From Bible Encyclopedia
e-klē-zi-as´tēz, or (קחלת, ḳōheleth; Ἐκκλησιαστής, Ekklēsiastḗs, perhaps “member of assembly”; see below):
Ecclesiastes, Qohelet in Hebrew, is a book of the Hebrew Bible. The title derives from the Greek translation of the Hebrew title: קהלת (variously transliterated as Qoheleth, Qohelethh, Kohelet, Koheleth, or Coheleth).
The Greek rendering of the Hebrew Koheleth, which means “Preacher.” The old and traditional view of the authorship of this book attributes it to Solomon. This view can be satisfactorily maintained, though others date it from the Captivity. The writer represents himself implicitly as Solomon (Ecclesiastes 1:12). It has been appropriately styled The Confession of King Solomon. “The writer is a man who has sinned in giving way to selfishness and sensuality, who has paid the penalty of that sin in satiety and weariness of life, but who has through all this been under the discipline of a divine education, and has learned from it the lesson which God meant to teach him.” “The writer concludes by pointing out that the secret of a true life is that a man should consecrate the vigour of his youth of God.” The key-note of the book is sounded in Ecclesiastes 1:2,
“Vanity of vanities! saith the Preacher,
Vanity of vanities! all is vanity!”
i.e., all man's efforts to find happiness apart from God are without result.
The author represents himself as the son of David, and king over Israel in Jerusalem (1:1, 12, 16; 2:7, 9). The work consists of personal or autobiographic matter, largely expressed in aphorisms and maxims illuminated in terse paragraphs with reflections on the meaning of life and the best way of life. The work emphatically proclaims all the actions of man to be inherently "meaningless," as the lives of both wise and foolish men end in death. While the teacher clearly promotes wisdom for the enjoyment of an earthly life, he is unable to ascribe eternal meaning to it. In light of this perceived senselessness, the teacher suggests that one should enjoy the simple pleasures of daily life, such as eating, drinking, and taking enjoyment in one's work, which are gifts from the hand of God. Ultimately the author concludes that his search for meaning to this life points to the fact that humankind's paramount duty is to "Fear God and keep his commandments (12:13)."
"Qohelet" and "Ecclesiastes"
The Hebrew קהלת is related to the root קהל meaning "to gather." Thus the nominal form קהל means "gathering, congregation." The Hebrew קהלת is probably a title (rather than a name) referring to one who gathers something. That something, given the context, is probably either aphorisms or a group of people for the purposes of instruction in wisdom.
The English title of the book, Ecclesiastes, comes from the Septuagint translation of Qohelet, Εκκλησιαστής. It has its origins in the Greek word Εκκλησία (originally a secular gathering, although later used primarily of religious gatherings, hence its New Testament translation as church).
The word Qoheleth has found several translations into English, including the Preacher (translating Jerome's ecclesiastes and Luther's der Prediger). Since preacher implies a religious function, and the contents of the book do not reflect such a function, this translation has largely been rejected by modern translations and scholars. A better alternative is teacher, although this also fails to capture the fundamental idea behind the Hebrew.
Authorship and Historical Context
In the two opening chapters the author describes himself as the son of David, and king over Israel in Jerusalem, presenting himself as a philosopher at the center of a brilliant court. This could apply only to king Solomon, for his successors in Jerusalem were kings over Judah only. Consequently, the traditional Rabbinic and early Christian view attributed Ecclesiastes to king Solomon. The latest possible date for it is set by the fact that Ben Sirach (written circa 180 BC) repeatedly quotes or paraphrases it, as from a canonic rather than a contemporary writing.
Since this work is found within the Ketuvim, there must be some room for poetical treatment. There are two voices in the book, the frame-narrator (1.1-11; 12.9-14) and Qoheleth (1.12-12.8). Though this is not considered to be indicative of two authors, it does encourage the reader to place himself within the frame and see the pursuit of Wisdom from the perspective of Solomon. Thus, the author is probably a Hebrew poet who is using the life of Solomon as a vista for the Hebrews' pursuit of Wisdom (Ecc 1.13, 7.25 8.16; Job 28.12). This would place the book in the latter days of the canonical writings (see Josephus' claim for a closed canon in the early post exilic age Against Apion 1.38-42) when wisdom seemed out of reach to the Hebrews (Ecc 1.17, 7.23; Proverbs 30.1-3)
The Hebrew of Ecclesiastes was not common in the era of Solomon’s reign, and the book contains words borrowed from other languages. For example, the book contains several Aramaic and Persian words. The influence of these two languages is characteristic of late Hebrew, and is thought to have occurred after Jerusalem was taken captive by Babylonian forces in 587 BC. However, the use of these languages could also be a reference by the author to the language skills Solomon would have accumulated through his development of international trade and industry, as well as from traveling dignitaries and other contacts with the outside world (1 Kings 4:30, 34; 1 Kings 9:26-28; 1 Kings 10:1, 23, 24).
Date of Writing
Dominic Rudman, Determinism in the Book of Ecclesiastes (JSOTSup. 316; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001, p. 13) cites the modern commentaries supporting this dating.
- Dominic Rudman. "A Note on Dating of Ecclesiastes". Catholic Biblical Quarterly vol. 61 no. 1 (1999) pp. 47-53 contains a discussion with C. L. Seow, "Linguistic Evidence and the Dating of Qohelet." in JBL vol. 115 (1996), pp. 653-54 - Seow supports a 4th century dating.
"Some current commentators e.g., R. N. Whybray, Ecclesiastes [NCB Commentary; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans; London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1989] 4-12) argue for a mid-to-late-third-century date. Others, among them N. Lohfink (Kohelet [NEchtB; Wurzburg: Echter Verlag, 1980] 7) and C. E Whitley (Koheleth: His Language and Thought [BZAW 148; Berlin/ New York: de Gruyter, 1979] 132-46), have suggested an early- or mid-second-century background."
Adam Clarke’s Commentary, Volume III, page 799, states:
The book, entitled Koheleth, or Ecclesiastes, has ever been received, both by the Jewish and Christian Church, as written under the inspiration of the Almighty; and was held to be properly a part of the sacred canon.
However, being ever received as canonical seems to have been despite the book's controversial content. To maintain otherwise is to ignore the fact that it has been regarded as tainted with Epicurean heresy. Citing further from the Jewish Encyclopedia:
Yet without the idea that Qohelet was Solomon one could scarcely imagine the work ever having been included in the canon; and had it not been adopted before the doctrine of the Resurrection became popular, it is probable that the author's views on that subject would have caused his book to be excluded therefrom.
As this citation points out, the book fails to accord with the last of Maimonides' Thirteen Principles of Faith. (Though these Principles were articulated at a much later date, they evolved over a long period of time, and they are generally considered authoritative.)
Orthodoxy of views
Ecclesiastes appears in harmony with other Scriptures where they treat exactly the same subjects. It agrees with Genesis on man’s being made up of a body composed of the dust of the ground and having the spirit (or life-force) from God and the breath that sustains it (Ecclesiastes 3:20, 21; Ecclesiastes 12:7; Genesis 2:7; Genesis 7:22; Isaiah 42:5). Ecclesiastes also affirms the Toranic teaching that man was created perfect and upright but willfully chose to disobey God (Ecclesiastes 7:29; Genesis 1:31; Genesis 3:17; Deuteronomy 32:4, 5). Ecclesiastes also acknowledges God as the Creator (Ecclesiastes 12:1; Genesis 1:1).
Death and afterlife
A great portion of the book concerns itself with death, and Ecclesiastes' opinions on the oblivion of Sheol are frequently quoted. A meaningless life followed by oblivion is consistent with the purport of much (though not all) of the rest of the Tanakh as to the state of the dead (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; Genesis 3:19; Psalm 6:5; Psalm 115:17). Nevertheless, there are many points other than oblivion involved in the Jewish philosophy of afterlife, not least among them the concept of resurrection.
Qoheleth's stated aim is to find out how to ensure one's benefits in life, an aim in accord with the general purposes of Wisdom Literature. For Qoheleth, however, any possible advantage in life is destroyed by the inevitability of death. As such, Qoheleth concludes that life (and everything) is senseless. In light of this conclusion, Qoheleth advises his audience to make the most of life, to seize the day, for there is no way to secure favorable outcomes in the future. Although this latter conclusion has sometimes been compared to Epicureanism, for Qoheleth it comes about as the inevitable result of his failure to make sense of existence.
This conclusion is reflected in the refrain which both opens and closes Qoheleth's words:
- "Utterly senseless" says Qoheleth, "Utterly senseless, everything is senseless!"
The word translated senseless, הבל (hebel), literally means vapor, breath. Qoheleth uses it metaphorically, and its precise meaning is extensively debated. Older English translation often render it vanity, but in modern usage this word has come to mean "self-pride" and lost its Latinate connotation of emptiness and is thus no longer appropriate. Other translations include futile, meaningless, absurd, fleeting or senseless. Some translations use the literal rendering vapor of vapors and so claim to leave the interpretation to the reader.
Ultimately, the author of Ecclesiates comes to this conclusion in the second to last verse of the last chapter:
- "The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone."
Some argue that these two last verses are an addition to the original script since they stand in contrast to all of the previous statements made. Others argue that it actually completes the message by saying that nothing is of as high importance as the work of God.
- Other versions of Ecclesiastes 1.2
"Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!"
"Meaningless of meaningless! All is meaningless!"
References to Ecclesiastes in later works
- Few certain allusions to "Ecclesiastes" arise in the New Testament. Romans 8:20 is the most commonly cited allusion: "For the creation was subjected to futility..." (where futility renders the Greek word used in the Septuagint to render the Hebrew hebel as discussed above).
1. Structure of the Book
Reading this book one soon becomes aware that it is a discussion of certain difficult problems of human life. It begins with a title Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 1:1), followed by a preface (Ecclesiastes 1:2-11). It has a formal conclusion (Ecclesiastes 12:8-13). Between the preface and the conclusion the body of the book is made up of materials of two kinds - first a series of “I” sections, sections uttered in the 1st person singular, a record of a personal experience; and second, an alternating series of gnomic sections, sections made up of proverbs (say Ecclesiastes 4:5, Ecclesiastes 4:6, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Ecclesiastes 5:1-12; Ecclesiastes 7:1-14, Ecclesiastes 7:16-22; Ecclesiastes 8:1-8; Ecclesiastes 9:7-10; Ecclesiastes 10:1-4; Ecclesiastes 10:8 through Ecclesiastes 12:7). These may be called the “thou” sections, as most of them have the pronoun of the 2nd person singular. The idea of the vanity of all things characterizes the record of experience, but it also appears in the “thou” sections (e.g. Ecclesiastes 9:9). On the other hand the proverb element is not wholly lacking in the “I” sections (e.g. Ecclesiastes 4:1-3).
2. The Contents
In the preface the speaker lays down the proposition that all things are unreal, and that the results of human effort are illusive Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 1:2, Ecclesiastes 1:3). Human generations, day and night, the wind, the streams, are alike the repetition of an unending round (Ecclesiastes 1:4-7). The same holds in regard to all human study and thinking (Ecclesiastes 1:8-11). The speaker shows familiarity with the phenomena which we think of as those of natural law, of the persistence of force, but he thinks of them in the main as monotonously limiting human experience. Nothing is new. All effort of Nature or of man is the doing again of something which has already been done.
After the preface the speaker introduces himself, and recounts his experiences. At the outset he had a noble ambition for wisdom and discipline, but all he attained to was unreality and perplexity of mind (Ecclesiastes 1:12-18). This is equally the meaning of the text, whether we translate “vanity and vexation of spirit” or “vanity and a striving after wind,” (“emptiness, and struggling for breath”), though the first of these two translations is the better grounded.
Finding no adequate satisfaction in the pursuits of the scholar and thinker, taken by themselves, he seeks to combine these with the pursuit of agreeable sensations - alike those which come from luxury and those which come from activity and enterprise and achievement Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 2:1-12). No one could be in better shape than he for making this experiment, but again he only attains to unreality and perplexity of spirit. He says to himself that at least it is in itself profitable to be a wise man rather than a fool, but his comfort is impaired by the fact that both alike are mortal (Ecclesiastes 2:13-17). He finds little reassurance in the idea of laboring for the benefit of posterity; posterity is often not worthy (Ecclesiastes 2:18-21). One may toil unremittingly, but what is the use (Ecclesiastes 2:22, Ecclesiastes 2:23)?
He does not find himself helped by bringing God into the problem. 'It is no good for a man that he should eat and drink and make his soul see good in his toil' Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26, as most naturally translated), even if he thinks of it as the gift of God; for how can one be sure that the gift of God is anything but luck? He sees, however, that it is not just to dismiss Thus lightly the idea of God as a factor in the problem. It is true that there is a time for everything, and that everything is “beautiful in its time.” It is also true that ideas of infinity are in men's minds, ideas which they can neither get rid of nor fully comprehend (3:1-18). Here are tokens of God, who has established an infinite order. If we understood His ways better, that might unravel our perplexities. And if God is, immortality may be, and the solution of our problems may lie in that direction. For a moment it looks as if the speaker were coming out into the light, but doubt resumes its hold upon him. He asks himself, “Who knoweth?” and he settles back into the darkness. He has previously decided that for a man to “eat and drink, and make his soul enjoy good” is not worth while; and now he reaches the conclusion that, unsatisfactory as this is, there is nothing better (Ecclesiastes 3:19-22).
And so the record of experiences continues, hopeful passages alternating with pessimistic passages. After a while the agnosticism and pessimism recede somewhat, and the hopeful passages become more positive. Even though “the poor man's wisdom is despised,” the speaker says, “the words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the cry of him that ruleth among fools” Eccl (Ecclesiastes 9:17). He says “Surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God” (Ecclesiastes 8:12), no matter how strongly appearances may indicate the contrary.
The gnomic sections are mostly free from agnosticism and pessimism. The book as a whole sums itself up in the conclusion, “Fear God, and keep his commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
Of course the agnostic and pessimistic utterances in Eccl are to be regarded as the presentation of one side of an argument. Disconnect them and they are no part of the moral and religious teaching of the book, except in an indirect way. At no point should we be justified in thinking of the author as really doubting in regard to God or moral obligation. He delineates for us a soul in the toils of mental and spiritual conflict. It is a delineation which may serve for warning, and which is in other ways wholesomely instructive; and in the outcome of it, it is full of encouragement.
In some passages the speaker in Ecclesiastes has in mind the solution of the problems of life which we are accustomed to call Epicurean (e.g. Ecclesiastes 5:18-20; Ecclesiastes 7:16, Ecclesiastes 7:17; Ecclesiastes 8:15; but not Ecclesiastes 2:24) - the solution which consists in avoiding extremes, and in getting from life as many agreeable sensations as possible; but it is not correct to say that he advocates this philosophy. He rather presents it as an alternative.
His conclusion is the important part of his reasoning. All things are vanity. Everything passes away. Yet (he says) it is better to read and use good words than bad words. Therefore because the Great Teacher is wise, he ever teaches the people knowledge, and in so doing he ever seeks good words, acceptable words, upright words, words of truth. “The words of the wise are as goads; and as nails well fastened” (“clinched at the back”) (Ecclesiastes 12:11). Such are the words of all the great masters. So (he ends) my son, be warned! There are many books in this world. Choose good ones. And his conclusion is: Reverence the Mighty Spirit. Keep to good principles. That is the whole duty of man. For everything at last becomes clear; and “good” stands out clearly from “evil.”
3. Composite Authorship?
We have noticed that our book has “I” sections and “thou” sections. Certainly these are structural marks, but as such they are capable of being interpreted in various ways. Partitional hypotheses can easily be formed, and perhaps there is no great objection to them; but there are no phenomena which cannot be accounted for by the hypothesis that we have here just the work of one author, who sometimes quotes proverbial utterances, either his own or those of other men. As proving the integrity of the book three points present themselves. First, in some cases (e.g. Ecclesiastes 7:14-16) the experience matter and the gnomic matter are closely combined in sense and in grammatical construction. Second, it is possible to interpret all the gnomic sections as a part of the continuous argument. Third, if we so interpret them the book is a unit, the argument moving forward continuously out of the speculative into the practical, and out of the darkness into the light.
The speaker in Ecclesiastes calls himself Ḳōheleth (Ecclesiastes 1:1, Ecclesiastes 1:2, Ecclesiastes 1:12 and other places), rendered “the Preacher” in the English Versions. The word does not occur elsewhere, although it is from a stem that is in common use. Apparently it has been coined for a purpose by the author of Ecclesiastes. In form it is a feminine participle, though it denotes a man. This is best explained as a case of the using of an abstract expression for a concrete, as when in English we say “Your Honor,” “Your Majesty.” The other words of the stem are used of people gathering in assemblies, and the current explanation is to the effect that Koheleth is a person who draws an audience whom he may address. To this there are two objections: First, the participle is intransitive; its natural implication is that of a person who participates in an assembly, not of one who causes the participants to assemble. Second, the assembly distinctively indicated by the words of this stem is the official assembly for the transaction of public business. Worked out on this basis Koheleth seems to mean citizenship, or concretely, a citizen - a citizen of such respectability that he is entitled to participate in public assemblies. It is in the character of citizen-king that the speaker in Ecclesiastes relates his experiences and presents his ideas.
This word for “assembly” and its cognates are in the Greek often translated by ekklēsia and its cognates (e.g. Deuteronomy 4:10; Deuteronomy 9:10; Judges 20:2; Judges 21:5, Judges 21:8). So we are not surprised to find Ḳōheleth rendered by the Greek Ekklēsiastēs, and this Latinized into Ecclesiastes.
5. “King in Jerusalem”
The speaker in Ecclesiastes speaks not only in the character of Koheleth, but in that of “the son of David, king in Jerus” (Ecclesiastes 1:1). So far as this clause is concerned the king in question might be either Solomon or any other king of the dynasty, or might be a composite or an ideal king. He is represented (Ecclesiastes 1:12 through Ecclesiastes 2:11) as “king over Israel,” and as distinguished for wisdom, for his luxuries, for his great enterprises in building and in business. These marks fit Solomon better than any other king of the dynasty, unless possibly Uzziah. Possibly it is not absurd to apply to Solomon even the phrase “all that were before me over Jerusalem,” or “in Jerus” (Ecclesiastes 1:16; Ecclesiastes 2:7, Ecclesiastes 2:9; compare 1 Chronicles 29:25; 1 Kings 3:12; 2 Chronicles 1:12). It is safer, however, to use an alternative statement. The speaker in Ecclesiastes is either Solomon or some other actual or composite or ideal king of the dynasty of David.
6. Date and Authorship
If it were agreed that Solomon is the citizen king who, in Ecclesiastes, is represented as speaking, that would not be the same thing as agreeing that Solomon is the author of the book. No one thinks that Sir Galahad is the author of Tennyson's poem of that name. Koheleth the king is the character into whose mouth the author of Ecclesiastes puts the utterances which he wishes to present, but it does not follow that the author is himself Koheleth.
The statement is often made that Jewish tradition attributes the writing of Ecclesiastes to Solomon; but can anyone cite any relatively early tradition to this effect? Is this alleged tradition anything else than the confusing of the author with the character whom he has sketched? The well-known classic tradition in Bābhā' Bathrā' attributes Eccl to “Hezekiah and his company,” not to Solomon. And the tradition which is represented by the order in which the books occur in the Hebrew Bibles seems to place it still later. Concerning this tradition two facts are to be noted: First, it classes Ecclesiastes with the 5 miscellaneous books (Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther) known as the five meghillōth, the five Rolls. Second, in the count of books which makes the number 22 or 24 it classes Ecclesiastes as one of the last 5 books (Ecclesiastes, Esther, Dan, Ezra-Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Chronicles). That the men who made this arrangement regarded the books of this group as the latest in the Bible is a natural inference.
7. Linguistic Peculiarities
This agrees with the internal marks which constitute the principal evidence we have on this point. The grammatical character and the vocabulary of Ecclesiastes are exceptionally peculiar, and they strongly indicate that the book was written in the same literary period with these other latest books of the Old Testament. The true date is not much earlier or later than 400 BC (see Chronicles; Books of Chronicles), though many place it a century or a century and a half later. Details concerning these phenomena may be found in Driver's Introduction or other Introductions, or in commentaries. Only a few of the points will be given here, with barely enough illustrative instances to render the points intelligible.
In Ecclesiastes the syntax of the verb is peculiar. The imperfect with waw consecutive, the ordinary Hebrew narrative tense, occurs - for example, “And I applied my heart” (Ecclesiastes 1:17) - but it is rare. The narrator habitually uses the perfect with waw (e.g. Ecclesiastes 1:13; Ecclesiastes 2:11, Ecclesiastes 2:12, Ecclesiastes 2:14, Ecclesiastes 2:15 bis. 17). In any English book we should find it very noticeable if the author were in the habit of using the progressive form of the verb instead of the ordinary form - if instead of saying “And I applied my heart” he should say “And I was applying my heart,” “And I was looking on all the works,” “And I was turning” (Ecclesiastes 1:13; Ecclesiastes 2:11, Ecclesiastes 2:12), and so on. Another marked peculiarity is the frequent repeating of the pronoun along with the verb: 'I said in my heart, even I'; 'And I was hating, even I, all my labor' (Ecclesiastes 2:1, Ecclesiastes 2:18 and continually). The use of the pronoun as copula is abnormally common in Ecclesiastes as compared with other parts of the Hebrew Bible (e.g. Ecclesiastes 4:2). The abbreviated form of the relative pronoun is much used instead of the full form, and in both forms the pronoun is used disproportionately often as a conjunction. In these and many similar phenomena the Hebrew language of Ecclesiastes is affiliated with that of the later times.
The vocabulary presents phenomena that have the same bearing. Words of the stem tāḳan appear in Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 1:15; Ecclesiastes 7:13; Ecclesiastes 12:9) and in the Aramaic of Daniel (Daniel 4:36), and not elsewhere in the Bible; they are frequent in the Talmud Words of the stem zāman (3 1) are used only in Ecclesiastes, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Esther. Words of the stem shālaṭ, the stem whence comes our word “sultan,” are frequent in Ecclesiastes - words which are used elsewhere only in the avowedly post-exilian books and in Genesis 42:6, though a different word of this stem appears in the history of the time of David. Only in Ecclesiastes and Esther are found the verb kāshēr, “to be correct” (whence the modern Jewish kosher) and its derivative kishrōň. The Persian word pardēṣ, “park” (Ecclesiastes 2:5), occurs elsewhere only in Nehemiah and Canticles, and the Persian word pithgām, “official decision” or “record” (Ecclesiastes 8:11), only in Esther 1:20, and in the Aramaic parts of Ezra and Daniel. Ecclesiastes also abounds in late words formed from earlier stems - for example, ṣekhel and ṣikhelūth, “folly” (Ecclesiastes 10:6; Ecclesiastes 2:3, et al.); or medhīnāh, “province” (Ecclesiastes 5:8), frequent in the latest books, but elsewhere found only in one passage in 1 Kings (1 Kings 20:14, 1 Kings 20:15, 1 Kings 20:17, 1 Kings 20:19). Especially common are new derivatives that end in “-n,” for example, yithrōn, “profit”; ‛inyān, “travail”; ḥeṣrōn, “that which is missing”; ra‛yōn, “vexation” (Ecclesiastes 1:3, Ecclesiastes 1:13, Ecclesiastes 1:15, Ecclesiastes 1:17 and often). To these add instances of old words used in new meanings, and the various other groups of phenomena that are usual in such cases. No parts of the book are free from them.
The arguments for a later date than that which has been assigned are inconclusive. The Hebrew language of Ecclesiastes is more like the language of the Talmuds than is that of the Chronicler or Daniel or even Esther; but if one infers that Ecclesiastes is therefore later than the others the inference will prove to be in various ways embarrassing. The differences are better accounted for by the fact that Ecclesiastes belongs to a different type of literature from the others.
8. Certain Inconclusive Arguments
Various passages have local color in Ecclesiastes (e.g. Ecclesiastes 11:1), or make the impression of being allusions to specific events (e.g. Ecclesiastes 4:13-16; Ecclesiastes 6:2, Ecclesiastes 6:3; Ecclesiastes 9:13-18), but the difficulty lies in locating the events. Dr. Kleinert argues plausibly for the writing of the book in Egypt in the time of the Ptolemies, but other equally probable hypotheses might be devised.
It is alleged that Ecclesiastes copies from Ecclesiasticus, but it is more probable that the latter copied from the former. It is alleged that the Wisdom disputes Ecclesiastes; if it does, that does not prove that the two are contemporary. It is alleged that the writer is familiar with the philosophy of Epicurus, and therefore must have lived later than Epicurus, who died 270 BC, or even later than Lucretius of the 1st century BC. If there were proof that this was a case of borrowing, Epicurus or Lucretius might have been the borrowers; but there is no such proof; the selfishness which constitutes the nucleus of Epicureanism has exhibited itself in human literature from the beginning. The strong resemblances between Ecclesiastes and Omar Khayyám have no weight to prove that the Hebrew author was later than the Persian Ecclesiastes presents a perfectly distinct doctrine of immortality, whether it affirms the doctrine or not; but that proves a relatively early date for the doctrine, rather than a late date for Ecclesiastes. At every point the marks of Ecclesiastes are those of the Persian period, not of the Greek.
In the early Christian centuries, as in all the centuries since, there have been disputes concerning the canonicity of Ecclesiastes. It was not questioned that Ecclesiastes belonged to the canon as traditionally handed down. No question of admitting it to the canon was raised. But it was challenged because of the agnostic quality of some of its contents, and, every time, on close examination, the challenge was decided in its favor.
There are volumes on Ecclesiastes in all the great commentaries, and treatments of it in the volumes on Introduction. A few of the many separate commentaries are those of Moses Stuart, Andover, 1864; H. Grätz, Leipzig, 1871; G. Wildeboer, Tübingen, 1898; E. H. Plumptre, Cambridge, 1881. Other works are those of J. F. Genung, Ecclesiastes, and Omar Khayyám, 1901, Words of Koheleth, 1904, and The Hebrew Literature of Wisdom in the Light of Today, 1906; C. H. H. Wright, Book of Koheleth, 1883; S. Schiffer, Das Buch Coheleth nach Talmud und Midrasch, 1885; A. H. McNeile. Introduction to Ecclesiastes, New York, 1904.