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A New Study on the Book of Ecclesiastes from the Perspective of Northwest Semitic Literature and Non-Priestly Literary History

  • Korean Journal of Old Testament Studies
  • Abbr : KJOTS
  • 2024, 30(1), pp.209-248
  • Publisher : Korean Society of Old Testament Studies
  • Research Area : Humanities > Christian Theology

Choi Jong-Won 1

1서울신학대학

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The wisdom of Ecclesiastes accepts the universalist position that “everything is vain” based on the traditional wisdom of Israel and criticizes traditional wisdom through new times and ideas. The direction of research on Ecclesiastes so far can be organized into five themes. These are (1) the structure of Ecclesiastes, (2) the social and cultural context, (3) comparison with the canon, (4) issues of the history of interpretation of Judaism and Christianity, and (5) the direction of approaching the relationship between philosophy and theology. In general, in the history of literature, research on the wisdom of Ecclesiastes has been actively conducted in connection with Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and early Hellenistic literature. On the other hand, the content of Ecclesiastes begins with ‘vainness’ (1:2) and ends with ‘vainity’ (12:8). These frames and borders meaningfully present the overall structure of the text. In particular, the literary inflection point of Ecclesiastes is Ecclesiastes 5:1-7. Focusing on this part, the ‘call to joy’ is emphasized in the latter half of Ecclesiastes (5:17-19; 9:7-10; 11:9). This trend is newly proposed through several key words that suggest the central thought of Ecclesiastes. The keywords can be summarized as “I saw (again) under the sun,” “I said in my heart,” “General,” and “Fear God.” These topics are well structured by the special cross-symmetry structure of Ecclesiastes. The use of the phrase ‘under the sun’ appears in the Spyr inscription, a Northwest Semitic treaty document, and an inscription recorded in a Phoenician sarcophagus. Structurally, the phrase ‘I saw (again) under the sun’ in Ecclesiastes is structured in a symmetrical structure. The phrase “I said in my heart” also connotes the meaning of obedience between the contractee and the contractee in the Sefire Inscription, a Northwest Semitic document, and expresses the listener's decision. This is used as an internal device of the contract in Deuteronomy and shows a correlation with wisdom literature. In addition, the structure of “general (hrqm)” is applied in a chain structure format and a cross-symmetrical structure, similar to the structure of the Northwest Semitic Treaty. Lastly, within the structure of Ecclesiastes, the concept of “fear of God” is closely related to the thinking of the non-priestly text of the Pentateuch. As a result, this thesis, when viewed through a compositional historical approach and a traditional historical method, shows that the entire structure of the book of Ecclesiastes is particularly under the influence of the Northwest Semitic language, which has not been well introduced so far, and in particular the literary style of the non-priestly world (non-P). Of course, in terms of content, it seems clear that the book of Ecclesiastes attempts to communicate its wisdom characteristics with the ancient Greek culture, while attempting to resolve the fundamental thoughts underlying the book based on Northwest Semitic tradition and Deuteronomistic religious thinking. Through this structure, Ecclesiastes criticizes traditional wisdom while simultaneously trying not to let go of the fundamental idea of “the fear of Jehovah.” This is the evangelist's conflict and can be accepted as a new request that emphasizes enjoying the present.

Citation status

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