An Introduction to Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes takes the reader through the highs and lows of life on this earth, from hedonism to nihilism, finally arriving at a conclusion that is perfectly at home within Old Testament theology: fear God and keep His commandments.

Introduction


Ecclesiastes stands as one of the most difficult book to interpret among the Old Testament portion of the canon.  Questions concerning the authorship of the book are numerous, and scholars are deeply divided concerning the lack of a clear unifying structure.  Indeed, “Ecclesiastes seems at first glance to be a collection of apparently random themes.”1 Ecclesiastes seems shrouded in mystery both as to its origin and its message, raising for some questions as to its canonicity However, a close look at the authorship, structure, and theological message of the book reveals Ecclesiastes’ rightful place within the canon. The difficult form and pseudonymous authorship of Ecclesiastes actually accentuates and deepens the communication of its simple and orthodox message. Ecclesiastes was written to the cynic and skeptic, to those who have become disillusioned with the world and its empty promises for fulfillment.2 The same themes that at first glance may appear incongruent, such as vanity and enjoyment of simple pleasures, meaninglessness and wisdom, the hopelessness of death and purpose in life, upon careful, contextualized investigation work together to serve the author’s purpose of directing the reader to God for ultimate meaning in life.  Ecclesiastes takes the reader through the highs and lows of life on this earth, from hedonism to nihilism, finally arriving at a conclusion that is perfectly at home within Old Testament theology3: fear God and keep His commandments.

 

1Parsons, Greg W. , “Guidelines for Understanding and Proclaiming the Book of Ecclesiastes, Part 1,” Bibliotheca Sacra 160, (638 April-June 2003), 160.
2Eaton, Michael, Ecclesiastes : An Introduction and Commentary (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1983), 9.
3Bullock, C. Hassell, An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988), 178.