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The Wisdom Book of "Ecclesiastes"­

  • Jan 8, 2014 · 7:00 PM
  • This location is shown only to members

07-Dec-13 NOTICE:

We will be experimenting with a limit of 20 people for this popular reading. We will see how it goes. And because of the numbers, we will be hosting it at the James Street Pub on Bank Street @ James. As always, there will be no charge for the meetup or venue. However, please come prepared to support our host with a purchase of food and/or drinks. 

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There is little dispute among literary scholars that the Bible epitomizes what it means for any text to become canonic. Decisions always need to be made about what goes into the "canon" of approved works - and what stays out. The official list of what went into the Bible - and what stayed out - symbolizes canon formation. The Bible's Hebrew was translated into Greek, which was in turn translated into Latin. It is the foundational text of Western literature and Western civilization.

The Book of Ecclesiastes is presented as the autobiography of Koheleth, the "Teacher". The introductory Commentary to the New International Version Study Bible says this about the Book: "With his life largely behind him, the author takes stock of the world as he has experienced it between the horizons of birth and death - the latter an horizon beyond which man cannot see. The world is seen as being full of enigmas, the greatest of which is man himself. From the perspective of his own understanding, the Teacher takes measure of man, examining his capabilities. He discovers that human wisdom, even that of a godly person, has limits. It cannot find out the larger purposes of God or the ultimate meaning of man's existence..."

Its theme is "the meaninglessness of man's existence on earth apart from God". Its author is unknown, although some scholars speculate from select passages in the Book that it might have been written by King Solomon. Others speculate that it was written in the 3rd Century B.C..

Ecclesisates has had a deep influence on Western literature. Thomas Wolfe wrote about the Book: "... of all I have ever seen or learned, that book seems to me the noblest, the wisest, and the most powerful expression of man's life upon this earth — and also the highest flower of poetry, eloquence, and truth. I am not given to dogmatic judgments in the matter of literary creation, but if I had to make one I could say that Ecclesiastes is the greatest single piece of writing I have ever known, and the wisdom expressed in it the most lasting and profound." Well worth our attention.

Peter will be leading us in this reading of Ecclesiastes. You won't want to miss our first meetup of 2014.

Robaire

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  • Peter

    And the second reference is .... Thanks Larry!

    Secondary source:
    A time to Tear Down and A time to Build Up: A Rereading of Ecclesiastes (a scholarly text; 422 pages)
    Michael V. Fox (not the other one) (former major professor—at Wisconsin-Madison—of my American friend, Larry Mykytiuk, who inspired me on this topic)
    “A sparkling study … Fox’s rereading of Qoheleth is priceless.” (Roland E. Murphy)
    (Available through interlibrary loan [Canadian Mennonite University] via the Ottawa Public Library)

    January 9, 2014

    • Lorraine

      Luiza, can you give relevant pages from Northrop Frye? It might be available on-line.

      January 11, 2014

    • Louisa

      I am not certain the numbers would correspond (p. 123 plus)as it would depend on the publication - but it is found in Chapter five Typology II Phases of Revelation in Part 2 of the text - it is near the start of the section under sub-title - Fourth Phase: Wisdom.

      January 12, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    One of the questions Peter asked about Ecclesiastes was its echos in later literature. One of the stronger of those echos is to be found in Prufrock, which makes it a fascinating coincidence that these two works bookend our season. One could make the case that they bookend the meditation on the human condition, and on human vanity in particular. This will probably be a major theme in how I look at Prufrock, and folks might want to look ahead to Prufrock while Ecclesiastes is still fresh in their minds, and refresh their memory of Ecclesiastes when we get to the reading of Prufrock.

    1 · January 11, 2014

  • Lorraine

    Thanks, Peter, for an excellent presentation. A good start to the reading year!

    January 9, 2014

  • James H.

    Glad I was able to make it and really enjoyed the many thoughtful comments that participants shared. Great job Peter.

    January 9, 2014

  • Peter

    Thanks everyone for attending last night's meeting, and for your thoughtful contributions. I know when I was reading Ecclesiastes, there were many occasions when it was not clear to me what the author was really trying to say (very deep text!). I'm therefore suggesting a couple of references that I used in my preparation for last night's discussion in case anyone wants to follow up. The first one, in particular, is a short and elucidating read.


    Primary Source:
    A Time to Mourn, and a Time to Dance: Ecclesiastes and the way of the world (a small, well-written book; 109 pages)
    Derek Kidner
    (Available at Carleton University, with your Ottawa Public Library “Smart Library card.” Other books on Ecclesiastes also available at Carleton’s MacOdrum Library.)


    Due to character limitations, I will follow up with a 2nd posting for the other reference, with information about the initial source of this book idea.

    January 9, 2014

  • C G.

    This was a very stimulating discussion and from such diverse points of view. Peter's questions were thought provoking and gave focus to my final reading before the meeting. I look forward to attending future meetings.

    January 8, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Many thanks to the organizers and to all the contributors to tonight's discussion! We really enjoyed the evening.

    January 8, 2014

  • Jo R.

    So sorry to do this last minute, but I can't make it tonight. Just got told I'm getting interviewed as part of my work tomorrow, and I have to prepare.

    January 8, 2014

  • James H.

    Was really looking forward to this but a family issue has emerged.

    January 8, 2014

  • Peter

    And a 5th question since I got cut off earlier because of word limitations: Ecclesiastes is believed to have been written no later than the 3rd century B.C. In your own more current readings, what ideas have you come across that may be traced back to Ecclesiastes or other books of the Bible? Any references on this question?

    January 7, 2014

  • Manvitha

    Terribly sorry I cant make it tomorrow. I'm down with a bad bout of the flu. Hope you all have a good meeting and discussion! Best wishes.

    January 7, 2014

  • Peter

    The following questions will be used to guide our discussion of Ecclesiastes on January 8th.

    Q1. The phrase, “all is vanity,” is used repeatedly in Ecclesiastes. Scholars generally accept it to mean utter futility, emptiness, or meaninglessness. What is Qoheleth/The Teacher/The Preacher so hopeless about? Q2. What is the overall goal of this wisdom book? What more specific functions does it attempt to achieve?

    Q3. Qoheleth’s (likely King Solomon) strategy has been described as twofold: 1) ”to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow,” and then, and then only, 2) “to build and to plant.” Does this structure facilitate the achievement of his goals? What other stylistic strategies are used?

    Q4. A professor of mine once remarked that the main difference between knowledge and wisdom is that wisdom is applied knowledge. What wisdom from Ecclesiastes have you applied—or not applied—to your own life, with associated success or failure, happiness or pain?

    January 4, 2014

  • Robert ("Robaire") N.

    2014 Reading List

    Inge, if you go to the top Menu Bar and click on "Pages" or "Discussions" you will find the Reading List.

    December 17, 2013

  • Ingeborg

    Unfortunately I missed the November meeting. So I am now looking for the chosen reading list.I have searched all through this web site, but nowhere can I find that list?? The bar on the left lists members, upcoming meetings ( only next 4), past meetings and calendar, again only next two or three? Please help me find that list, so I can RSVP in time.
    I enjoyed the Dec social. Merry Christmas,
    Inga

    December 17, 2013

  • Peter

    To save everyone time and effort, I've downloaded the Book of Ecclesiastes, and it can now be easily printed off from my website (13 pages total):

    www.drmaclean.ca --> Other --> Book of Ecclesiastes.

    I love thoughtful quotations, so you may also be interested in my collection of Wisdom Quotations, also available on my website. Enjoy! Merry Christmas and Seasons Greetings to everyone. Peter

    December 13, 2013

    • Robert ("Robaire") N.

      Peter, thanks for this. Looking forward to hearing your take on this Book.

      December 14, 2013

  • Ingeborg

    Amazing! To think that it took my recent huge disappointment and consequent leaving of the church, that has led to a new interest in reading the Bible!?

    November 17, 2013

    • Robert ("Robaire") N.

      Inge, it's been said: God works in mysterious ways. And just think, you get to revisit the biblical canon all over again in July when Luiza leads in a reading of Kierkegaard's "Fear & Trembling".

      November 17, 2013

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