Friday, 12 September 2008

Scripture Reading Plan: Ecclesiastes

The Scripture Reading Plan I'm following turns next to the book that immediately follows Proverbs in the Bible, Ecclesiastes, or Qohelet. This is the book that famously begins and ends "Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, all is vanity..'

Ecclesiastes is normally classified as part of the Wisdom literature, but Peter Kreeft describes it as the Bible's only book of philosophy, and I think there is something in that idea, since as he points out there is virtually no appeal to divine revelation in this book; rather the author (though obviously inspired) uses observation and reasoning as his primary tools.

Its central theme is the futility of life - exposing as Kreeft put it, 'the God-sized hole' in the lives of men who live without a personal relationship with God.

Its most important insight is that notwithstanding that creation is good and to be enjoyed, nothing in it can fully satisfy us. The author tries various approaches - wisdom, pleasure, wealth and power, honour and prestige, and a legalistic external religion - and all fail to satisfy him. The book itself offers no answers - it is in fact rather pessimistic, urging us to enjoy what we can while we can. Kreeft, however, argues that the rest of the Bible is in effect the answer to the Preacher!

There is considerable debate over its dating - the author claims to be a son of David (ie Solomon) but most contemporary scholars take this as a literary device, and date it to around 300 BC.

Anyway, Ecclesiastes only has twelves chapters, so 1-4 are set for today; 5-8 tomorrow and the rest on Sunday.

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