Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Ecclesiastes Chapter 1 Lesson study

This is probably already too late but there is something the Lesson study guide really missed in the discussion of the book of Ecclesiastes. That is that this book represents a huge change in the philosophy of the Jewish religion. Like the other wisdom literature of the time, the book of Job the book of Ecclesiastes is looking at the tremendous question of what is life and man's purpose on earth. Job asks why is there suffering and receives no simple answer but through the book various ideas are discussed. Ecclesiastes offers no solutions to it's questions either but both these books likely set in motion the search for a philosophy of man and God that we see today.

The writer of Ecclesiastes had no idea of an afterlife, so his premises are correct. If we are just here for a season then fade away what is the point. The idea of keeping the species alive through procreation does nothing to soothe the philosophical questions. If there is a God and He wants you to serve Him why even serve for the brief lifespan? Is that all an almighty God wants who according to the stories has preserved and saved and brought up the nation and made it powerful. The answer must be more than they have seen so far. There must be more. With time we will see that there is indeed more and that there is more than just life here and now.

Ecclesiastes is a step in the growth of understanding, but a far larger step then most other books even though it can not answer it's own questions. It is the focus of answers yet to come. Yet that is entirely ignored by our lesson study guide, who once again fail us the SDA church so miserably.


bob rigsby said...

The writer had NO idea of an afterlife? Perhaps he does not bring it up in THIS book, but much of this book seems kind of rhetorical doesn't it? The reason I'm asking this is that last quarter the notion came up that Abraham "knew" that IF he killed Isaac, God could/would bring him back to life... If this notion is true, then the idea of afterlife certainly WAS on the radar of this writer one could assume... But it is an assumption I'll grant.

Anyway, I've always thought that the midst of depression was not the best time to formulate opinions about God. And this book seems to have been written from that mindset; sort of pessimistic with no apparent hopes... The message of the book seems to be, as one friend summed up, "Life: just DEAL with it..."

And you are right about the lesson guide: but by now none of us rely on it much anymore. Instead we "talk" about the lesson via the internet with each other. So looking forward to your upcoming commentary...

al said...

To me Solomon poses the problem and leads the reader to despair should there be no answer beyond the here and now (under the sun). There is an answer found in the last two verses. Under the sun lies the problem, above the sun is the answer where God will reveal the hidden and restore the purpose (v 14). In the mean time just remember God has ordained a set of principles which govern the universe and the more in harmony we are with those principles the happier we will be (v13). Until all things are made clear (great controversy) just enjoy the simple joys we find in our work and families and rest assured God has better days ahead for us.

Ron Corson said...

First about Abraham and the verse in, I think, Hebrews that says that he thought that God would resurrect Isaac. I agree that that may have been Abraham's thinking, though it may well and probably did merely remain in his mind. The second part of that is that a resurrection to life again is not really the idea of an after life as we think of it. That is he may have thought that after he killed the boy then God would bring him back to life and they would go home and continue their natural lives and Isaac would die an old man after raising his family.

The leader in our class read from the Jewish Encyclopedia about the book and that it did not indicate the possibility of resurrection. I just tried the site but it seems to be down after the opening page.

The other thing which I mentioned in class is that we do discredit to the author by insinuated the book as a product of depression. We tend to discount what people say when depressed. I don't think that was really the intent of the book to show us a depressed view of things but to challenge the thinking about what man and God were about. I look at it more as a work of philosophy then depression. And I think that is the reason the book was taken up by Jewish people also. It is not just the poetic ramblings of a depressed old man. In my opinion it is the impetus to a much more advanced religion philosophy, one that saw the nation as a means to the messiah and the messiah to a restoration of the nation and ultimately man purpose with God.

What I do like about the lessons is that this subject follows all the Genesis stories which it is pretty easy to see show a very immature understanding of God. So hopefully people will begin to realize that the Old testament is a progression in understanding of God.

Elaine said...

One cannot retrospectively interpret Abrham's thinking about resurrecting Isaac based on the New Testament's interpretation.

Hindsight is always better than foresight and where is the evidence that Abraham, or anyone in the OT expected a resurrection after someone had died? Hebrews is the writer's interpretation approximately three millennia later. That Abraham had that same faith is questionable.

As for the choice of Ecclesiastes for Bible study, why not Leviticus or Numbers? Why do the editors constantly go to the Old Testament for their studies?

At least, it seems that the NT is what Christians should be focusing on as that is where they find their raison d'etre, not in the Hebrew Scriptures; although for historical purposes they are irreplacable.

Our SS class chooses each few months what we should study. Often it is a book, perhaps Philip Yancey's "What is so Amazing About Grace" or for our next period, we will be discussing Christian perspective on contemporary problems:

Religion in public schools

All the new medical advances in fertility and reproduction

Stem-cell research; abortion; homosexuality

Health care for the uninsured

Drug wars and incarceration vs. rehab

Immigration issues in the U.S.

Economic globalization and the economic effect on millions

The environment--how should Christians respond?

War--present and future

If Christians cannot apply biblical principles for us today, of what use is the Bible other than an interesting historical study?

Elaine said...

Correction: It should be "two millennia later" that Hebrews was written.

Anonymous said...

"As for the choice of Ecclesiastes for Bible study, why not Leviticus or Numbers? Why do the editors constantly go to the Old Testament for their studies?

At least, it seems that the NT is what Christians should be focusing on as that is where they find their raison d'etre, not in the Hebrew Scriptures; although for historical purposes they are irreplacable."

Actually I think this has been one of Adventism's best qualities--trying to take the whole Bible seriously. I enjoyed reading the Bible Amplifier series (since discontinued). The potential downside is SDA's have tended to downplay books like Romans (and the writings of Paul more generally).