Composition of the Book of Ecclesiastes

POSTED 24 OCTOBER, 2017

Approximate date: 900s B.C.E. (Right); 900s B.C.E. for composition of source material, 715-686 B.C.E. for redactions (conservative-moderate); 500s-300s B.C.E. (Left)

Purpose: to explain the common futility of human life

Author: Solomon (Right, some conservative-moderate); “Qohelet” (some conservative-moderate, Left)

Location of author: Land of Israel or Jerusalem (Right, conservative-moderate); Land of Israel, Jerusalem, and/or Babylon (Left)

Target audience and their location: people of Israel, later people of Judah (Right, conservative-moderate); Southern Kingdom returning or returned from Babylon (Left)

Theological Summary: The Book of Ecclesiastes is one of several important wisdom texts in the Hebrew Tanach. Its Hebrew title, Qohelet, is derived from the term qahal or assembly, with its author understood as some kind of officer of an assembly. Its Greek Septuagint title is Ekklēsiastēs, derived from the equivalent ekklēsia for qahal. The designated speaker in Ecclesiastes is Qohelet, which some prefer to render as “Teacher” (NIV, NRSV) or “Preacher” (NASU), because they are unsure what else to render it as. Jerome interpreted it in his Latin Vulgate as concionator, a speaker before the assembly. Ecclesiastes is placed among the Wisdom Books in Christian tradition, but in Jewish tradition is part of the five Megillot of the Writings.

Ecclesiastes is generally a text that is consulted when considering the frailties of human existence, and also the reality of death. There are mixed interpretations and views of Ecclesiastes from both Jewish and Christian readers. Some believe that it is an important text with an important message, and others consider it to be pessimistic and full of inconsistencies.

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reproduced from A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic

One of the major reasons that today’s Messianic movement has grown in the past decade is a significant interest by Believers in the Torah and the Tanach. In too many cases, the Tanach Scriptures were not probed in that great a detail in a Jewish Believer’s traditional Synagogue upbringing—and perhaps more serious, a non-Jewish Believer’s Christian experience often witnessed the Old Testament taking a back seat to the New Testament in the Church. With many of the ethical and moral controversies the greater Judeo-Christian religious community is experiencing in our age, a need for God’s people to return to a foundational grounding in the Tanach Scriptures is absolutely imperative. The Old Testament cannot simply be disregarded any more.

Many have stayed away from consulting the Tanach not because of a lack of interest, but because few want to have to deal with the controversies it addresses. Unlike the Apostolic Scriptures, constrained to the First Century C.E., the period of the Tanach stretches back all the way to the beginning of the universe itself. Questions like: Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus? Did God actually condone the genocide of the Canaanites? and Am I the only one who thinks the Prophets are mentally disturbed? are debates that many people do not want to enter into. Even more significant is the effect of critical scholarship which has attempted to divide the Torah into non-Mosaic sources, question the inspiration and historical reliability of the text, and even regard much of the Tanach as Ancient Israel’s mythology. For a Messianic movement that claims to place a high value on the Tanach, it is time that we join in to these conversations.

A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic takes you through the Old Testament from a distinct Messianic point of view. It presents a theologically conservative perspective of the books of the Tanach, but one that does not avoid some of the controversies that have existed in Biblical scholarship for over one hundred and fifty years. The student, in company with his or her study Bible, is asked to read through each text of the Tanach, jotting down characters, place names, key ideas, and reflective questions. Each book of the Old Testament is then summarized for its compositional data and asks you questions to get a good Messianic feel for the text. This workbook can be used for both personal and group study, and will be a valuable aid for any Messianic Believer wanting to study the whole Bible on a consistent basis.

290 pages