God and Man in Ecclesiastes -- By: Roy B. Zuck

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 148:589 (Jan 1991)
Article: God and Man in Ecclesiastes
Author: Roy B. Zuck

God and Man in Ecclesiastes*

Roy B. Zuck

Vice-president for Academic Affairs, Professor of Bible Exposition
Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas

[*This article is adapted from Roy B. Zuck, “A Biblical Theology of the Wisdom Books and The Song of Songs,” in Biblical Theology (Chicago: Moody Press, forthcoming), and is used by permission.]

Is Ecclesiastes a Misfit?

Through the centuries many people have questioned whether the Book of Ecclesiastes belongs in the biblical canon, and especially in the wisdom corpus. Since it seems to underscore the futility and uselessness of work, the triumph of evil, the limitations of wisdom, and the impermanence of life, Ecclesiastes appears to be a misfit.

Because it apparently contradicts other portions of Scripture and presents a pessimistic outlook on life, in a mood of existential despair, many have viewed it as running counter to the rest of Scripture or have concluded that it presents only man’s reasoning apart from divine revelation. Smith wrote, “There is no spiritual uplift embodied within these pages…. Ecclesiastes…accomplishes only one thing, confusion. Reason is elevated throughout the whole work as the tool with which man may seek and find truth.”1 Scott affirms that the author of Ecclesiastes “is a rationalist, a skeptic, a pessimist, and a fatalist…. In most respects his view runs counter to his religious fellow Jews.”2 Crenshaw speaks of the “oppressiveness” of Ecclesiastes, which conveys the view “that life is profitless; totally

absurd.”3 Since “virtue does not bring reward” and since God “stands distant, abandoning humanity to chance and death,” this book, Crenshaw asserts, contrasts “radically with earlier teachings expressed in the book of Proverbs.”4 “Qoheleth discerns no moral order at all,”5 for “life amounts to nothing.”6

Elements in the book that supposedly suggest this outlook of secularist despair include (a) the repeated refrains, “everything is meaningless”7 (1:2; 2:11, 17; 3:19; 12:8); “this too is meaningless” (You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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