The Linguistic Evidence for the Date of “Ecclesiastes” -- By: Gleason L. Archer

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 12:3 (Summer 1969)
Article: The Linguistic Evidence for the Date of “Ecclesiastes”
Author: Gleason L. Archer

The Linguistic Evidence for the Date of “Ecclesiastes”

Gleason L. Archer*

*Professor and Chairman of the Division of Old Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois.


One of the most generally accepted results of O.T. criticism, even in Conservative scholarly circles, is the spuriousness of the Book of Ecclesiastes as a work of Solomon. Nearly all authorities acknowledge that it purports to be composed by the son and successor of King David, since it so affirms in its opening verse; yet even such Evangelicals as Hengstenberg, Delitzsch, Leupold and E. J. Young feel that the weight of the evidence precludes taking this statement at face value. On the contrary they feel compelled to classify it as a sort of historical fiction, composed by a much later author upon the theme of Solomon’s experiences and insights, and yet reflecting conditions and issues pertaining to a much later age, such as the 5th century B.C. Liberal scholars tend to place it in the Greek period, ranging all the way from 3rd century to the time of Herod the Great. Franz Delitzsch went so far as to state: “If Koheleth was written in Solomon’s day, a history of the Hebrew language is impossible.” Robert Gordis (“Koheleth, the Man and His World” Schocken, 1951, 1955, 1968) goes so far as to declare: “The view that Solomon is the author has been universally abandoned today, with the growth of a truer recognition of the style, vocabulary and world-outlook of Koheleth” (p. 5). It might appear that the last word had been spoken on this subject; surely this is one of the surest results of modern scholarship.

Such sentiments as these, however, represent an overstatement of the facts. It is not true that the Solomonic authorship of Ecclesiastes has been universally abandoned, at least in some Conservative circles. Aside from the theological problems arising from the denial of the genuineness of even one book of the Bible, there are very solid linguistic grounds for rejecting the verdict of spuriousness. This evidence is abundantly available even from the writings of some scholars who, reject Solomonic authorship, but who are not entirely satisfied with the way the linguistic data have been handled. Thus James Muilenberg in BASOR 135 states in the course of a discussion of the 2nd cent. B.C. fragment of Eccles. from Qumran Cave 4 (p. 135): “Linguistically the book is unique. There is no question that its language has many striking peculiarities; these have been explained by some to be Late Hebrew (discussed by Margoliouth and Gordis) for which the language of the Mishnah is said to offer more than adequate support (a contention more than effectively answered by Margoliouth in the Jewish

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