The Book of Ecclesiastes

The Book of Ecclesiastes

The Book of Ecclesiastes

The Book of Ecclesiastes

Synopsis

Ecclesiastes is one of the most fascinating -- and hauntingly familiar -- books of the Old Testament. The sentiments of the main speaker of the book, a person given the name Qohelet, sound incredibly modern. Expressing the uncertainty and anxieties of our own age, he is driven by the question, "Where can we find meaning in the world?"

But while Qohelet's question resonates with readers today, his answer is shocking. "Meaningless," says Qohelet, "everything is meaningless." How does this pessimistic perspective fit into the rest of biblical revelation? In this commentary Tremper Longman III addresses this question by taking a canonical-Christocentric approach to the meaning of Ecclesiastes.

Longman first provides an extensive introduction to Ecclesiastes, exploring such background matters as authorship, language, genre, structure, literary style, and the book's theological message. He argues that the author of Ecclesiastes is not Solomon, as has been traditionally thought, but a writer who adopts a Solomonic persona. In the verse-by-verse commentary that follows, Longman helps clarify the confusing, sometimes contradictory message of Ecclesiastes by showing that the book should be divided into three sections -- a prologue (1:1-11), Qohelet's autobiographical speech (1:12-12:7), and an epilogue (12:8-14) -- and that the frame narrative provided by prologue and epilogue is the key to understanding the message of the book as a whole.

Excerpt

Long ago St. Paul wrote: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6, NRSV). He was right: ministry indeed requires a team effort — the collective labors of many skilled hands and minds. Someone digs up the dirt and drops in seed, while others water the ground to nourish seedlings to growth. the same team effort over time has brought this commentary series to its position of prominence today. Professor E. J. Young “planted” it forty years ago, enlisting its first contributors and himself writing its first published volume. Professor R. K. Harrison “watered” it, signing on other scholars and wisely editing everyone’s finished products. As General Editor, my hands now tend their planting, and, true to Paul’s words, through four decades God has indeed graciously “[given] the growth.”

Today the New International Commentary on the Old Testament enjoys a wide readership of scholars, priests, pastors, rabbis, and other serious Bible students. Thousands of readers across the religious spectrum and in countless countries consult its volumes in their ongoing preaching, teaching, and research. They warmly welcome the publication of each new volume and eagerly await its eventual transformation from an emerging “series” into a complete commentary “set.” But as humanity experiences a new century of history, an era commonly called “postmodern,” what kind of commentary series is NICOT? What distinguishes it from other similarly well-established series?

Its volumes aim to publish biblical scholarship of the highest quality. Each contributor writes as an expert, both in the biblical text itself and in the relevant scholarly literature, and each commentary conveys the results of wide reading and careful, mature reflection. Ultimately, its spirit is eclectic, each contributor gleaning interpretive insights from any useful source, whatever its religious or philosophical viewpoint, and integrating them into his or her interpretation of a biblical book. the series draws on recent methodological innovations in biblical scholarship, e.g., canon criticism, the so-called “new literary criticism,” reader-response theories, and sensitivity to gender-based . . .

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