Ecclesiastes is an Old Testament book with a long history of diverse and contradictory interpretations. Even basic questions—who wrote the book, when, and for what purpose—perennially plague scholars. The book’s theological message is likewise elusive, hidden in riddles and convoluted trains of thought that twist and turn back upon themselves.
In this expert commentary on Ecclesiastes, Peter Enns neither disregards nor attempts to resolve the book’s many theological tensions and ambiguities. Rather, he shows how these form the backdrop against which the author struggles to show readers the proper path forward in their journeys of faith—remaining true to the tradition to “fear God and keep the commands” despite the apparent futility of human existence.
“As if to frustrate humanity further, God has also set עֹלָם/ʿōlām into their hearts (v. 11). We must resist reading foreign notions of ‘eternity’ into ʿōlām (see 1:4, 10; 2:16). Qohelet is not saying that, despite this sorry state of affairs, God reminds us that there is an afterlife awaiting us, where all these questions will be answered. Rather, God has put in our hearts, that is, made us aware of, the expanse of time, both backward and forward.5 We, as human beings, are unfortunately conscious of the passage of time, and we can extrapolate on and on, both back in time and forward in time. This is precisely what Qohelet is doing, for example, in 1:9–10. He is able to say that, regardless of outward appearances, there really is nothing new—ever.” (Pages 54–55)
“I take the view that the epilogue fundamentally supports Qohelet’s observations while at the same time offering a mild ‘corrective’ by placing Qohelet’s observations in a broader (and traditional) theological context. In other words, there are elements of both confirmation and correction, but the latter is undertaken within the overall context of the former.” (Page 6)
“Since 1:2 and 12:8 frame Ecclesiastes in this way, 1:1–11 and 12:8–14 are often referred to as the frame of the book, and the speaker of these sections as the ‘frame narrator.’ How one understands the relationship between this third person frame and the first person body of Ecclesiastes will determine how one understands the message of the book as a whole.” (Page 5)
“This attitude toward reading Ecclesiastes (and the OT as a whole) is what can be referred to as a Christotelic reading.69 Rather than placing Christ ‘in’ the book of Ecclesiastes, a Christotelic reading sees Christ as the climactic end (Greek telos) of Israel’s story, which is the vantage point from which we today engage the book.” (Pages 28–29)
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Two features distinguish the Two Horizons Commentary series: theological exegesis and theological reflection. Exegesis since the Reformation era and especially in the past two hundred years emphasized careful attention to philology, grammar, syntax, and concerns of a historical nature. More recently, commentary has expanded to include social-scientific, political, or canonical questions and more. Without slighting the significance of those sorts of questions, scholars in the Two Horizons Commentary locate their primary interests on theological readings of texts, past and present. The result is a paragraph-by-paragraph engagement with the text that is deliberately theological in focus. Two Horizons Commentary is written primarily for students, pastors, and other Christian leaders seeking to engage in theological interpretation of Scripture.