoheleth was a godless humanist, “under the sun.” I’ve read four treatments of Eccl. that try to sanitize (and thereby emasculate) the text. C I Scofield said something to the effect, “This book is inspired like the words of Satan in Gen. 3 are inspired.” That one sentence, in my opinion, launched several generations of commentators who failed to pay serious attention to the puzzles of providence, the reality of uncertainty, and the existential angst many of us feel. You validate Q’s genuine dark night of the soul. Thanks!

    • peteenns

      Yeah. ALong with a lot of other commentators, I am trying to get Qohelet’s struggles back into the Christian consciousness. It’s profound stuff. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Hey, Peter. I’ve read your commentary twice now! Loved it. I under-estimated the depth of Q’s despair. Turns out he was even more gloomy than I originally thought. This adds import to the more uplifting conclusion of ch. 12. I also was astonished to see how you tied Eccl. to the NT and Jesus. I tried my hardest to see Jesus in Eccl and failed. But your treatment of Jesus as sage was brilliant! I’m turning Ecclesiastes into a comic book and your commentary helped me make sense out of many of the more puzzling passages, esp. the carpe deum passages. I’ve already commended your work to friends. Thanks for your hard work in popularizing this (to me) most important book of philosophy, faith, and suffering.