Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Friday, March 23, 2007

Ecclesiastes Ray Steadman's View

From a conversation on I was informed of some material by Steve Zeisler on the Subject of Ecclesiastes. And Ray Steadman Things that Don't Work

From the article entitled Is Life A Treadmill? Steadman introduces Ecclesiastes this way:
In some ways, however, the book of Ecclesiastes represents what we might speculatively describe as the observations of an intermediate Adam. What is life like in the period between the fall of Adam and the coming of Christ? Spiritually, most of us have had some experience in this time period. Thus, we are not speaking primarily about a historical time frame, but our own life's experiences. All of us are born fallen, and we spend a period of time awaiting the announcement to us of the good news that will change us. What is life like in the interim period? This is what we shall seek to discover in these studies.

The answer which the book of Ecclesiastes gives to this question is quite subtle. Solomon, David's son, is our example of man's life experiences in the period between Adam and the coming of Christ and the gospel. Solomon is a perfect choice for this study. He had every advantage in life. He had a godly heritage, a brilliant intellect, wealth beyond counting, vast influence, and he ruled in a politically stable climate. In a worldly sense, Solomon was a shining example of humanity at its highest level.

The opening verses identify the author and set the stage for the book:
The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
"Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher,
"Vanity of vanities! All is vanity."
Notice that the book makes no claim to have been written by Solomon. The words, "son of David, king in Jerusalem," could be applied to any successor of David. As a matter of fact, this description can be applied to all Christians. We who are in Christ are sons of David, in Christ, descended from David because of our spiritual heritage. Many scholars reject Solomonic authorship of this book. I don't find the arguments for rejection persuasive. But no one doubts that this book was written from the perspective of the historical figure: Solomon, king in Jerusalem.

The key phrase which gives the context for all that follows is the repeated word "under the sun." In these words we have a description of what life is like if the heavens are shut off from man. If a bowl were placed over the earth, masking the heavens (i.e. the spiritual world from which God speaks and acts), what would life be like? Given this perspective, what would be the view from
earth? This is the experiment which is in focus in the book of Ecclesiastes. Everything is viewed as being"under the sun." No revelation from heaven comes into the picture. Given this context, what does our intermediate Adam perceive life to be like?
Ray Steadman begins from the perspective that the book is merely a reflection of worldly wisdom in the Search for Meaning he writes:
But all of these groups fail to note what we must note right from the beginning, that this book is an examination of secular wisdom and knowledge. The book clearly states at the outset that it is limiting itself to that which is apparent to the natural mind. One of the key phrases of the book is the continual repetition of the words, "under the sun." What does a man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?" Verse 3 asks. We find that phrase used again in Verse 9. That is the limitation put upon this book.

Ecclesiastes is a collection of what man is able to discern under the sun, i.e., in the visible world. The book does not take into consideration revelation that comes from beyond man's powers of observation and reason. It is an inspired, an accurate book. It guarantees that what it reports is what people actually believe. but it is an examination of those beliefs. The book is not merely a collection of ancient philosophy, for what it talks about is very much up-to-date and extremely relevant. Here is what you will hear propounded in soap operas, in political speeches, in the radical or conservative movements of our day. Here is what you will hear in the halls of academia, or on the streets of any city. In this book the philosophies by which people attempt to live life are brought into consideration and examined. That is why Ecclesiastes is so practical and up-to-date.

While the first view from Steve that this represents an intermediate view I find pretty true, because as we look at history we see that indeed there were major changes in the Jewish religion, Steadman's perspective that it is worldly wisdom totally ignores the many references to God in the book.

I offer the above information to help those teachers who are growing desperate in the last couple weeks of our lesson study on Ecclesiastes, I have not read the material other then the introduction so I can't say too much about it now. But we really can't accept this view that it is merely natural wisdom spoken about here I think that actually destroys the value of the book. Please take a look at the pasts posts on the subject if you are not familiar with the idea that the book presents a philosophy of the then current Jewish religion and seems to push for a religion that offers more then what the current conception of God was. Clearly in the latter days a much better understanding did develop and with Jesus a much clearer view was solidified.

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