Ecclesiastes, Just Sayin’

Ecclesiastes, Just Sayin’ June 16, 2017

Ecclesiastes Just Sayin

Steve Wiggins shared the above meme featuring a quote from the Bible, an image, and the addition of “Just Sayin’.”

What other verses from the Bible deserve similar treatment? Please share the ideas in comments, with or without the images that you created to turn your ideas into memes. If you come up with good ones, I might create them and share them (or share the ones you create).

Steve’s post is worth reading, not just for the picture. Here’s an excerpt:

My white-shirted friends will surely object. I’m taking verses out of context—prooftexting, it’s called. But, my evangelical friends, you say Scripture is the word of God. Fully inspired and inerrant, is it not? How can you dismiss the wise, wonderful, woeful book of Ecclesiastes? The world is a complex place. Those who seek office as public servants should at least be able to distinguish the servant from the master. They lay their hand upon the Bible to take a sacred oath of office. Beneath that withered hand lies the book of Ecclesiastes, forsaken among its more cheerful siblings. Do not forget Ecclesiastes. It is the book that best makes sense of our day.

Click through to read more.

He is definitely right that Ecclesiastes doesn’t get the attention or the respect it deserves. That is understandable – much of what it says is simply at odds with the conventional piety of our time. Denying the afterlife, advising people not to be excessively righteous nor excessively wicked, and calling cherished ideas into question are not what most religious readers expect to find within the Bible.

And yet what does it say about a religious tradition if it can insist on the inspired character of the Bible in its entirety, from cover to cover, and yet has no place for, and has no idea what to do with, one of its components?

The same can be said about Leviticus and a range of other books and passages. And so this illustrates a crucial point to remember when engaging in conversations with so-called biblical inerrantists. Don’t let them claim a high ground that they don’t in fact occupy. Don’t grant that they take the Bible literally, or view it all as inerrant. If Ecclesiastes 9:2-6 is not inerrant in what it says, without having to bend over backwards to try to change its meaning, then one is simply not a biblical inerrantist. At best, one is an inerrantist about those texts which meet with one’s approval.

Which of course, means that in practice such people believe in the inerrancy of their own opinions rather than the Bible.

Ecclesiastes really is so very important, and we should be grateful that it is in the Bible…

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  • John MacDonald

    Dr. McGrath said: “At best, one is an inerrantist about those texts which meet with one’s approval.”

    True. One’s religious beliefs are sometimes more reflective of the reader of the sacred text than the writer (since the text sometimes allows multiple contrary interpretations – especially in the case of the bible since it was written by many different authors for many different purposes).

  • I’ve always said that Ecclesiastes is the most Whovian book in the Bible.

    • John MacDonald

      Nietzsche was also profoundly influenced by Ecclesiastes:
      “What has been is the same as what will be,
      and what has been done is the same as what will be done;
      there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9).”
      So, Nietzsche asked whether we are we to live our lives as though it is an eternal return of the Same (same shit, different day), or rather live joyously in “Amor fati” as though it is an eternal return of the Same Difference?

      • John MacDonald

        The question for Nietzsche’s response to the futility theme in Ecclesiastes is whether we live an eternal return of the same (where every new something is just another something), or an eternal return of the same difference. This does not mean wishing things to be different, but, in Nietzsche’s words, saying Yes and Amen to reality just as it is. It’s all about attitude. Someone can be a successful lawyer who is a miserable alcoholic, or a prisoner who is dancing in her chains.

        The idea of the eternal return is one where joyous childlike newness has gone out of your life. Nietzsche allegorizes the idea like this:

        “What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more’ … Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.’ [The Gay Science, §341]”

        Twice in Ecclesiastes, there are concise statements of an idea of recurrence: “What has been, is what will be […]”, “What is, has already been; what will be, has already been […]”, (1:9 and 3:15, resp.).

        Nietzsche characterizes the overcomer of this type of attitude as his Zarathustra:

        “The psychological problem in the type of Zarathustra is how he that says No and does No to an un-heard of degree, to everything that one has so far said Yes, can nevertheless be the opposite of a No-saying spirit; how the spirit who bears the heaviest fate, a fatality of a task, can nevertheless be the lightest and most transcendent — Zarathustra is a dancer — how he that has the hardest, most terrible insight into reality, that has thought the “most abysmal idea,” nevertheless does not consider it an objection to existence, not even to its eternal recurrence — but rather one reason more for being himself the eternal Yes to all things, “the tremendous, unbounded saying Yes and Amen.” — “Into all abysses I still carry the blessings of my saying Yes.” (Nietzsche Ecce Homo, Kaufmann edition, 295-306)

        As I said, a successful lawyer can be a miserable alcoholic, and a prisoner can make a fun game of dancing in her chains. It’s all about what kind of an attitude you are taking toward life, especially when things aren’t going your way. As Nietzsche said of himself and those like him, who were not the highest Zarathustra type but still had strong leanings that way: “Now and then, it’s true, we dance happily in our ‘chains’ and between our ‘swords.’ Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, aphorism 226.”

  • Ecclesiastes rocks. There’s a reason my wife and I named our first son Qoheleth.