Ecclesiastes

General Christian Theology
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lesterb
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Ecclesiastes

Postby lesterb » Wed Dec 28, 2016 6:06 pm

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. (Ecc 1:9-10 KJV)


How do you view a statement like this? Do we have to find a way to prove that it is true? I've heard of people claiming that the pre-diluvian natives had airplanes, for instance.

Or do we simply view this as an observation by Solomon that could be right or wrong, and is probably wrong? A little like the passages in Job that record the words (right and wrong) of Job's friends.
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silentreader
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Re: Ecclesiastes

Postby silentreader » Wed Dec 28, 2016 6:19 pm

lesterb wrote:
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. (Ecc 1:9-10 KJV)


How do you view a statement like this? Do we have to find a way to prove that it is true? I've heard of people claiming that the pre-diluvian natives had airplanes, for instance.

Or do we simply view this as an observation by Solomon that could be right or wrong, and is probably wrong? A little like the passages in Job that record the words (right and wrong) of Job's friends.


Personally, I would consider the context to suggest he is talking about the human experience rather than more concrete things such as technology, perhaps.

Or perhaps I should say the human experience from his perspective.
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Neto
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Re: Ecclesiastes

Postby Neto » Wed Dec 28, 2016 8:06 pm

silentreader wrote:Personally, I would consider the context to suggest he is talking about the human experience rather than more concrete things such as technology, perhaps.

Or perhaps I should say the human experience from his perspective.


I would agree with this, and just add that this is a book that should be taken in its entirety. That is, it accurately reports his thoughts, but the spiritually true part is his conclusion at the end of the book.
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Re: Ecclesiastes

Postby Bootstrap » Thu Dec 29, 2016 8:58 am

I think it's really important to pay attention to the kind of writing - many things in Ecclesiastes aren't provably true if you try to interpret them that way. For instance, in the very next verse ...

There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to be
among those who come after.


Really? No remembrance at all? We certainly have histories and stories that have come down from the past, and Solomon certainly would have known that. Ironically, Solomon is well known even today. And he did something importantly new - he built the temple.

Yet in Ecclesiastes, Solomon tells us things that cannot be literally true - and he knows that they are not literally true. The whole theme of the book is that everything we do is smoke, transient, chasing after wind, and there is much suffering in life even if we do what is right, but the way of wisdom is to take joy in what God gives us, do what is right, and put our trust in what God does, accepting whatever life God gives us with joy.

Ecclesiastes 3 wrote:9 What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man.

14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.


Ecclesiastes 4 wrote:18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. 19 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.


Our accomplishments are not what really matter, and most of us really will not be remembered three generations from now. But if you take some of his statements too literally, you miss the point. The temple Solomon built was indeed new, and it was significant, and it is still remembered. He wrote Ecclesiastes after this, yet he is saying that there is nothing new under the sun and all that we do is a chasing after wind. If you miss that contrast, you miss the heart of the book.

It's fascinating that the same Solomon who wrote Proverbs later wrote Ecclesiastes. Proverbs gives simple answers, Ecclesiastes tells us it isn't that simple. The Bible needs both books.
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Re: Ecclesiastes

Postby lesterb » Thu Dec 29, 2016 12:34 pm

I think Ecclesiastes gives us a glimpse into the mind of a brilliant person who is fighting depression and disillusionment with life. If you look at the history of Solomon, it seems that he lost sight of God in the last years of his life.

He was honest enough to see what it did to him.

If you've ever suffered chronic depression, you will sympathize with Solomon's frustration and negativism.
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Re: Ecclesiastes

Postby lesterb » Thu Dec 29, 2016 6:29 pm

Okay, how about this for an introduction?

This passage is one of the keys to understanding Solomon and Ecclesiastes. Obviously, it isn’t true, if you take it literally, and Solomon knew it. After all he had just finished building the first temple to Jehovah some years before this. All he needed to do was look out a window in his palace to see it and disprove his statement. But I suspect that he would have been totally irritated with anyone who dared to point that out to him.

Ecclesiastes is an abstract book, or even a philosophical book. It deals with ideas and we need to understand it from that perspective. We need to read between the lines and put ourselves in Solomon’s shoes if we can.

Okay, so let’s look at these verses from the premise that Solomon didn’t mean them literally. What was he talking about then? If you are a parent, then this will surely remind you of one of your children. Take the following scenario.

“Dad what can I do? There’s nothing to do!” Really? How about cleaning up your toys? Or making your bed? Or going for a walk? “Dad! You know what I mean.” Really, I don’t. From my perspective there is lots to do.

Or this scenario.

“Mom, I don’t have anything to wear!” Hmm. If I’m not mistaken you’ve got at least 20 dresses you could choose from. “No, Mom. I don’t have a coat to wear! You know what I mean.” Really, I don’t. I know that we bought you a nice jacket about three months ago. You also have two others in the closet.

I can imagine Solomon’s favorite wife reading this and telling him, “What do you mean, there’s nothing new under the sun? Look out the window at the temple.”

I can also imagine him growling back at her. “You are one of the foolish women! You know what I mean!” But she didn’t know. To her it was a black and white issue. To him, it wasn’t. He was trying to put his frustration in words, and she insisted on taking him literally. When his words were taken literally, they fell flat. Ecclesiastes wasn’t written for people who see only in terms of black and white and insist on taking words literally, rather than looking for ideas.

Because of this, we could set out in a lot of different directions to try to understand Ecclesiastes. My interpretations might be different from yours. We might both be right, or both be wrong. Or a part of each.
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silentreader
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Re: Ecclesiastes

Postby silentreader » Thu Dec 29, 2016 7:31 pm

lesterb wrote:Okay, how about this for an introduction?

This passage is one of the keys to understanding Solomon and Ecclesiastes. Obviously, it isn’t true, if you take it literally, and Solomon knew it. After all he had just finished building the first temple to Jehovah some years before this. All he needed to do was look out a window in his palace to see it and disprove his statement. But I suspect that he would have been totally irritated with anyone who dared to point that out to him.

Ecclesiastes is an abstract book, or even a philosophical book. It deals with ideas and we need to understand it from that perspective. We need to read between the lines and put ourselves in Solomon’s shoes if we can.

Okay, so let’s look at these verses from the premise that Solomon didn’t mean them literally. What was he talking about then? If you are a parent, then this will surely remind you of one of your children. Take the following scenario.

“Dad what can I do? There’s nothing to do!” Really? How about cleaning up your toys? Or making your bed? Or going for a walk? “Dad! You know what I mean.” Really, I don’t. From my perspective there is lots to do.

Or this scenario.

“Mom, I don’t have anything to wear!” Hmm. If I’m not mistaken you’ve got at least 20 dresses you could choose from. “No, Mom. I don’t have a coat to wear! You know what I mean.” Really, I don’t. I know that we bought you a nice jacket about three months ago. You also have two others in the closet.

I can imagine Solomon’s favorite wife reading this and telling him, “What do you mean, there’s nothing new under the sun? Look out the window at the temple.”

I can also imagine him growling back at her. “You are one of the foolish women! You know what I mean!” But she didn’t know. To her it was a black and white issue. To him, it wasn’t. He was trying to put his frustration in words, and she insisted on taking him literally. When his words were taken literally, they fell flat. Ecclesiastes wasn’t written for people who see only in terms of black and white and insist on taking words literally, rather than looking for ideas.

Because of this, we could set out in a lot of different directions to try to understand Ecclesiastes. My interpretations might be different from yours. We might both be right, or both be wrong. Or a part of each.


As mentioned at one time, I'm not a writer, but I would say that is a good introduction. The thrust of the introduction is probably somewhat dependent on the point(s) you want to make in your book.
One of the lessons I take from Ecclesiastes is that when you have the power to experience anything you desire, the edge wears off of everything you experience.
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Bootstrap
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Re: Ecclesiastes

Postby Bootstrap » Thu Dec 29, 2016 10:22 pm

lesterb wrote:Okay, how about this for an introduction?


Very well written. Your take on this is a little different from mine - but a reasonable one. I don't see him as depressed so much as disillusioned in a good way, to me, this rhymes with Philippians 3, but with a twist. Solomon did not know Christ or the level of hope that Paul had when he said this:

Philippians 3 wrote:If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.


But Solomon did clearly see the rubbish of our own works and that God is the one whose works matter. And he saw that gratitude and obedience toward God, enjoying what he has given us, expecting suffering in this life, and accepting our lot are the best way to live our lives in wisdom. All this seeking after human accomplishment is ultimately a chasing after wind.

So I see this as a book of wisdom, I think you see this as a book of despair written by a backslidden man.
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Re: Ecclesiastes

Postby lesterb » Thu Dec 29, 2016 11:45 pm

Bootstrap wrote:
lesterb wrote:Okay, how about this for an introduction?


Very well written. Your take on this is a little different from mine - but a reasonable one. I don't see him as depressed so much as disillusioned in a good way, to me, this rhymes with Philippians 3, but with a twist. Solomon did not know Christ or the level of hope that Paul had when he said this:

Philippians 3 wrote:If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.


But Solomon did clearly see the rubbish of our own works and that God is the one whose works matter. And he saw that gratitude and obedience toward God, enjoying what he has given us, expecting suffering in this life, and accepting our lot are the best way to live our lives in wisdom. All this seeking after human accomplishment is ultimately a chasing after wind.

So I see this as a book of wisdom, I think you see this as a book of despair written by a backslidden man.

That's an interesting way of looking at it. I suppose my reason for taking the other approach is twofold. One, it fits the history that is given in the Bible. Two, the thought processes in the book fit with my personal experience of depression. I could be wrong, but I think there are lots of things we can learn from that perspective.

I'm still finding my way. I used to be able to dive into a project like this and sort it out fairly quickly. This one has taken me a lot longer. I've done and redone the outline. I've written an introduction, a prelude, and a first chapter, but I've always had the feeling that I'm missing something, that part of this is still out of reach. I may end up starting over.
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Bootstrap
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Re: Ecclesiastes

Postby Bootstrap » Fri Dec 30, 2016 8:46 am

lesterb wrote:That's an interesting way of looking at it. I suppose my reason for taking the other approach is twofold. One, it fits the history that is given in the Bible. Two, the thought processes in the book fit with my personal experience of depression. I could be wrong, but I think there are lots of things we can learn from that perspective.


Obviously, you have to write it the way you understand it, and there's more than one reasonable way to understand it.

lesterb wrote:I'm still finding my way. I used to be able to dive into a project like this and sort it out fairly quickly. This one has taken me a lot longer. I've done and redone the outline. I've written an introduction, a prelude, and a first chapter, but I've always had the feeling that I'm missing something, that part of this is still out of reach. I may end up starting over.


This is also a particularly difficult book. You might be able to dive into another book more easily.
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