Ecclesiastes by Anonymous

review-of-ecclesiastesIt’s funny: for a guy who went to a Catholic school, I really don’t remember much about the Bible. We had religion classes once a day during my entire tenure there, but I never cottoned to my school’s limp-wristed, social justice interpretation of Christianity, and I doubt anyone else in my class did either. It was like an unwritten agreement between the students and the school: we’d pretend to take the God stuff seriously, and in exchange we’d get a diploma from a high school that would impress every employer within a 90-mile radius. The only part of the Bible I ever liked was the Song of Songs.

So I took a greater than normal amount of pleasure from reading Ecclesiastes.

One of the newest releases from OVO impresario Trevor Blake, an e-book version of a book from the Bible seems an odd thing for an ardent atheist to release, at least if you know nothing about Ecclesiastes. One of the most celebrated books of the Bible, Ecclesiastes is a meditation on the nature of our world, its trials and tribulations, and the daily grind that human beings go through to survive. As one of the most interesting chapters of arguably the most influential book in human history, Ecclesiastes is a worthy buy.

What makes this edition of Ecclesiastes a good purchase is the convenient features Trevor has built into it. Ecclesiastes includes both Spanish and German translations (from the 1569 Antigua Sagradas Escrituras Version and the 1534 Luther Bible, respectively; the English version is from the 1611 King James Bible), giving you added value for your money. Additionally, Trevor has made this an interlinear volume by including links to the other translations beside each verse, letting you jump between the different versions at will. For example, here’s a verse from the English version:

[ES][EN][DE] 1:6 The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.

The “[ES]” and “[DE]” link to the Spanish and German versions of Ecclesiastes 1:6, respectively, making this edition of Ecclesiastes a great buy for the multilingual. Trevor’s use of the King James Bible edition for the English version was also a smart move, as its Shakespearian style will appeal to those who are unfamiliar with the Bible.

But more than that, Ecclesiastes is one of the classic philosophical texts of Western civilization for a reason.

Ecclesiastes is narrated by Koheleth, introduced as one of the kings of Jerusalem, and the book purports to be his wisdom on life. Koheleth expounds that human affairs are inherently unreliable, with death and time working to unmake everything that men create. Ultimately, the only thing we can do is enjoy life while we still have it:

10:12 The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.

10:13 The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness.

10:14 A fool also is full of words: a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him?

Returning to the Bible after nearly a decade out of high school, what struck me about Ecclesiastes was how un-Christian it reads, or at the very least how un-Christian it sounds compared to mainstream Christianity. Indeed, in Koheleth’s conception of the world, God barely figures at all, except as an authority figure beyond death’s grip, something that is ultimately unknowable. Ecclesiastes is focused on the here and now, on making the most of the moment before death comes to claim us all.

Not only that, even by Biblical standards, Ecclesiastes is unusually pessimistic, even misanthropic.

Koheleth is consistently doubtful of humanity’s ability to learn from its mistakes. No one ultimately knows the end goal of wisdom and what is best for men, and anyone who does claim to know is arrogant beyond belief and dangerous. Do you really need me to point out the relevance of this assertion? Look around us; the people who claim to know what’s best for humanity are the ones driving it to extinction. Presidents launching pointless wars; communists forcibly redistributing crops at gunpoint; social justice warriors who think children as young as five should be allowed to get sex change operations; the list goes on.

If my teachers had pointed me to Ecclesiastes, I probably would have paid more attention in class.

I have two problems with Trevor’s edition of Ecclesiastes, both relatively minor. The first is that like with his compilation of Raoul Vaneigem’s works, he fails to include an introduction of any kind. While this isn’t as big a deal considering that there’s plenty of scholarship on the Bible already, it makes the book seem somewhat incomplete. Additionally, for some reason, the Spanish-language volume comes before the English version, despite the fact that the primary audience of Ecclesiastes is native English speakers. Again, it’s not a big deal considering you can just skip to the English version using the Table of Contents, but it seems odd.

Aside from these two dings, Ecclesiastes is a great buy. If you’re not familiar with the Bible, you need to read it so you can better understand Western philosophy and thought. If you are familiar with the Bible, Trevor’s take on Ecclesiastes makes for a nice addition to your collection.

Click here to buy Ecclesiastes.

Read Next: The Evolutionary Psychology Behind Politics by Anonymous Conservative

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Comments

  1. says

    Reading original works is always better than reading a second hand rip-off. Which is why folk would benefit by reading the original Indo-European works that the Bible plagiarised from. The Epic of Gilgamesh is the story that ‘Noah & the Ark’ is based on; The clash between the Giants and the Gods (cf. Ragnarok) is the story that ‘the War in Heaven’ is based on; The life story of Buddha is the story that ‘Jesus’ is based on (cf. Cristian Lindtner http://www.jesusisbuddha.com); and so on. Read the originals, the Indo-European originals like the Havamal, and you’ll be alot more inspired than reading the second-hand Judeo-centric waffle from the bible.

  2. says

    20 years ago I taught Ecclesiastes to high school students. You are correct, they loved the book and related to its message. Since then I have been reading every translation of Kohelet I can find and then went back to the original and translated it into english. Now I have memorized it and tour it around as a one person performance. People love hearing Kohelet speak, especially as he is cooking Mirza Ghasemi on stage – “Eat your food with gladness and drink your wine with a joyful heart for today your work is blessed by God.”

  3. says

    @ Nate
    In response to the assumption that the bible is a good read, rather than the truth – that it is a plagiarised text. I haven’t seen any posts in the androsphere remarking that the bible is re-hashed Middle-Eastern mythology, so I figured I may aswell post a comment about it. You know, spread the good word, so to speak..

  4. says

    the book of Ecclesiastes is interesting, it is a study of cynicism. The author uses the phrase “under the sun” throughout to signal that the activity (seeking glory through wisdom, work, and pleasure) is of the earth and therefore futile. He switches to “under the heavens” to signal that now he is talking about work, pleasure, and wisdom through God and not through worldly endeavors. Anything without God is futile…like dust in the wind. It re-opened my eyes to the book of Ecclesiastes after someone told me this.

  5. says

    Ecclesiastes is a wise man’s answer to the question, “What lasting benefit do you gain from all your hard work?” The location for this search is “under the sun” or “under the heavens” (two phrases for the same location). The reason people often mistake him for a cynic is that he is examining all our work from two perspectives. All the things we work for, wisdom, money, fame, pleasure, can be pursued as a goal or accepted as a gift from God in our daily lives. As a goal these pursuits will fail us, they are futile. For example, he says “The pursuit of wisdom is futile for in days to come the wise person, like the fool will die and be forgotten,” but later he says, “the wise can see where they are going,” and “wisdom preserves the lives of those that possess it.” Anything pursued as an end it itself is futile, even if it is pursued with the best of intentions.

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