Ecclesiastes : What does it teach?


#1

Ecclesiastes 12:7
“And the dust returns to the earth as it once was,
and the life breath returns to God who gave it.”

There are several quotations from Ecclesiastes that seem to deny the resurrection. To answer this question we have to ask :

What is its Meaning and Purpose ?

Does it deny the resurrection?
What does it teach?

Ecclesiastes is written from the perspective of a counselor to someone who is deeply depressed.

The Bible is a library of books. The authors of these books employ many different styles of writing. They each were written for a purpose unique to that particular book. The key to understanding Ecclesiastes is to interpret it within the context of its genre. The purpose of Ecclesiastes to help a person who is deeply depressed. It is a pastoral letter to someone who is going through a profound crises.

It is written from the perspective of a godly counselor or psychologist, not from the perspective of a professor teaching theology. A psychologist who is trying to help someone who may be on the brink of committing suicide, is not going to start with a theological debate on doctrine. He is not going to begin with a three part doctrinal speech and then build to a logical conclusion based on those premises as to why a person should not commit suicide. Rather, he is going to start where the person is at and gently build a relationship that honestly admits the sincerity of the other person’s suffering.

The author is realistic about man’s suffering, and yet still calls him to be faithful to God.

The author presents an honest account of the sufferings and the cold hard realities of life. After giving multiply examples, each time he gives consoling advice and sage wisdom that follow like a rhythm of soft waves on a calm lake. He avoids platitudes and he does not minimize the pain. And yet, his advice is helpful and shows much wisdom. He honestly admits to the sufferings and tells the reader to enjoy whatever simple pleasures that do come with life, and beyond that he should simply obey God and trust in Him.

When a person is undergoing great suffering he does not need another to come along and logically or theologically explain away his sufferings. The suffering person, the reader, needs the second person – Qoheleth – to come and acknowledge the suffering and to come and suffer with him.

Read more at
defendingthebride.com/bb/Ecclesiastes.html

I hope this helps.
John
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#2

Well, it’s also a known fact that there was a development of the doctrine of resurrection and eternal life within Judaism, and at the time Ecclesiastes was written, that doctrine hadn’t developed yet.


#3

Ver. 7. It. Man is composed of two distinct parts; the destination of which we ought never to forget. Thus the objection of infidels (chap. iii. 19.) is refuted. Plato and some of the ancients had the same idea of the soul’s spiritual nature; though some took it to be an aerial body. (Calmet)


#4

Ecclesiastes is written from the perspective of a counselor to someone who is deeply depressed.

Uhhhhh, no. It is written to describe the human condition. Whether or not we have hope of the resurrection, that is always nothing more than hope. Any healthy non-divine human being will sometimes have anxiety that there might not be life after death, and in the light of that concern, all our actions on earth seem equally meaningless. God doesn’t judge us for these anxieties; rather, He gives us a book that expresses them with more depth than we possibly could ourselves.


#5

Are you implying that you think that this verse (i.e. Eccl 12:7), denies the resurrection? How about the words, “to dust you shall return”?

Genesis 3:19By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

How does this deny the Resurrection?


#6

If you had read my article how could you think I meant that ?

Was not my affirmation of the resurrection clear ???

Seriously, please explain.

John


#7

Did you read my question? I didn’t ask you whether you believe in the Resurrection. I asked you why you believe that Eccl 12:7 denies the Resurrection?


#8

I wasn’t sure whether to respond to your message, but since I pleaded that you respond to my question, I should respond to yours.

Yes. I read your question.

Was not my affirmation of what I believe Ecclesiastes teaches about the resurrection and the possibility of its denial clear on my web page ?

Notice the bright blue hyperlink that is so bright it almost hurts your eyes. The hurting part is unintended, but I wanted everyone to notice it.

I do not know how to affirm any more clearly in my article than what I have already done so as to what Ecclesiastes teaches.

I consider my writing atrocious. If spreading the Gospel was not such a high priority I would not announce to the world through my web page what a poor writer I am. But Since the Gospel is so important I believe that even my poor excuse for a webpage is better than what I read in the secular world which insults God daily.
I think slowly. And I type even slower. Sometimes I leave out words. My grammatical structure and spelling are so bad it hurts even me to proofread it. And I think this should be evident to anyone who has read a couple of my pages. But, doing a good thing poorly – while to the best of one’s abilities - is better than not doing it at all.

I thought you were going to do me a favor and point out another flaw where my words conveyed the wrong message, instead of just an overall comment, or endless rebuttal that these threads sometimes get into.

But I do NOT know how to make my article clearer. It was intended as a response to someone who was using Ecclesiastes to deny purgatory (and hence the resurrection comes into the broader focus.)

Peace,
John
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#9

**

Prodigal_Son Point # 1**

Thanks for sharing comments. We just disagree.

Prodigal_Son Point # 2

I completely agree with Point #2. I understand it to be a restatement of what my article already states although with different words.

I think the author, Qoheleth, could have had more than one audience in mind, but I most definitely think the possibility that I have proposed, that a depressed person could have been someone he had specifically in mind, explains very well its overall structure. And I think a good psychologist would agree with me on that. It is wisely formatted to achieve that goal of helping such a person. This book does not at all read like a catechism or like most theological works.

Peace,
John
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#10

I didn’t go to your webpage. I hold conversations here and now. I asked you a question, you don’t want to answer it, no need to respond.

Bye.


#11

John is not saying he thinks Ecclesiastes denies the resurrection. He states that some do and has concluded that I am one of them. He is wrong on that point but he did answer your question.


#12

Please quote the answer which you claim he made to my question. I asked a very simple question which answer I expected to sound something like this:

No, I don’t. Or Yes, I do.

All that other stuff about feeling insulted because I didn’t read his article on his website, seems utterly superfluous.

So, please quote the response that you claim he made to my question and I will apologize. Otherwise, my post stands.


#13

What is the teaching pertaining to the Resurrection as Christ spoke of? What is the teaching pertaining to it, The Resurrection?


#14

This is quite true. Further, the Sadducees never believed in an afterlife while the Pharisees did. So even at the same time, there were differing views within Judaism. Most denominations in Judaism today follow the Pharasaic tradition regarding the World to Come.


#15

Ecclesiastes is pretty negative. It was written from the perspective of a spoiled kings kid, who had everything the world could offer, and still found no satisfaction or lasting happiness. And that’s where its gem of wisdom lies: “Vanity of vanities”, he teaches us as he laments, “everything is vanity.” “There’s nothing new under the sun.” Solomon knew nothing more at the time; the full revelation of God’s nature and will for man had not yet come. But he knew what he knew, what he’d learned the hard way, and it produced a wisdom we can all continue to benefit from to this day.


#16

Blanchardman, thank you for your post.
I apologize for the sloppiness in my post that allowed for the misinterpretation that I was claiming you held the position that “Ecclesiastes denies the resurrection.” My mistake. I did intend others interpret me that way. I thank you for pointing out to me the problematic way I worded my post. I am sorry for that. You had asked in regards to Purgatory, “How do you reconcile that with Ecclesiastes 12:7?”

So, you were just asking me to comment without yourself proclaiming a position one way or the other. Actually at the time, I thought you were just asking how you might defend Purgatory to a friend who had brought up that quote to you. I should have deleted your name from the quote box, or else stated clearly in the new thread that you were just throwing out the quote for comment on Purgatory.

In my proofreading I made the mistake of reading back into my text all the assumptions and context of what you wrote and how you wrote it.

Blanchardman please see the post below.
This post is only intended Blanchardman. Everyone else can disregard it.
forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?p=14801525#post14801525

God bless,
John


#17

Fhansen, thanks for your post.
We have a different perspective on Ecclesiastes, so let me contrast them.
You believe the author is negative.
I believe the author seems negative, but is not at all negative himself or in his teaching.

One of the hallmarks of the Jewish covenant theology was a relationship with God that was marked by man’s gratitude with God. He is commanded to constantly give thanks.
Psalm 30:12
“O Lord my God, I will give thanks to thee for ever.”

So, if the author was truly negative then there is no good explanation as to how he was blessed by God’s grace to have wisdom. There would be no good explanation as to how his book made it into the Bible.

Therefore , a very strong argument could be made that he was not negative in order to have been so blessed with God’s grace to be an author of a Book in the Bible…

So, how do we explain the “negative” focus of some of his statements ?
The author only seemed to be negative, but was actually a very holy person with a healthy outlook on life. He himself was not negative.

How do we explain that ?
Because he was ministering to a very negative or depressed person.

Notice, he does NOT start out with a negative outlook and then progress to a really positive message at the end. That is how we would expect a good person to give a normal teaching on suffering.

Ecclesiastes is not your normal type teaching. Suffering is a recurring motif throughout the Book. And after each example of suffering good advice is given. I think a person really has to have some understanding of Psychology or how to deal with a suffering person in order to understand his approach. Most likely this author was not young.

He identifies with the suffering person. He affirms his suffering and does not write it off with some platitude. He is gentle. He does not overly challenge the suffering person. He gives sound simple advice on how to deal with REAL suffering.

God bless,
John

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#18

Yes, I can appreciate your perspective. From my own I see him as doing the best he could with the knowledge he had at the time. As preparation for the light that was to come into the world later, his honest view, as one who experienced all the good the world had to offer, was that it was* lacking,* and that contentment was the best a person could hope for, which we can understand and embrace even more fully now perhaps due to the knowledge we have in Christ for a much brighter future. He may’ve held that same hope dimly, but we hold it from a much more informed perspective. In any case his message, his contribution, the wisdom that he gained, was absolutely beautiful, and very profitable for us to contemplate now.


#19

Oops. I left out the word “not”

John. .


#20

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