Ecclesiastes

ECCLESIASTES (ĕ-klē-zĭ-ăs'tēz, Gr. Ekklēsiatēs, Heb., qōheleth, meaning probably the official speaker in an assembly). Traditionally the book has been ascribed to Solomon. This ascription is based on several factors. The superscription introduces the book as “The words of the Teacher, son of David, king of Jerusalem” (Eccl.1.1). Several allusions in the book are appropriate to Solomonic authorship, such as the reference to the author’s wisdom (Eccl.1.16), his interest in proverbs (Eccl.12.9; cf. 1Kgs.4.32), and his building projects (1Kgs.2.4-1Kgs.2.11).

From the time of Luther, however, a large number of scholars have questioned the Solomonic authorship of Ecclesiastes. The book does not actually name Solomon as its writer. The author says he was king of Jerusalem (Eccl.1.12), a statement difficult to apply to Solomon, and the language of the book may incline toward a time later than King Solomon. These observations have led many to hold that Solomon serves as a literary representation of the embodiment of wisdom.

The book presents a pessimistic view of life apart from God. The writer tells us that his observation of nature and human experience leads him to conclude that they, in and of themselves, do not impart purpose and meaning to life. He observes the endless cycles of nature (Eccl.1.2-Eccl.1.11) and finds in them only tedium. They do not offer satisfaction, for the “eye never has enough of seeing” (Eccl.1.8). Even wisdom (Eccl.1.16-Eccl.1.18; Eccl.2.12-Eccl.2.17), pleasure (Eccl.1.1-Eccl.1.8), and toil (Eccl.1.9-Eccl.1.11; Eccl.2.18-Eccl.2.23) are meaningless. There is no substance or satisfaction in them. They are a “chasing after the wind” (Eccl.1.17).

In the history of its interpretation the book has been characterized as hedonistic because it concludes that “a man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work” (Eccl.2.24). But this characterization of the book is rendered difficult by the fact that the writer concludes that pleasure does not lead to satisfaction either (Eccl.2.1). The book is understood by some to be fatalistic in its approach to life. This is based on Eccl.3.16-Eccl.3.22, which seems to conclude that man is not better off than the animal. This conclusion, however, is true only when men are viewed in and of themselves (Heb. hemmah lahem, Eccl.3.18), that is, apart from God.

There is a positive life view that emerges from the book that may be called a theology of contentment. In view of the lack of substance and meaning in life, Qoheleth urges his readers to enjoy life, for it is God who gives us that privilege (Eccl.2.24-Eccl.2.25). This satisfaction does not belong to all mankind, for the work of the sinner ends in futility (Eccl.2.26). Godly contentment, however, is not the ultimate good for mankind. Qoheleth reminds us of a future time when God will bring all things into judgment. This is the conclusion of his search for meaning in life (Eccl.12.14). One is reminded of the counsel of the apostle Paul in view of the futility of life, for like Qoheleth, he looked away from life’s meaninglessness to his future redemption (Rom.8.20; cf. Rom.8.22-Rom.8.25).

Qoheleth urges us to fear God and obey him. Only when God is taken into account (Eccl.12.1) and his will observed (Eccl.12.13) does life impart purpose and satisfaction.

Bibliography: H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Ecclesiastes, 1952; Robert Gordis, Koheleth—The Man and His World, 1968; Derek Kidner, A Time to Mourn and a Time to Dance, 1976.——TEM


ECCLESIASTES (ĭ klē’ zĭ ăs’tēz) Gr. Ekklēsiastēs, Heb. Qōheleth, prob. meaning The Assembly-speaker, i.e. The Preacher.)

Outline

Etymology and genre

The term Qoheleth is derived from the root qāhāl, “assembly, congregation”; hence the fem. abstract noun may have meant “the office or function of speaker in the assembly.” This book belongs to the general class of Wisdom Literature, or Ḥokhmah, but to the special genre of the philsophical discourse—of which there are no other extant examples in ancient near Eastern lit. It purports to have been composed by “the son of David, king in Jerusalem” (Eccl 1:1), i.e. by Solomon. Since it consists of a review of his lifelong search for truly valid goals in human existence, it was doubtless a product of his old age, c. 940 b.c.

Authorship and time of composition

The Solomonic authorship of this book is regarded by most modern authorities as purely fictional, composed by some unknown later author upon the basis of the experiences and insights of the historic Solomon. On the basis of supposed allusions to the misfortunes of the Israelite nation down through the Babylonian Exile, as well as on allegedly late characteristics of language, Qoheleth has been assigned a 5th cent. date by such conservative authors as Hengstenberg, Delitzsch, Leupold and E. J. Young, and 3rd cent. or later by liberal scholars. These allegations of spuriousness (or fictional character) are not justified by the objective evidence. More recent discussions of the language of Ecclesiastes (like that of J. Muilenberg in BASOR 135, p. 135) admits that “Linguistically the book is unique. There is no question that its language has many striking peculiarities.” In other words, it differs from all other books of the OT of whatever age; it equally differs from all known intertestamental Heb. works, such as Ecclesiasticus (which, however, has been greatly influenced by it) and the Qumran sectarian lit. No significant resemblances can be made out with the extant pre-Christian Heb. lit. of any period, either in respect to vocabulary, grammar or style. It is quite as dissimilar to 5th-cent. productions, such as, Zechariah, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther and Malachi as to any of the pre-exilic period. This poses an insuperable difficulty to those who, like Delitzsch and Young, date Qoheleth (Qoh.) around 430, or to Beecher (in ISBE) who puts it at 400 b.c. The earliest MS fragments come from Qumran Cave 4 and date from the 2nd cent. b.c., and so there is no possibility of dating it after the sectarian period (to whose writings it is altogether dissimilar).

Linguistic affinities with Phoenician.

The true explanation for the peculiar language and style of Ecclesiastes is to be found in its genre. As in ancient Gr. lit. the dialect or style in which each genre (such as the epic, the elegiac, the love poem, etc.) was first brought to classic perfection became a binding convention upon all who would in later ages compose in that genre, so also in ancient Sem. and Egyp. circles a peculiar style became conventional for each genre. It so happens that there are no other surviving examples of the genre to which Qoheleth belongs (the philosophical disquisition), and there is no literary parallel with which to compare it. There is, however, a noteworthy affinity for early Canaanite and Phoenician characteristics which makes it likely that Solomon, if he was the true author, wrote in a genre which had been cultivated in Phoenicia or in Canaanite areas of Pal. itself.

The evidence for this has been gathered in a very able article by M. J. Dahood, “Canaanite-Phoenician Influence in Qoheleth” (Biblica 33, 1952), in which he draws upon the linguistic data of the 14th cent. Ugaritic tablets, the Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum, and Lidzbarski’s Phoenician and Punic inscrs. in Ephemeris. He comes to the conclusion (op. cit. p. 32) that “The Book of Ecclesiastes was originally composed by an author who wrote in Hebrew but who employed Phoenician orthography, and whose composition shows heavy Canaanite-Phoenician influence.” He marshals his proofs under the following categories: (1) Phoen. orthography, (2) Phoen. inflections, pronouns and particles, (3) Phoen. syntax, and (4) Phoen. lexical borrowings or analogies.

Orthography.

Under Phoen. spelling he lists many instances of variants as between the MT of the OT and the ancient VSS in Gr., Aram., Syr. and Lat.—variants which are most easily accounted for by an original text in which no vowel letters were written (final vowel letters were introduced into Heb. spelling at least by late 8th cent., judging by the Siloam Inscr.). Thus it was possible to supply differing final vowels affecting the number and gender of verbs (such as na’’seh “was made,” in the MT of Ecclesiastes 1:13, but na’a “were made” in some of the VSS; or again, hāyâ is the MT reading in 1:16—“it came into being”—but hāyû, “they came into being” according to the VSS. These variants indicate that the original author spelled the first word n-’s, and the second word h-y—which remained the normal Phoen. spelling until 3rd cent. b.c. or later. Or again, 3:16 reads haṩṩedeq “the righteousness” in MT, but haṩṩaddīq “the righteous man” in the VSS.

Inflections and particles.


Syntax.

As for syntax, the peculiar combination of infinitive absolute plus the independent pronoun (e.g. 4:2 reads weəabbēa, ’a for “And I praised”) occurs four or five times in Qoh., and only once elsewhere in the OT. Cf. the combination q-t-l ’-n-k in the Karatepe Phoen. inscrs., and EA 113:40-42 in the Tell-Amarna correspondence, back in the 14th cent. Even the use of the independent personal pronoun as a copular verb, which occurs quite often in Ecclesiastes (e.g. 3:13 mattat ’elōhīm hî', “it is a gift of God”) is shown to be a Phoen. usage, as well as Aram. and Mishnaic Heb. For example, the 5th cent. Yehawmilk Inscription states that “He was a righteous king” (k-m-l-k ş-d-q h-'). (Cf. also CIS 93:1-2; Lidzbarski 36:4; and Nora Inscr. 2f.)

Lexical affinities.

As for lexical affinities, note that Ecclesiastes uses ’ādām for “man” in the non-generic sense (contrary to normal Heb. practice); cf. the Azitawadd 9th cent. inscr., which uses ’-d-m five times and ’-š (Heb. ’îš) only once. The characteristic phrase “under the sun” (tahat haššemeš) occurs in no other ancient NW Sem. language except Phoen. (cf. the inscrs. of Tabnit and Eshmunazar at Sidon). Even the term re'ût (“a striving, a desire”), which occurs seven times in Qoh. and is usually explained as a borrowing from Aram., occurs in Punic inscrs.: once meaning “decree, decision,” once meaning “pleasure, good will.” An unusual pair of verbs occurs in 10:18: “By slothfulness the roof sinks in (yimmak), and through idleness of hands the house leaks (yiḏlōp).” It is most significant that these two verbs, mākak and dālap, occur nowhere else in combination except Ugaritic Text 68:17. The distinctive climax series “seven...eight” occurring in 11:2 (nowhere else in OT except Mic 5:5) appears at least six times in Ugaritic lit. (BASOR 76 [1939], 5-11). The distinctive phrase šemen rōqēa occurs nowhere else besides Ecclesiastes 10:1 (“perfumer’s oil”) and in Ugaritic Text 120:5. But the noun r-q-ḥ “perfumer” occurs at least five times in Phoenician and Punic inscrs. It is unknown in Aram., although ruqqû appears in Akkad. as “compound ointment.”

Dahood’s article closes with an impressive assortment of mercantile terms most appropriate to a commercial culture such as characterized the Phoen. people. Thus: (a) ’āmāl “gain, earning” (twelve times); (b) yitrôn “gain, advantage” (eighteen times); (c) ’inyān “occupation, business” (six times); (d) ḥesrôn “lack, deficit” (six times); (e) ḥēleq “share, portion” (seven times); (f) kišrôn “success, advantage” (five times); (g) ’ōšer “riches” (twelve times); (h) hešbôn “computation, reckoning” (five times); and (i) ṩākār “wages” (two times). These and many other terms which he lists confirm still further the theory that the genre to which Qoh. belongs was borrowed from a Phoen. prototype. Nor should it be forgotten (although Dahood does not discuss this) that Israel in the age of Solomon was more deeply involved in international trade than at any other time in its history, before or since (1 Kings 9:26-28; 10:28, 29). (Dahood attempts to retain an early postexilic date on the basis of a theory that a substantial colony of Jews took refuge in Phoenicia after the fall of Jerusalem in 587 b.c., and that the unknown author composed Ecclesiastes there; but there is not a shred of historical evidence for any such colony, and it seems unlikely that a Phoenician subject to Nebuchadnezzar’s authority—apart from a revolt by Tyre resulting in the complete destruction of its mainland city—would have dared to harbor refugees from the wrath of the Chaldeans subsequent to the assassination of Gedaliah. All the refugees of whom there is any recorded knowledge fled southward to Egypt.)

In view of the prominence of the Red Sea port of Elath during Solomon’s reign, there is every reason to believe that he had extensive contacts with India from whence he might have borrowed such terms as pardēs “park” (Sanskrit: paridhis) and pitgām “official decision” (Sanskrit: pratigāma), rather than from Pers. (a language rather closely related to the Sanskrit classical language of India). As for allegedly postexilic terms like šhālaṭ (“have dominion, authority”), the Hyksos invaders of Egypt called their ruler by the title Salitis back in the 18th cent. b.c., long before the time of Moses. It is beyond question that Salitis is derived from the root šālaṭ. As for zemān “appointed time,” while it is true that it appears outside of Ecclesiastes in the Heb. Scriptures, only in Esther and Nehemiah, it is also true that it was used in Akkad. as simānu “fixed date,” and also in Arab. as zamanun, and in Ethiopic as zaman. It was a Pan-Semitic word, therefore, and no evidence for a post-Solomonic date, esp. since “a proper time,” “fixed time,” is elsewhere in Ecclesiastes always expressed by the classical Heb. ’ēt (cf. 3:1-8).

Other internal evidences as to authorship

Apart from linguistic factors there are other internal evidences used by opponents of Solomonic authorship to indicate a later date of composition. Thus there are said to be such obvious anachronisms as to alert any Heb. reader to the fictional character of this work. The Preacher declared that he had attained more wisdom than “all they that have been before me in Jerusalem” (1:16). Since the only Heb. king before Solomon in Jerusalem was his father David, the “all that were before me” must point to a long succession of Jewish kings before Ecclesiastes was actually written. But this argument overlooks the fact that the author is not referring to kings who preceded him in Jerusalem, but rather to “wise men” or sages who were practitioners of the various genres of ḥokhmah lit. (cf. 1 Kings 4:31, which states that Solomon excelled even Heman, Chalcol and Darda, who were doubtless outstanding scholars who flourished in pre-Israelite Jerusalem, a city of notable influence and prestige from the days of Melchi-zedek and Adoni-zedek centuries before). A second anachronism is alleged in 1:12: “I...was (hāyîtî) king...in Jerusalem,” which is thought to imply that Solomon was no longer king (and therefore dead) at the time this book was written. It should be pointed out, however, that hāyîtî can also mean, “I became king over Israel”—a perfectly natural explanation for an elderly king to give when recollecting the commencement of his reign.

Solomonic authorship is supposedly excluded by the non-royal viewpoint of the author. Instead of speaking of himself as the ruler of the land he occasionally expressed sentiments implying disapproval of, or even hostility toward, the king. See, for example, 10:17: “Happy are you, O land, when your king is the son of free men, and your princes feast at the proper time, for strength, and not for drunkenness.” Or again, “Do not curse the king, not even in your bedchamber” (10:20), or 4:13: “Better is a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king, who will no longer take advice.”

In dealing with passages such as these, however, it should be understood that the author is writing as a philosopher, not as the head of a government, or even as a propagandist in his own behalf. As a keen observer of world history, both past and current, it would be inconceivable that he was unaware of the existence of gluttonous, intemperate, stubborn or misguided kings in other countries, or of the unhappy consequences to their subjects under such a rule. Just as at a later age the Rom. emperor Marcus Aurelius composed his Meditations not as a piece of government propaganda but (esp. after the introductory Book I) as a Stoic philosopher, so also Solomon as a scholar of wide renown, wrote this remarkable treatise on the true values of life in order to persuade men to settle for nothing less than obedience to the revealed will of God. In order to illustrate his various points, he drew upon familiar experiences and vicissitudes common to the Near E in recent and contemporary history: the downfall of the rich and proud, the sudden elevation of the ignoble and lowly to positions of prominence and honor. It is quite pointless and futile to attempt to discover in these illustrations covert allusions to the national downfall of Judah in 587, the miseries of the Babylonian exile, or the penury that prevailed in the days of Ezra and Malachi. The author is dealing with the misfortunes and hardships that befall mankind generally as individuals rather than as nations. Sentiments such as, “Better than both is he who has not yet been, and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun” (4:3) point to the injustice and calamity which all too often infects society and assaults its hapless victims at all periods in human history. Even though prosperity and peace prevailed during most of Solomon’s reign, his recollection of the harrowing experiences of his father during Absalom’s revolt, and his knowledge of the tides of invasion and bloodshed that had always characterized the history of the Near E, all served to give him a realistic understanding of the afflictions of mankind. Indeed it was these afflictions which posed the anguished questions of meaning and value without which the adventure of life made little sense. One concludes, then, that there is nothing in the sentiments expressed or the attitudes assumed in the text of Ecclesiastes to preclude Solomonic authorship. The so-called allusions to exilic and postexilic conditions are incapable of demonstration, nor are they at all inappropriate to a 10th cent. setting. Neither in this area nor in the linguistic phenomena of the book can a convincing case be made out for non-Solomonic authorship.

The doctrinal message of Ecclesiastes

The basic theme of Qoheleth is the ultimate futility of a life based upon earthly ambitions and desires. Any world view which does not rise above the horizon of man himself is doomed to meaninglessness and frustration. To view personal happiness or enjoyment as life’s greatest good is sheer folly in view of the transcendent value of God Himself as over against His created universe. Happiness can never be achieved by pursuing after it, since such a pursuit involves the absurdity of self-deification. “...also, the hearts of men are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead” (9:3). The final judgment upon all self-seeking, autonomous human effort and pursuit after meaning and permanent achievement is: “Vanity of vanities” (i.e. complete futility), “This also is vanity.” Transient mortals must realize that they are mere creatures, and that they derive importance only from their relationship to the almighty Creator. “I know that whatever God does endures for ever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken away from it” (3:14). In other words Ecclesiastes is really intended to be a tract for the conversion of the self-sufficient intellectual; it compels him to discard his comfortable, self-flattering illusions and face honestly the instability of all those materialistic props on which he attempts to base his security. At the end of the road for the “hard-headed” materialist lies death and physical dissolution. Only as one finds a new meaning for life in surrendering to the sovereignty of God and faithful obedience to His will in moral conduct can one find a valid principle and goal for responsible human living. There may be many aspects of God’s will that man does not yet understand, nevertheless he must submit to it with unrebellious trust, and gratefully receive and enjoy the mercies of food and clo thing and material comforts as He may apportion them to us. “...also he has put eternity ('ôlām) into man’s mind, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; also that it is God’s gift to man that every one should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil” (3:11-13). It is from this perspective that the so-called “Epicurean” passages (like 2:24) are to be understood; they do not exalt mere hedonism to the status of absolute value (as some interpreters have imagined), but rather they exhort men to a wholehearted appreciation and enjoyment of God’s material bounties, even while they recognize them as possessing only temporal and conditional value.

As for the alleged pessimism of Qoheleth’s teaching, with its recurrent reminder of the inevitability and universality of death, these elements too must be interpreted in the light of the over-all purpose of the book, as defined above, and also in the light of the immediate context. Thus in the case of 4:2, “And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive,” this is no rejection of the worthwhileness of life as such. The preceding v. makes it clear that if a person’s life is to consist of nothing but oppression, calamity and sorrow, then it would have been better never to have been born at all. Or again, in 6:8 the query: “For what advantage has the wise man over the fool? And what does the poor man have who knows how to conduct himself before the living?” is to be put in focus with the main thrust of the book: apart from God and His holy will, the life of no man (whether educated or uneducated, rich or poor) has any ultimate meaning, but ends in futility. If a man’s relationship to the Lord is what it should be, then it will be well with him. “Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God” (8:12).

It should be added that the Preacher lays great stress upon the importance of this life as the only arena of opportunity and accomplishment for man before he steps off the stage into the eternity of the life beyond. From this standpoint it is true that “he who is joined with all the living has hope; for a living dog is better than a dead lion” (9:4). Also the following v. is no affirmation of soul-sleep (“the dead know not anything”) but rather a warning that the dead have no longer any expectation of a personal future with opportunities of choice for or against God, or between good and evil, such as they had prior to the grave. Nor do they have any knowledge of what goes on “under the sun,” i.e. upon earth, while they wait in Sheol for the day of judgment. (In Solomon’s time, of course, it was premature to reveal anything clear about the glories of heaven, since access to these glories for believers was largely delayed until the triumph of Christ’s resurrection.) All of these considerations then, are intended to point men away from the specious and pretended values of this life (personal enjoyment, happiness, success, or materialistic achievements) to the one true and abiding value, fellowship with God and living in obedience to His will. Plainly this is the conclusion to which the author wishes to drive his readers, for he ends with: “The conclusion, when all has been heard is: Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man” (12:13).

It is only by dint of deleting from the received text of Ecclesiastes the vv. which speak of obedience to God and trust in Him that rationalist critics are able to construe the book as a pessimistic manifesto of skepticism which somehow found its way into the OT canon despite its heresy. No plausible motivation can be made out for the reworking of an originally Bible-rejecting book in order to make it acceptable to the believing community through the insertion of occasional pious-sounding verses. Such a theory is totally without objective foundation, and a mere product of the inventive imagination of modern higher criticism.

Outline of the contents of the book

The book is composed of four main discourses and a conclusion.

Outline

Final summation

Ecclesiastes presents itself as the matured and chastened wisdom of a king who has learned from experience the futility of living for any other purpose than the glory of God. He has come to realize what a poor bargain it is for a man to gain the whole world but to lose his own soul. He had been personally favored with unlimited wealth and power to test all that the world had to offer. He enjoyed the finest of education and an unrivaled reputation for wisdom (1:16). His riches were immeasurable (2:8); he was surrounded with hosts of servants (2:7); his opportunities for carnal pleasure knew no restriction (2:3); he could afford the most extensive building projects and look with pride on their accomplishment (2:4-6). Yet in the end these false avenues to life’s highest good led only to a vanished satisfaction and a sense of personal emptiness: all was “vanity,” futile meaninglessness. In the end this son of David was driven back to the lessons and insights of his early upbringing, and he had to recognize that only in God can a man find real significance and lasting satisfaction. It was therefore this legacy that Solomon wished to leave behind him for his willful, headstrong people, and also for all men of subsequent generations who earnestly search for life’s highest good. Paradoxically, it is not found in this life at all, but rather in God and the supernal realm of His perfect will.

Bibliography

The genuineness of Ecclesiastes as a work of Solomon is defended by W. T. Bullock in The Speaker’s Commentary, and by Dr. Charles Wordsworth (Archdeacon of Westminster), London (1868). So also the article by Gietmann in the Catholic Encyclopedia, V, 244-248. Taylor Lewis, the tr. of Zoeckler’s Commentary on Ecclesiastes in the Lange series, included his personal defense of Solomonic authorship and added comments of refutation in the commentary itself.

The following works, listed according to the order of their publication, hold to a postexilic date for Ecclesiastes:

O. Zoeckler, Commentary on Ecclesiastes in the Lange series, repr. (n.d.); A. L. Williams, Ecclesiastes (1922); Fr. Delitzsch, Commentary on Ecclesiastes, repr. (1950); H. L. Ginsberg, Studies in Koheleth (1950); R. Gordis, Koheleth: the Man and His World (1955); H. L. Ginsberg, “The Structure and Contents of the Book of Koheleth” (in Supplement to Vetus Testamentum, III [1955]), 138-149; O. S. Rankin and G. G. Atkins, “Ecclesiastes” in Interpreter’s Bible, V. (1956); E. W. Hengstenberg, Ecclesiastes, repr. (1960).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

e-kle-zi-as’-tez, or (qoheleth; Ekklesiastes, perhaps "member of assembly"; see below):

Contents

1. Structure of the Book

2. The Contents

3. Composite Authorship?

4. Qoheleth

5. "King in Jerusalem"

6. Date and Authorship

7. Linguistic Peculiarities

8. Certain Inconclusive Arguments

9. Canonicity

1. Structure of the Book:

Reading this book one soon becomes aware that it is a discussion of certain difficult problems of human life. It begins with a title Ec (1:1), followed by a preface (1:2-11). It has a formal conclusion (12:8-13). Between the preface and the conclusion the body of the book is made up of materials of two kinds--first a series of "I" sections, sections uttered in the 1st person singular, a record of a personal experience; and second, an alternating series of gnomic sections, sections made up of proverbs (say 4:5,6,9-12; 5:1-12; 7:1-14,16-22; 8:1-8; 9:7-10; 10:1-4; 10:8-12:7). These may be called the "thou" sections, as most of them have the pronoun of the 2nd person singular. The idea of the vanity of all things characterizes the record of experience, but it also appears in the "thou" sections (eg. 9:9). On the other hand the proverb element is not wholly lacking in the "I" sections (eg. 4:1-3).

2. The Contents:

In the preface the speaker lays down the proposition that all things are unreal, and that the results of human effort are illusive Ec (1:2,3). Human generations, day and night, the wind, the streams, are alike the repetition of an unending round (1:4-7). The same holds in regard to all human study and thinking (1:8-11). The speaker shows familiarity with the phenomena which we think of as those of natural law, of the persistence of force, but he thinks of them in the main as monotonously limiting human experience. Nothing is new. All effort of Nature or of man is the doing again of something which has already been done.

After the preface the speaker introduces himself, and recounts his experiences. At the outset he had a noble ambition for wisdom and discipline, but all he attained to was unreality and perplexity of mind (Ec 1:12-18). This is equally the meaning of the text, whether we translate "vanity and vexation of spirit" or "vanity and a striving after wind," ("emptiness, and struggling for breath"), though the first of these two translations is the better grounded.

Finding no adequate satisfaction in the pursuits of the scholar and thinker, taken by themselves, he seeks to combine these with the pursuit of agreeable sensations--alike those which come from luxury and those which come from activity and enterprise and achievement Ec (2:1-12). No one could be in better shape than he for making this experiment, but again he only attains to unreality and perplexity of spirit. He says to himself that at least it is in itself profitable to be a wise man rather than a fool, but his comfort is impaired by the fact that both alike are mortal (2:13-17). He finds little reassurance in the idea of laboring for the benefit of posterity; posterity is often not worthy (2:18-21). One may toil unremittingly, but what is the use (2:22,23)?

He does not find himself helped by bringing God into the problem. `It is no good for a man that he should eat and drink and make his soul see good in his toil’ Ec (2:24-26, as most naturally translated), even if he thinks of it as the gift of God; for how can one be sure that the gift of God is anything but luck? He sees, however, that it is not just to dismiss thus lightly the idea of God as a factor in the problem. It is true that there is a time for everything, and that everything is "beautiful in its time." It is also true that ideas of infinity are in men’s minds, ideas which they can neither get rid of nor fully comprehend (3:1-18). Here are tokens of God, who has established an infinite order. If we understood His ways better, that might unravel our perplexities. And if God is, immortality may be, and the solution of our problems may lie in that direction. For a moment it looks as if the speaker were coming out into the light, but doubt resumes its hold upon him. He asks himself, "Who knoweth?" and he settles back into the darkness. He has previously decided that for a man to "eat and drink, and make his soul enjoy good" is not worth while; and now he reaches the conclusion that, unsatisfactory as this is, there is nothing better (3:19-22).

And so the record of experiences continues, hopeful passages alternating with pessimistic passages. After a while the agnosticism and pessimism recede somewhat, and the hopeful passages become more positive. Even though "the poor man’s wisdom is despised," the speaker says, "the words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the cry of him that ruleth among fools" Ec (9:17). He says "Surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God" (8:12), no matter how strongly appearances may indicate the contrary.

The gnomic sections are mostly free from agnosticism and pessimism. The book as a whole sums itself up in the conclusion, "Fear God, and keep his commandments" (Ec 12:13).

Of course the agnostic and pessimistic utterances in Ec are to be regarded as the presentation of one side of an argument. Disconnect them and they are no part of the moral and religious teaching of the book, except in an indirect way. At no point should we be justified in thinking of the author as really doubting in regard to God or moral obligation. He delineates for us a soul in the toils of mental and spiritual conflict. It is a delineation which may serve for warning, and which is in other ways wholesomely instructive; and in the outcome of it, it is full of encouragement.

In some passages the speaker in Ecclesiastes has in mind the solution of the problems of life which we are accustomed to call Epicurean (eg. 5:18-20; 7:16,17; 8:15; but not 2:24)--the solution which consists in avoiding extremes, and in getting from life as many agreeable sensations as possible; but it is not correct to say that he advocates this philosophy. He rather presents it as an alternative.

His conclusion is the important part of his reasoning. All things are vanity. Everything passes away. Yet (he says) it is better to read and use good words than bad words. Therefore because the Great Teacher is wise, he ever teaches the people knowledge, and in so doing he ever seeks good words, acceptable words, upright words, words of truth. "The words of the wise are as goads; and as nails well fastened" ("clinched at the back") (12:11). Such are the words of all the great masters. So (he ends) my son, be warned! There are many books in this world. Choose good ones. And his conclusion is: Reverence the Mighty Spirit. Keep to good principles. That is the whole duty of man. For everything at last becomes clear; and "good" stands out clearly from "evil."

3. Composite Authorship?:

We have noticed that our book has "I" sections and "thou" sections. Certainly these are structural marks, but as such they are capable of being interpreted in various ways. Partitional hypotheses can easily be formed, and perhaps there is no great objection to them; but there are no phenomena which cannot be accounted for by the hypothesis that we have here just the work of one author, who sometimes quotes proverbial utterances, either his own or those of other men. As proving the integrity of the book three points present themselves. First, in some cases (eg. Ec 7:14 b-16) the experience matter and the gnomic matter are closely combined in sense and in grammatical construction. Second, it is possible to interpret all the gnomic sections as a part of the continuous argument. Third, if we so interpret them the book is a unit, the argument moving forward continuously out of the speculative into the practical, and out of the darkness into the light.

4. Qoheleth:

The speaker in Ecclesiastes calls himself Qoheleth (1:1,2,12 and other places), rendered "the Preacher" in the English Versions. The word does not occur elsewhere, although it is from a stem that is in common use. Apparently it has been coined for a purpose by the author of Ecclesiastes. In form it is a feminine participle, though it denotes a man. This is best explained as a case of the using of an abstract expression for a concrete, as when in English we say "Your Honor," "Your Majesty." The other words of the stem are used of people gathering in assemblies, and the current explanation is to the effect that Qoheleth is a person who draws an audience whom he may address. To this there are two objections: First, the participle is intransitive; its natural implication is that of a person who participates in an assembly, not of one who causes the participants to assemble. Second, the assembly distinctively indicated by the words of this stem is the official assembly for the transaction of public business. Worked out on this basis Qoheleth seems to mean citizenship, or concretely, a citizen--a citizen of such respectability that he is entitled to participate in public assemblies. It is in the character of citizen-king that the speaker in Ecclesiastes relates his experiences and presents his ideas.

This word for "assembly" and its cognates are in the Greek often translated by ekklesia and its cognates (eg. De 4:10; 9:10; Jud 20:2; 21:5,8). So we are not surprised to find Qoheleth rendered by the Greek Ekklesiastes, and this Latinized into Ecclesiastes.

5. "King in Jerusalem":

The speaker in Ec speaks not only in the character of Qoheleth, but in that of "the son of David, king in Jerus" (1:1). So far as this clause is concerned the king in question might be either Solomon or any other king of the dynasty, or might be a composite or an ideal king. He is represented (1:12-2:11) as "king over Israel," and as distinguished for wisdom, for his luxuries, for his great enterprises in building and in business. These marks fit Solomon better than any other king of the dynasty, unless possibly Uzziah. Possibly it is not absurd to apply to Solomon even the phrase "all that were before me over Jerusalem," or "in Jerus" (1:16; 2:7,9; compare 1Ch 29:25; 1Ki 3:12; 2Ch 1:12). It is safer, however, to use an alternative statement. The speaker in Ec is either Solomon or some other actual or composite or ideal king of the dynasty of David.

6. Date and Authorship:

If it were agreed that Solomon is the citizen king who, in Ecclesiastes, is represented as speaking, that would not be the same thing as agreeing that Solomon is the author of the book. No one thinks that Sir Galahad is the author of Tennyson’s poem of that name. Qoheleth the king is the character into whose mouth the author of Ecclesiastes puts the utterances which he wishes to present, but it does not follow that the author is himself Qoheleth.

The statement is often made that Jewish tradition attributes the writing of Ecclesiastes to Solomon; but can anyone cite any relatively early tradition to this effect? Is this alleged tradition anything else than the confusing of the author with the character whom he has sketched? The well-known classic tradition in Babha’ Bathra’ attributes Ec to "Hezekiah and his company," not to Solomon. And the tradition which is represented by the order in which the books occur in the Hebrew Bibles seems to place it still later. Concerning this tradition two facts are to be noted: First, it classes Ecclesiastes with the 5 miscellaneous books (Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther) known as the five meghilloth, the five Rolls. Second, in the count of books which makes the number 22 or 24 it classes Ecclesiastes as one of the last 5 books (Ecclesiastes, Esther, Dan, Ezra-Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Chronicles). That the men who made this arrangement regarded the books of this group as the latest in the Bible is a natural inference.

7. Linguistic Peculiarities:

This agrees with the internal marks which constitute the principal evidence we have on this point. The grammatical character and the vocabulary of Ecclesiastes are exceptionally peculiar, and they strongly indicate that the book was written in the same literary period with these other latest books of the Old Testament. The true date is not much earlier or later than 400 BC (see CHRONICLES), though many place it a century or a century and a half later. Details concerning these phenomena may be found in Driver’s Introduction or other Introductions, or in commentaries. Only a few of the points will be given here, with barely enough illustrative instances to render the points intelligible.

In Ecclesiastes the syntax of the verb is peculiar. The imperfect with waw consecutive, the ordinary Hebrew narrative tense, occurs--for example, "And I applied my heart" (1:17)--but it is rare. The narrator habitually uses the perfect with waw (eg. 1:13; 2:11,12,14,15 bis. 17). In any English book we should find it very noticeable if the author were in the habit of using the progressive form of the verb instead of the ordinary form--if instead of saying "And I applied my heart" he should say "And I was applying my heart," "And I was looking on all the works," "And I was turning" (1:13; 2:11,12), and so on. Another marked peculiarity is the frequent repeating of the pronoun along with the verb: `I said in my heart, even I’; `And I was hating, even I, all my labor’ (2:1,18 and continually). The use of the pronoun as copula is abnormally common in Ecclesiastes as compared with other parts of the Hebrew Bible (eg. 4:2). The abbreviated form of the relative pronoun is much used instead of the full form, and in both forms the pronoun is used disproportionately often as a conjunction. In these and many similar phenomena the Hebrew language of Ecclesiastes is affiliated with that of the later times.


The arguments for a later date than that which has been assigned are inconclusive. The Hebrew language of Ecclesiastes is more like the language of the Talmuds than is that of the Chronicler or Daniel or even Esther; but if one infers that Ecclesiastes is therefore later than the others the inference will prove to be in various ways embarrassing. The differences are better accounted for by the fact that Ecclesiastes belongs to a different type of literature from the others.

8. Certain Inconclusive Arguments:

Various passages have local color in Ec (eg. 11:1), or make the impression of being allusions to specific events (eg. 4:13- 16; 6:2,3; 9:13-18), but the difficulty lies in locating the events. Dr. Kleinert argues plausibly for the writing of the book in Egypt in the time of the Ptolemies, but other equally probable hypotheses might be devised.

It is alleged that Ecclesiastes copies from Ecclesiasticus, but it is more probable that the latter copied from the former. It is alleged that the Wisdom disputes Ecclesiastes; if it does, that does not prove that the two are contemporary. It is alleged that the writer is familiar with the philosophy of Epicurus, and therefore must have lived later than Epicurus, who died 270 BC, or even later than Lucretius of the 1st century BC. If there were proof that this was a case of borrowing, Epicurus or Lucretius might have been the borrowers; but there is no such proof; the selfishness which constitutes the nucleus of Epicureanism has exhibited itself in human literature from the beginning. The strong resemblances between Ecclesiastes and Omar Khayyam have no weight to prove that the Hebrew author was later than the Persian Ecclesiastes presents a perfectly distinct doctrine of immortality, whether it affirms the doctrine or not; but that proves a relatively early date for the doctrine, rather than a late date for Ecclesiastes. At every point the marks of Ecclesiastes are those of the Persian period, not of the Greek.

9. Canonicity:

In the early Christian centuries, as in all the centuries since, there have been disputes concerning the canonicity of Ecclesiastes. It was not questioned that Ecclesiastes belonged to the canon as traditionally handed down. No question of admitting it to the canon was raised. But it was challenged because of the agnostic quality of some of its contents, and, every time, on close examination, the challenge was decided in its favor.

LITERATURE.

There are volumes on Ecclesiastes in all the great commentaries, and treatments of it in the volumes on Introduction. A few of the many separate commentaries are those of Moses Stuart, Andover, 1864; H. Gratz, Leipzig, 1871; G. Wildeboer, Tubingen, 1898; E. H. Plumptre, Cambridge, 1881. Other works are those of J. F. Genung, Ecclesiastes, and Omar Khayyam, 1901, Words of Koheleth, 1904, and The Hebrew Literature of Wisdom in the Light of Today, 1906; C. H. H. Wright, Book of Koheleth, 1883; S. Schiffer, Das Buch Coheleth nach Talmud und Midrasch, 1885; A. H. McNeile. Introduction to Ecclesiastes, New York, 1904.

Willis J. Beecher

Additional Material

e-kle-zi-as’-tez, or (qoheleth; Ekklesiastes, perhaps "member of assembly"; see below):

Contents

1. Structure of the Book

2. The Contents

3. Composite Authorship?

4. Qoheleth

5. "King in Jerusalem"

6. Date and Authorship

7. Linguistic Peculiarities

8. Certain Inconclusive Arguments

9. Canonicity

1. Structure of the Book:

Reading this book one soon becomes aware that it is a discussion of certain difficult problems of human life. It begins with a title Ec (1:1), followed by a preface (1:2-11). It has a formal conclusion (12:8-13). Between the preface and the conclusion the body of the book is made up of materials of two kinds--first a series of "I" sections, sections uttered in the 1st person singular, a record of a personal experience; and second, an alternating series of gnomic sections, sections made up of proverbs (say 4:5,6,9-12; 5:1-12; 7:1-14,16-22; 8:1-8; 9:7-10; 10:1-4; 10:8-12:7). These may be called the "thou" sections, as most of them have the pronoun of the 2nd person singular. The idea of the vanity of all things characterizes the record of experience, but it also appears in the "thou" sections (eg. 9:9). On the other hand the proverb element is not wholly lacking in the "I" sections (eg. 4:1-3).

2. The Contents:

In the preface the speaker lays down the proposition that all things are unreal, and that the results of human effort are illusive Ec (1:2,3). Human generations, day and night, the wind, the streams, are alike the repetition of an unending round (1:4-7). The same holds in regard to all human study and thinking (1:8-11). The speaker shows familiarity with the phenomena which we think of as those of natural law, of the persistence of force, but he thinks of them in the main as monotonously limiting human experience. Nothing is new. All effort of Nature or of man is the doing again of something which has already been done.

After the preface the speaker introduces himself, and recounts his experiences. At the outset he had a noble ambition for wisdom and discipline, but all he attained to was unreality and perplexity of mind (Ec 1:12-18). This is equally the meaning of the text, whether we translate "vanity and vexation of spirit" or "vanity and a striving after wind," ("emptiness, and struggling for breath"), though the first of these two translations is the better grounded.

Finding no adequate satisfaction in the pursuits of the scholar and thinker, taken by themselves, he seeks to combine these with the pursuit of agreeable sensations--alike those which come from luxury and those which come from activity and enterprise and achievement Ec (2:1-12). No one could be in better shape than he for making this experiment, but again he only attains to unreality and perplexity of spirit. He says to himself that at least it is in itself profitable to be a wise man rather than a fool, but his comfort is impaired by the fact that both alike are mortal (2:13-17). He finds little reassurance in the idea of laboring for the benefit of posterity; posterity is often not worthy (2:18-21). One may toil unremittingly, but what is the use (2:22,23)?

He does not find himself helped by bringing God into the problem. `It is no good for a man that he should eat and drink and make his soul see good in his toil’ Ec (2:24-26, as most naturally translated), even if he thinks of it as the gift of God; for how can one be sure that the gift of God is anything but luck? He sees, however, that it is not just to dismiss thus lightly the idea of God as a factor in the problem. It is true that there is a time for everything, and that everything is "beautiful in its time." It is also true that ideas of infinity are in men’s minds, ideas which they can neither get rid of nor fully comprehend (3:1-18). Here are tokens of God, who has established an infinite order. If we understood His ways better, that might unravel our perplexities. And if God is, immortality may be, and the solution of our problems may lie in that direction. For a moment it looks as if the speaker were coming out into the light, but doubt resumes its hold upon him. He asks himself, "Who knoweth?" and he settles back into the darkness. He has previously decided that for a man to "eat and drink, and make his soul enjoy good" is not worth while; and now he reaches the conclusion that, unsatisfactory as this is, there is nothing better (3:19-22).

And so the record of experiences continues, hopeful passages alternating with pessimistic passages. After a while the agnosticism and pessimism recede somewhat, and the hopeful passages become more positive. Even though "the poor man’s wisdom is despised," the speaker says, "the words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the cry of him that ruleth among fools" Ec (9:17). He says "Surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God" (8:12), no matter how strongly appearances may indicate the contrary.

The gnomic sections are mostly free from agnosticism and pessimism. The book as a whole sums itself up in the conclusion, "Fear God, and keep his commandments" (Ec 12:13).

Of course the agnostic and pessimistic utterances in Ec are to be regarded as the presentation of one side of an argument. Disconnect them and they are no part of the moral and religious teaching of the book, except in an indirect way. At no point should we be justified in thinking of the author as really doubting in regard to God or moral obligation. He delineates for us a soul in the toils of mental and spiritual conflict. It is a delineation which may serve for warning, and which is in other ways wholesomely instructive; and in the outcome of it, it is full of encouragement.

In some passages the speaker in Ecclesiastes has in mind the solution of the problems of life which we are accustomed to call Epicurean (eg. 5:18-20; 7:16,17; 8:15; but not 2:24)--the solution which consists in avoiding extremes, and in getting from life as many agreeable sensations as possible; but it is not correct to say that he advocates this philosophy. He rather presents it as an alternative.

His conclusion is the important part of his reasoning. All things are vanity. Everything passes away. Yet (he says) it is better to read and use good words than bad words. Therefore because the Great Teacher is wise, he ever teaches the people knowledge, and in so doing he ever seeks good words, acceptable words, upright words, words of truth. "The words of the wise are as goads; and as nails well fastened" ("clinched at the back") (12:11). Such are the words of all the great masters. So (he ends) my son, be warned! There are many books in this world. Choose good ones. And his conclusion is: Reverence the Mighty Spirit. Keep to good principles. That is the whole duty of man. For everything at last becomes clear; and "good" stands out clearly from "evil."

3. Composite Authorship?:

We have noticed that our book has "I" sections and "thou" sections. Certainly these are structural marks, but as such they are capable of being interpreted in various ways. Partitional hypotheses can easily be formed, and perhaps there is no great objection to them; but there are no phenomena which cannot be accounted for by the hypothesis that we have here just the work of one author, who sometimes quotes proverbial utterances, either his own or those of other men. As proving the integrity of the book three points present themselves. First, in some cases (eg. Ec 7:14 b-16) the experience matter and the gnomic matter are closely combined in sense and in grammatical construction. Second, it is possible to interpret all the gnomic sections as a part of the continuous argument. Third, if we so interpret them the book is a unit, the argument moving forward continuously out of the speculative into the practical, and out of the darkness into the light.

4. Qoheleth:

The speaker in Ecclesiastes calls himself Qoheleth (1:1,2,12 and other places), rendered "the Preacher" in the English Versions. The word does not occur elsewhere, although it is from a stem that is in common use. Apparently it has been coined for a purpose by the author of Ecclesiastes. In form it is a feminine participle, though it denotes a man. This is best explained as a case of the using of an abstract expression for a concrete, as when in English we say "Your Honor," "Your Majesty." The other words of the stem are used of people gathering in assemblies, and the current explanation is to the effect that Qoheleth is a person who draws an audience whom he may address. To this there are two objections: First, the participle is intransitive; its natural implication is that of a person who participates in an assembly, not of one who causes the participants to assemble. Second, the assembly distinctively indicated by the words of this stem is the official assembly for the transaction of public business. Worked out on this basis Qoheleth seems to mean citizenship, or concretely, a citizen--a citizen of such respectability that he is entitled to participate in public assemblies. It is in the character of citizen-king that the speaker in Ecclesiastes relates his experiences and presents his ideas.

This word for "assembly" and its cognates are in the Greek often translated by ekklesia and its cognates (eg. De 4:10; 9:10; Jud 20:2; 21:5,8). So we are not surprised to find Qoheleth rendered by the Greek Ekklesiastes, and this Latinized into Ecclesiastes.

5. "King in Jerusalem":

The speaker in Ec speaks not only in the character of Qoheleth, but in that of "the son of David, king in Jerus" (1:1). So far as this clause is concerned the king in question might be either Solomon or any other king of the dynasty, or might be a composite or an ideal king. He is represented (1:12-2:11) as "king over Israel," and as distinguished for wisdom, for his luxuries, for his great enterprises in building and in business. These marks fit Solomon better than any other king of the dynasty, unless possibly Uzziah. Possibly it is not absurd to apply to Solomon even the phrase "all that were before me over Jerusalem," or "in Jerus" (1:16; 2:7,9; compare 1Ch 29:25; 1Ki 3:12; 2Ch 1:12). It is safer, however, to use an alternative statement. The speaker in Ec is either Solomon or some other actual or composite or ideal king of the dynasty of David.

6. Date and Authorship:

If it were agreed that Solomon is the citizen king who, in Ecclesiastes, is represented as speaking, that would not be the same thing as agreeing that Solomon is the author of the book. No one thinks that Sir Galahad is the author of Tennyson’s poem of that name. Qoheleth the king is the character into whose mouth the author of Ecclesiastes puts the utterances which he wishes to present, but it does not follow that the author is himself Qoheleth.

The statement is often made that Jewish tradition attributes the writing of Ecclesiastes to Solomon; but can anyone cite any relatively early tradition to this effect? Is this alleged tradition anything else than the confusing of the author with the character whom he has sketched? The well-known classic tradition in Babha’ Bathra’ attributes Ec to "Hezekiah and his company," not to Solomon. And the tradition which is represented by the order in which the books occur in the Hebrew Bibles seems to place it still later. Concerning this tradition two facts are to be noted: First, it classes Ecclesiastes with the 5 miscellaneous books (Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther) known as the five meghilloth, the five Rolls. Second, in the count of books which makes the number 22 or 24 it classes Ecclesiastes as one of the last 5 books (Ecclesiastes, Esther, Dan, Ezra-Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Chronicles). That the men who made this arrangement regarded the books of this group as the latest in the Bible is a natural inference.

7. Linguistic Peculiarities:

This agrees with the internal marks which constitute the principal evidence we have on this point. The grammatical character and the vocabulary of Ecclesiastes are exceptionally peculiar, and they strongly indicate that the book was written in the same literary period with these other latest books of the Old Testament. The true date is not much earlier or later than 400 BC (see CHRONICLES), though many place it a century or a century and a half later. Details concerning these phenomena may be found in Driver’s Introduction or other Introductions, or in commentaries. Only a few of the points will be given here, with barely enough illustrative instances to render the points intelligible.

In Ecclesiastes the syntax of the verb is peculiar. The imperfect with waw consecutive, the ordinary Hebrew narrative tense, occurs--for example, "And I applied my heart" (1:17)--but it is rare. The narrator habitually uses the perfect with waw (eg. 1:13; 2:11,12,14,15 bis. 17). In any English book we should find it very noticeable if the author were in the habit of using the progressive form of the verb instead of the ordinary form--if instead of saying "And I applied my heart" he should say "And I was applying my heart," "And I was looking on all the works," "And I was turning" (1:13; 2:11,12), and so on. Another marked peculiarity is the frequent repeating of the pronoun along with the verb: `I said in my heart, even I’; `And I was hating, even I, all my labor’ (2:1,18 and continually). The use of the pronoun as copula is abnormally common in Ecclesiastes as compared with other parts of the Hebrew Bible (eg. 4:2). The abbreviated form of the relative pronoun is much used instead of the full form, and in both forms the pronoun is used disproportionately often as a conjunction. In these and many similar phenomena the Hebrew language of Ecclesiastes is affiliated with that of the later times.


The arguments for a later date than that which has been assigned are inconclusive. The Hebrew language of Ecclesiastes is more like the language of the Talmuds than is that of the Chronicler or Daniel or even Esther; but if one infers that Ecclesiastes is therefore later than the others the inference will prove to be in various ways embarrassing. The differences are better accounted for by the fact that Ecclesiastes belongs to a different type of literature from the others.

8. Certain Inconclusive Arguments:

Various passages have local color in Ec (eg. 11:1), or make the impression of being allusions to specific events (eg. 4:13- 16; 6:2,3; 9:13-18), but the difficulty lies in locating the events. Dr. Kleinert argues plausibly for the writing of the book in Egypt in the time of the Ptolemies, but other equally probable hypotheses might be devised.

It is alleged that Ecclesiastes copies from Ecclesiasticus, but it is more probable that the latter copied from the former. It is alleged that the Wisdom disputes Ecclesiastes; if it does, that does not prove that the two are contemporary. It is alleged that the writer is familiar with the philosophy of Epicurus, and therefore must have lived later than Epicurus, who died 270 BC, or even later than Lucretius of the 1st century BC. If there were proof that this was a case of borrowing, Epicurus or Lucretius might have been the borrowers; but there is no such proof; the selfishness which constitutes the nucleus of Epicureanism has exhibited itself in human literature from the beginning. The strong resemblances between Ecclesiastes and Omar Khayyam have no weight to prove that the Hebrew author was later than the Persian Ecclesiastes presents a perfectly distinct doctrine of immortality, whether it affirms the doctrine or not; but that proves a relatively early date for the doctrine, rather than a late date for Ecclesiastes. At every point the marks of Ecclesiastes are those of the Persian period, not of the Greek.

9. Canonicity:

In the early Christian centuries, as in all the centuries since, there have been disputes concerning the canonicity of Ecclesiastes. It was not questioned that Ecclesiastes belonged to the canon as traditionally handed down. No question of admitting it to the canon was raised. But it was challenged because of the agnostic quality of some of its contents, and, every time, on close examination, the challenge was decided in its favor.

LITERATURE.

There are volumes on Ecclesiastes in all the great commentaries, and treatments of it in the volumes on Introduction. A few of the many separate commentaries are those of Moses Stuart, Andover, 1864; H. Gratz, Leipzig, 1871; G. Wildeboer, Tubingen, 1898; E. H. Plumptre, Cambridge, 1881. Other works are those of J. F. Genung, Ecclesiastes, and Omar Khayyam, 1901, Words of Koheleth, 1904, and The Hebrew Literature of Wisdom in the Light of Today, 1906; C. H. H. Wright, Book of Koheleth, 1883; S. Schiffer, Das Buch Coheleth nach Talmud und Midrasch, 1885; A. H. McNeile. Introduction to Ecclesiastes, New York, 1904.

Willis J. Beecher