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Ecclesiastes Through the Centuries

ISBN: 978-0-470-67491-8
336 pages
April 2012, Wiley-Blackwell
Ecclesiastes Through the Centuries (0470674911) cover image
Over the centuries, Ecclesiastes has influenced numerous and diverse aspects of life and thought. Ecclesiastes Through the Centuries assesses the effects of the book on the culture of the various times in religious, artistic, and social contexts.

  • Presents an innovative, reception history approach to the study of Ecclesiastes, by tracing its influence on religion, culture, literature, art, and social thought
  • Explores a fascinating range of Jewish and Christian readings
  • Features engaging and unusual examples from art, music, literature and history: from Thackeray and Orwell, to Salvador Dali’s Illustrated Bible, to the inflammatory exposition of Ecclesiastes at the funeral of Queen Mary
  • Published in the innovative Blackwell Bible Commentaries series; for further information visit the series website at www.bbibcomm.net

 

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Series Editors’ Preface xi

Preface xiii

Preface to the Paperback Edition xvii

Testimonia 1

The Vagaries of Interpreting Ecclesiastes 1

Charting a Harsh Terrain 4

Qoheleth the Philosopher 5

Wrought by Melancholy 7

Preacher of Joy 9

True to Life 10

Qoheleth and Christianity 14

Qoheleth and Justice 15

Introduction 17

1 A History of Reception Histories 19

2 Reading Strategies and Lines of Influence 22

Pre-Modern Reading: –1500 23

Early Modern Reading: 1500–1800 40

A. Renaissance and Reform 40

B. Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Verse 51

C. On the Way to Modernity 57

Modern Reading: 1800– 65

A. Literature 65

B. Visual Art, Music and Film 75

C. Comparative Studies 84

Ecclesiastes 1 87

The Life and Death of Solomon the Author: 1:1 et passim 89

A. Alive and Well in Pre-Modernity (–1500) 89

B. Embattled in Early Modernity (1500–1800) 95

C. Dead in Modernity – Solomon’s Ghost (1800–) 96

Vanitas Vanitatum: 1:2 et passim 98

A. Despising the World through Vanitas (–1500) 100

B. Renaissance Vanitas: Despising Jerome and Suspecting the Sciences (1500–1800) 106

C. Literary Vanitas: New Points of Reference (1800–) 125

D. The Breadth of Vanitas 140

The Overture Played Out: 1:3–18 142

Ecclesiastes 2 156

Wrestling with the Test of Pleasure: 2:1–10 157

Understanding Wisdom, Folly and God’s Gifts: 2:11–24 161

Ecclesiastes 3:1–8 164

The Totality of Times 165

Ecclesiastes 3:9–6:12 174

On Fate, Knowledge and Anthropology: 3:9–22 175

On Oppression and the Value of Companionship: 4:1–12 180

On Conducting Oneself in the House of God: 5:1–8 183

On the Possibility of Profi t and Relief from hebel: 5:10–6:12 184

Ecclesiastes 7–8 188

The Curious Values of Wisdom: 7:1–12 189

The Incongruity of Experience and the Inaccessibility of Wisdom: 7:13–29 192

About Wisdom, Power and Authority: 8:1–17 201

Ecclesiastes 9:1–12 206

The Wisdom of Death and Life 207

Ecclesiastes 9:13–11:10 216

Wise Conduct in the Light of Uncertainty: 9:13–11:6 217

The Final Call to Joy: 11:7–10 221

Ecclesiastes 12:1–7 225

The Rule of Allegory 227

Beyond Allegory 232

Ecclesiastes 12:8–14 247

The Final Word 249

A Hermeneutical Postscript 256

Understanding the Pervasive Appeal of Qoheleth 256

The Exegetical ‘Fidelity’ of Ecclesiastes’ Reception History 259

How Might This Reception History Inform the Discipline? 261

Bibliography 264

Primary Sources 265

1. Pre-1500 265

2. 1500–1800 267

3. Post-1800 271

Reception Histories of Ecclesiastes 275

1. Jewish and Christian 275

2. Surveys of Academic Approaches 280

3. Literature 281

Specialist Comparative Studies 283

Ecclesiastes General Secondary Sources 285

Other Secondary Sources 291

Appendix – The Quotable Qoheleth: Ecclesiastes in Popular Discourse 296

List of Illustrations 300

Acknowledgements 302

Name Index 303

Subject Index 312

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Eric S. Christianson is an independent scholar living in the UK. He is author of A Time to Tell: Narrative Strategies in Ecclesiastes (1988) and co-editor of Cinéma Divinité: Religion, Theology and the Bible in Film (2005), The Lure of the Dark Side: Satan and Western Demonology in Popular Culture (2009) and Holy Terror: Understanding Religion and Violence in Popular Culture (2010).
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  • Presents an innovative, reception history approach to the study of Ecclesiastes, by tracing its influence on religion, culture, literature, art and social thought.
  • Explores a fascinating range of Jewish and Christian readings.
  • Features engaging and unusual examples from art, music, literature and history: from Thackeray and Orwell, to Salvador Dali’s Illustrated Bible, to the inflammatory exposition of Ecclesiastes at the funeral of Queen Mary.
  • This is the third Old Testament volume published in the innovative Blackwell Bible Commentaries series.
  • The series is supported by a wensite at www.bbicomm.net.
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"Christianson's study of Ecclesiastes's cultural impact is rich and rewarding. [He] beautifully exposits the material that he treats, and suggests by brief reference some other avenues of fruitful exploration. In these ways, Ecclesiastes Through the Centuries serves both as an excellent treatment of the title theme and a good model for other reception histories to follow. The book may be heartily recommended, without reservation." (Bible and Critical Theory)

"A fundamental resource on biblical interpretation, especially in the modern world, this book is a winner." (International Review of Biblical Studies)

"Students of Ecclesiastes have been waiting a good many years for a book like Eric Christianson's study … Not since the time of Christian David Ginsburg's magisterial commentary Coheleth (commonly called the Book of Ecclesiastes) in 1861 has there been such a thorough survey of the reception history of Ecclesiastes." (Lutheran Theological Journal)

"With the text's many difficult and provocative passages, the reception history of Ecclesiastes is always going to be more interesting than that of many biblical books, and in this erudite but entertaining commentary, Christianson takes full advantage of the rich materials at his disposal...The introduction and commentary proper cover many topics, from patristic and rabbinic exegesis through to modern science-fiction, with numerous stops on the way...Christianson is a genial guide throughout, and his own enthusiasm is clear; the book is very well written and accessible, moreover, so that it should appeal to both specialists and a wider public...Overall an excellent book." (Society for Old Testament Study Book List)

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