Saturday, April 24, 2010


Chapter 9, 11:

terms and concepts to look up: allegory, metaphor, analogy, fable, parable, epic, symbolism, literalism, soliloquy.

Also, at the beginning of the 2nd century what was the first Christian symbol? If it was used as an acronym what did it mean? (without giving the answer this is the best way I could phrase the Q:)

Pick a couple of words and give a 42 second synopsis, next Tuesday, of the 2 or 3 you choose.

Just answer these with a quick one sentence responses.
Since the President just spoke in Israel, with all the historical dilemmas facing this region, when was the last period of time in history that there existed a Palestinian state in that region?
When Jesus comes back, as he promised, did he say that he would arrive at a certain location? Was it Jerusalem? Are you going to be taken there? Or something else? (Oooh, the answers you might give..)
Does the Bible explain the idea of blind faith -- a type of faith that can't be reasonable or logical but transcendent and personal?
How often in the NT, when there is evangelism described, is a personal testimony (story of your life) given to make an appeal for Jesus used? Where are the passages? (I know, this is more than a one sentence answer but…)
In ten words or less can you explain the meaning of life? ( Hint: from one of the Ecclesiastes chapters.) Whether pleasure or achievement or contentment ...struggle, pain, endurance, wisdom etc.

In our brief look at this piece of "Wisdom Literature" here in the OT we have seen struggle and tension between colliding views of life. The Qoleheth is writing of these distinctive conflicting views from the stand point of "under the sun and under heaven." The wisdom of our contemporary culture could be stated as such: " the race is to the swift and the battle to the strong.” With all the epics of literature and man's struggle against fate written about. But this expression is a fundamental denial of something that is spoken of in scripture itself.

Ec 9:9-12 --read this portion--

{In verse 18: sin is in the same mode as folly throughout the wisdom literature format. They are equivalent.} Am I correct in this?

Appreciation and success in life or….

that is just the way life is:
As viewed with a good portion of wisdom and perceived-- under the sun. The race is not always to the best, swiftest, cunning, charismatic and such because sometimes the race is fixed. Against the will and desire and choice of the individual.

Ec 11 and “investing in the future.” in the ‘bread and water’ poetic phrasing. Looking at life from the vantage of the “long haul.” Rather than trying to find meaning in our life from immediate pleasure and immediate consumption. This is WISDOM. Sowing your seed for the future. Whether labor or money or devotion, we invest these with the future in mind. But in chapters 9 and 11 we can’t and aren’t given this privilege of being able to view the future. Thus, a race isn’t based on cute lock solid ten-point principles to live by.

Here are three men who are my examples for these ideas: come up with some yourself.

1. Bach: How did is life and work turn out for his life? Not after word but in life. He published …10, SDG, …

2. Mendelssohn: the same. Look him up. Or wait for Tuesday.

3. Herman Melville: Here is a fuller answer.

(1819 –1891) was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. His first two books gained much attention, though they were not bestsellers, and his popularity declined precipitously after only a few years. By the time of his death he had been almost completely forgotten, but his longest novel, Moby-Dick — largely considered a failure during his lifetime, and most responsible for Melville's fall from favor with the reading public — was re-recognized in the 20th century as one of the chief literary masterpieces of both American and world literature.
Moby-Dick has become Melville's most famous work and is often considered one of the greatest literary works of all time. It was dedicated to Melville's friend Nathaniel Hawthorne. It did not, however, make Melville rich. The book never sold its initial printing of 3,000 copies in his lifetime, and total earnings from the American edition amounted to just $556.37 from his publisher, Harper & Brothers. Melville also wrote Billy Budd, White-Jacket, Typee, Omoo, Pierre, The Confidence-Man and many short stories and works of various genres.

If it is considered by you'll as a good, it is my intention to read the 9th chapter of this epic allegory. In the book Father Mapple is a pastor and former whaler speaking to those attending his fictional seaport town church before the crew leaves port.

Yes, read some. I am not a terrific crafter and delineator of all the tones and nuance of these written words but this is worth the try. It is that good. Why? It works because with the words to look up this week it will shed a dimension on the “story-allegory-parable” of Jonah that is not taken up in the 4 chapters in the book of Jonah. I’ll find out how much each of you knows or remembers about this classic. Should be a rich 8 to 10 minutes. There are some 126 chapters or something close to that in the book.


In the Tanakh/Old Testament of the Bible, Jonah is mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25 (as a prophet in the time of King Jeroboam II) and in the Book of Jonah. Jonah is also mentioned in the New Testament, in Matthew 12:38-41 and Luke 11:29-32. He was the son of Amittai (meaning 'My Faithfulness'), from the Galilean village of Gath-hepher near Nazareth.

The book of Jonah is read every year on Yom Kippur as the Haftorah at mincha.


is a city in northern Iraq and the capital of the Ninawa Governorate, some 396 km (250 miles) northwest of Baghdad. The original city stands on the west bank of the Tigris River, opposite the ancient city of Nineveh on the east bank, but the metropolitan area has now grown to encompass substantial areas on both banks, with five bridges linking the two sides. Despite having a large Kurdish population it does not form part of the area controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government.
The fabric Muslin, long manufactured here, is named for this city. Another historically important product of the area is Mosul marble.
In 1987, the city's population was 664,221 people; the 2004 population estimate was 2,339,800, and by 2008, population was estimated to be 2,600,000.[1] It is Iraq's second largest city after Baghdad, and substantially larger than Basra, the third largest city of Iraq.
The city is also a historic center for the Nestorian Christianity of the Assyrians, containing the tombs of several Old Testament prophets such as Jonah and Nahum.

Biblical Nineveh

The Middle East through the eyes of the ancient Israelites
In the Bible, Nineveh is first mentioned in Genesis 10:11: "Ashur left that land, and built Nineveh." Some modern translations interpret "Ashur" in the Hebrew of this verse as the country "Assyria" rather than a person, thus making Nimrod the builder of Nineveh.
Though the Books of Kings and Books of Chronicles talk a great deal about the Assyrian empire, Nineveh itself is not again noticed till the days of Jonah, when it is described (Jonah 3:3ff; 4:11) as an "exceeding great city of three days' journey", i.e., probably in circuit. This would give a circumference of about 100 km (60 miles). It is also possible that it took three days to cover all its neighborhoods by walking, which would match the size of ancient Nineveh. At the four corners of an irregular quadrangle are the ruins of Kouyunjik, Nimrud, Karamles and Khorsabad. These four great masses of ruins, with the whole area included within the parallelogram they form by lines drawn from the one to the other, are generally regarded as composing the whole ruins of Nineveh. It was also mentioned in Jonah that Nineveh was an evil city that needed to be condemned. To fix this problem, God sent Jonah to preach to Nineveh, and they repented.
Nineveh was the flourishing capital of the Assyrian empire (2 Kings 19:36; Isa. 37:37). The book of the prophet Nahum is almost exclusively taken up with prophetic denunciations against this city. Its ruin and utter desolation are foretold (Nahum 1:14; 3:19, etc.). Its end was strange, sudden, tragic. (Nahum 2:6–11) According to the Bible, it was God's doing, his judgement on Assyria's pride (Jonah Nah). In fulfilment of prophecy, God made "an utter end of the place". It became a "desolation". Zephaniah also (2:13–15) predicts its destruction along with the fall of the empire of which it was the capital.
Nineveh's exemplary pride and fall are recalled in the Gospel of Matthew (12:41) and the Gospel of Luke (11:32).

Nineveh in classic history:
Before the excavations in the 1800s, historical knowledge of the great Assyrian empire and of its magnificent capital was almost wholly a blank. Vague memories had indeed survived of its power and greatness, but very little was definitely known. Other cities that had perished, such as Palmyra, Persepolis, and Thebes, had left ruins to mark their sites and tell of their former greatness; but of this city, imperial Nineveh, not a single vestige seemed to remain, and the very place on which it had stood became only matter of conjecture.
In the days of the Greek historian Herodotus, 400 BC, Nineveh had become a thing of the past; and when Xenophon the historian passed the place in the Retreat of the Ten Thousand the very memory of its name had been lost. It was buried out of sight.

Week 4

Kairos (καιρός) is an ancient Greek word meaning the "right or opportune moment". The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies "a time in between", a moment of undetermined period of time in which "something" special happens. What the special something is depends on who is using the word. While chronos is quantitative, kairos has a qualitative nature.

In rhetoric

Kairos was central to the Sophists, who stressed the rhetor's ability to adapt to and take advantage of changing, contingent circumstances. In Panathenaicus, Isocrates writes that educated people are those “who manage well the circumstances which they encounter day by day, and who possess a judgment which is accurate in meeting occasions as they arise and rarely misses the expedient course of action”. Kairos is also very important in Aristotle's scheme of rhetoric. Kairos is, for Aristotle, the time and space context in which the proof will be delivered. Kairos stands alongside other contextual elements of rhetoric: The Audience which is the psychological and emotional makeup of those who will receive the proof; and, To Prepon which is the style with which the orator clothes their proof.

In theology

The term "kairos" is used in theology to describe the qualitative form of time. In rhetoric kairos is "a passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved. In the New Testament kairos means "the appointed time in the purpose of God", the time when God acts

  • (e.g. Mark 1.15, the kairos is fulfilled). Metanoeo; met-an-o-eh'-o; to change one's mind and amend with abhorrence one's past sins. and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." kai legwn (5723) oti Peplhrwtai (5769) o kairov (the decisive epoch waited for or opportune or seasonable time, the right time) kai hggiken (approaching, coming near5758) h basileia tou qeou; metanoeite (5720) kai pisteuete (5720) en tw euaggeliw.

It differs from the more usual word for time which is chronos (kronos). chronobiology, chronometer

  • Mathew 2:7: Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared (exposed to view and resplendent). Tote Hrwdhv laqra kalesav (5660) touv magouv hkribwsen (5656) par' autwn ton xronon tou fainomenou (5730) asterov (astare'),
  • zeitgeist: the spirit of the time; the spirit characteristic of an age or generation, The general moral, intellectual, and cultural climate of an era, Zeitgeist is German for “time-spirit.” For example, the Zeitgeist of England in the Victorian period included a belief in industrial progress, and the Zeitgeist of the 1980s in the United States was a belief in the power of money and the many ways in which to spend it.
  • Yeom or yowm: Day as opposed to night, day as in circadian or 24 hours, a division of time, a 'day's' journey, time in general, a calender year, temporal references of either today or yesterday or tomorrow. A continuation to fullness, ever, whole, age, afternoon, day of days.

Asides: The NT never quotes Ecclesiastes.
Sophists. Sophia and the Italian beauty. Sophoi in their occupation.
Propaganda and proposition.

Post hoc means "after the fact".

post hoc fallacy

The post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this therefore because of this) fallacy is based upon the mistaken notion that simply because one thing happens after another, the first event was a cause of the second event. Post hoc reasoning is the basis for many superstitions and erroneous beliefs.
Many events follow sequential patterns without being causally related. For example, you have a cold, so you drink fluids and two weeks later your cold goes away. You have a headache so you stand on your head and six hours later your headache goes away. You put acne medication on a pimple and three weeks later the pimple goes away. You perform some task exceptionally well after forgetting to bathe, so the next time you have to perform the same task you don't bathe. A solar eclipse occurs so you beat your drums to make the gods spit back the sun. The sun returns, proving to you the efficacy of your action.
You use your dowsing stick and then you find water. You imagine heads coming up on a coin toss and heads comes up. You rub your lucky charm and what you wish for comes true. You lose your lucky charm and you strike out six times. You have a "vision" that a body is going to be found near water or in a field and later a body is found near water or in a field. You have a dream that an airplane crashes and an airplane crashes the next day or crashed the night before.
However, sequences don't establish a probability of causality any more than correlations do. Coincidences happen. Occurring after an event is not sufficient to establish that the prior event caused the later one. To establish the probability of a causal connection between two events, controls must be established to rule out other factors such as chance or some unknown causal factor. Anecdotes aren't sufficient because they rely on intuition and subjective interpretation. A controlled study is necessary to reduce the chance of error from self-deception.

The form of the post hoc fallacy can be expressed as follows: * A occurred, then B occurred. * Therefore, A caused B. When B is undesirable, this pattern is often extended in reverse: Avoiding A will prevent B.

  • More and more young people are attending high schools and colleges today than ever before. Yet there is more juvenile delinquency and more alienation among the young. This makes it clear that these young people are being corrupted by their education.
  • "I can't help but think that you are the cause of this problem; we never had any problem with the furnace until you moved into the apartment." The manager of the apartment house, on no stated grounds other than the temporal priority of the new tenant's occupancy, has assumed that the tenant's presence has some causal relationship to the furnace's becoming faulty.

It is often shortened to simply post hoc and is also sometimes referred to as false cause, coincidental correlation or correlation not causation. It is subtly different from the fallacy cum hoc ergo propter hoc, in which the chronological ordering of a correlation is insignificant.

Post hoc is a particularly tempting error because temporal sequence appears to be integral to causality. The fallacy lies in coming to a conclusion based solely on the order of events, rather than taking into account other factors that might rule out the connection. Most familiarly, many superstitious beliefs and magical thinking arise from this fallacy.

Belief in homeopathy and other alternative medicine remedies is based on this fallacy as well. Many symptoms disappear after a while; but if a remedy was applied, it is often thought the remedy "worked" when in fact not using the remedy would have had the same effect.
The regression fallacy. Exposure:

One of the most common occasions for the Regression Fallacy is illness. People are most likely to seek treatment for an illness—especially experimental treatment—when they are at their sickest, that is, their condition is an extreme one. They take a remedy, and then get better due to regression to the mean, but they attribute their regained health to the effect of the remedy. This is one reason why some people will swear by such bizarre treatments as drinking urine, or psychic surgery.
"It worked for me", they say, when all they really know is that they took the remedy and they got better. Due to regression to the mean, many people will get better no matter what treatment they take, even none at all. Some will die, luckily for the snake oil salesmen, since the dead won't be around to badmouth the snake oil that they took before dying.
Regression to the mean is one reason why it is difficult to determine whether a potential remedy is really effective; one cannot tell simply by taking it when ill.

Texas sharpshooter fallacy

The Texas sharpshooter is a fabled marksman who fires his gun randomly at the side of a barn, then paints a bullseye around the spot where the most bullet holes cluster. The story of this Texas shooter seems to have given its name to a fallacy first described in the field of epidemiology, which studies the way in which cases of disease cluster in a population.

The number of cases of disease D in city C is greater than would be expected by chance. City C has a factory which has released amounts of chemical agent A into the environment. Therefore, agent A causes disease D.

This fallacy occurs when someone jumps to the conclusion that a cluster in some data must be the result of a cause, usually one that it is clustered around. There are two reasons why this is fallacious:
The cluster may well be the result of chance, in which case it was not caused by anything.
Even if the cluster is not the result of chance, there are other possible reasons for the clustering, other than the cause chosen. For instance, in the Example, if disease D is contagious, it may be clustering around some person who carried it into the city.
At best, the occurrence of a cluster in the data is the basis not for a causal conclusion, but for the formation of a causal hypothesis which needs to be tested. Patterns in data can be useful for forming hypotheses, but they are not themselves sufficient evidence of a causal connection. In short, correlation is not causation.
This fallacy lives up to its striking name because the Texas sharpshooter takes a random cluster, and by drawing a target onto it makes it appear to be causally determined, as if the Texan were shooting at the target. Similarly, when looking at data, there is a danger of jumping to a conclusion that a random cluster is a causal pattern. Without further testing, such a conclusion is seldom if ever justified.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Chapter 7; The Tao of Narnia

Ecclesiastes and chapter 7: on pain and pleasure, comfort and consideration, wisdom and suffering.

Purely on a human level, there are many who seem to find success and prosperity while others who seek rightness before God find suffering and hardship.

Is this picture accurate or does this book say there is something we are missing in this assessment?
Is there anything to gain from suffering in the book of Ecclesiastes? Would you tell me which verses serve your answer?

Is there a verse where we are to find that we are seek as much comfort and to satisfy ourselves with pleasure where we can find it?
Why is it facile (easy) to say God is sovereign but so difficult to live it out? Does this book downplay or avoid this part of His character?

The most difficult doctrines to get in the blood stream

On our survey of Ecclesiastes there are two conflicting perspectives in this book; the site-line of heaven and the other, the world under the Sun. One eternal, under heaven, and one broken and under the sun. There is life with a view to God and there is the other, godlessness which ends in, as we have come to understand from our discussion, a useless and withering of the grass without this thing called “wisdom.“
Dostoyevsky was quoted as saying, “If God is not real, if there is no God, then all things are permissible.” Immanuel Kant said, “we must live as if there is a God. Because if we conclude there is no God then our ethical principles and decisions will ultimately be meaningless.”

God ordains things in his own purpose and time and we do things according to those times. There is a motif throughout this book and throughout the Old Testament that states this same thing. That reaffirms, again and again, this central motif that God is sovereign. It is my experience that when asked about it, almost no one thinks that God isn’t sovereign. For they conclude that if God is God he must be sovereign. It is impossible for him not to be sovereign and be less than his whole. As a doctrine this is a facile thing to know and say. Because we all affirm this on the surface. But it is one of the most difficult doctrines to get in the blood stream. To get it into the fiber of daily living. For when bad things start to happen and things befall us or others we care about, we start to question whether the sovereignty of God or the goodness of God is warranted. And we will ask -- WHY -- would a good and sovereign God allow these things to happen. Many of the theologies that flourish in our land are designed to side-step this problem. To absolve God of any responsibility for the tragedies of human life. To ultimately turn the sovereignty over to the human soul and heart. Which is, they will say, what, an error or goof of logic on God‘s part, or a part of his being away on vacation. Is this a pagan worldview?

Let’s start with Ecc 7 where it starts out, like Proverbs, with aphorisms that are short and succinct.

{We will read the chapter then discuss these together. But I’ll write a little about them here and you can write your thoughts down also.}

In verse 1:
Where there is the contrast between a good name and precious ointment. (Today ointments are inexpensive but in that day the general cost was quite high while also being rare and hard to get.) Next, the contrast is between death and birth. But here it could be taken in the pessimistic view or the transcendent view. The nihilist must curse the day of his birth. For he sees life as “Ex Nihilo.” But like the nihilist, Job when he was on the verge of his torment, said cursed be my birth. Also Moses and Jeremiah had that pessimism about circumstances at times in their writing. And yes, from the perspective of this world we can get very tired of living. We have both views available to us.

The song from Kern and Hammerstein and the 1927 musical “Show Boat” called “Ol’ Man River“ where it says---tote that barge, lift that bail, get a little drunk and you land in jail….it just keeps rollin’ along. Well that is a modern theme of this circumstance in Ecc. The endless flow of the Mississippi river from the view of a dock worker on a showboat.
…I’m tired of livin’ but scared of dying.

Is the Child who seeks God the same way? A little scared of dying? Well, for the HSH (heaven sighted human) your birth was good and your death is even better. We go home. We walk across the threshold. The day we enter in to our Father’s house. That is the day of ultimate triumph. Yet, honestly, it is a day we fear and a day we dread. We say in our heart, let’s postpone this as long as possible. Let us have a full length of days. And I am right there.

Now verse 2:
..of mourning and feasting…sorrow is better than laughter…fools in mirth but the wise in mourning. Wow, this strikes against our sensibilities doesn’t it. (Why do I want to know about this reversal of what is to be desired. Wisdom should be easier.)

The way of mourning is the way that God has chosen to move to effect our redemption and our sanctification. Jesus accepted and was given over to the course of his life being destined to the Via Della Rosa. The man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Do we not, really understand joy and the basis for our joy but in the house of mourning and not in the house of mirth. It is in weeping that we learn to contemplate the glory of God. In mourning we understand the peace of God which passes understanding.

Verse 3:
It is not that laughter is bad and the other good. No. This is the comparison of the good to the better. It is better to experience sorrow than laughter. Laughter is to be done often and loved in its place. But it is better for our growth to ….


Well, it is stated plainly right here and seems quite simple;

For by a sad countenance the heart is made better.

The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. hmmmm...

Verse 8:
The end is better than the beginning …patience is better than the proud

Verse 10:

Verse 13:
Think about the work of God. Don’t just observe it. Evaluate it, think about it. To seek it’s meaning and arrive at some sort of understanding. That is our task. To observe the capacity and doings of God. So we will come to a fuller appreciation of the character of God.

We have to learn, beloved, how to think theologically. Which we are through the Qoheleth's words.

Who can make straight what is crooked…

Verse 14:
Prosperity and adversity…consider the both of them. God has appointed the one as well as the other.
So, here is the Sovereignty issue coming across again. We are called to, in wisdom, consider the work of God. Not just Creation but the work of God in history. This is a call to reflect on the Providence of God.

Who is the author of all things mirthful and joyful?

I have tended to always take the stance that when things are good and joyful then my confidence in God is heightened. When good things happen to me. I will then spew forth thanksgiving and praise. Thank you God for this wonderful thing.
We see the hand of God when we pray earnestly and God says, yes.
But isn’t it amazing that when we want something and we pray and desire it and the answer is no, we are surrounded by doubt and the notion of---where is He? Here in this verse, if you’re wise, you will consider both. God is as sovereign in the no as He is in the yes. God is displaying His providence as much in tragedy as He is in prosperity. His sovereign rule is manifested either way.

Earlier men and women knew a secret that seems less understood today. That these men and women knew pain and tragedy much more closely than we do today. They had a high view of God because they had so much pain. They were forced to see the hand of God in the midst of their difficulties. This is why history has almost always made me run from the fact that God owns history. It is so…

And right about now I am getting a little perturbed at all these lessons on this subject. And here it is again in Ecc 7. It comes up again and again and again and again. God’s hand is in affliction. As well as the other. God is made manifest in the dark side of life also. It is said so frequently in scripture that I wonder why it is so hard to get it into my blood stream. To get a hold of it.

(Why do I often try to shut myself off from considering this? To avoid this repeated lesson about my life and it’s various situations. Why do I look for an escape when possible. An avenue of pleasure that will dull the fears and the aches that I carry daily while wondering if my life is somehow futile and unprofitable. A blur in the space of time.)

But the wise looks for the finger of God. Whether in the house of mourning or the house of mirth. In all things that take place…there is this condition of the perspective of above and below. (This is why you and I are exploring this book. Maybe there is a calling and gifting for you and I to share this with others who want WISDOM like this also.)

And finally: Verse 1 of Chapter 8

Who is like a wise man…interpretation…face shine…

We are saying and seeing here that we are not being taught here to be doer and stern faced with a sorrowful disposition. Solomon sets us up to encounter the triumph of God’s greatness, the majesty of His purpose and the joy in the heart of those that know this is our Father’s world. When we understand that He is in charge. When we UNDERSTAND the wisdom of God---it changes the countenance of our heart and faith. For example, I’ve seen women I know, radiant in there painful situation. She has something about her. It is not that she is out of touch with her surroundings and dippy concerning her reality but that she transcends it. Those are people that have wisdom. They have an understanding of the things of God. It changes the look on your face.

How is my face and demeanor? How wise am I today because I just went over this?

Parts taken from a book by R.C. Sproul
C.S. Lewis

There are many good books on this deep deep enterprise we are on. Here in scripture we are looking at a source from God’s own Spirit, in writing, sitting there for us to pry open the door and dust off the confusing aspects therein.

  • Ecclesiastes 11:5-6: You cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things(v5). Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things. 6 Sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good.


in 5---Maker/makes translated from: 'asah; to do, to work, to deal, to produce
Work/activity: ma'asah See the similarity?

‘asah is also a verb in the creation account. Though there are 6 or 7 I think to express different processes of God’s accounting of himself.

In 6---Does this imply that we should work all thru our waking hours? Or then, what is he trying to render as true and appropriate in our daily cycles? Here is sowing again. Test me on what sowing here is trying to express.

In 5 there are some things in life that, try as we might, we will never fully understand. This is Solomon's point in the verses before us today. We don't know which course the wind will take, or how bones are formed in a tiny fetus, but it happens anyway. And why? Because God is at work in everything, and the best thing we can do is trust Him. Modern-day science has cleared up many of the things that were mysteries to the people who lived thousands of years ago, but we are still faced with a good many unexplained phenomena.

Don’t Disturb

In 6 however, whether mysteries can be explained or not - we must carry on living. "Sow in the morning and don't be idle in the evening" is Solomon's next word. He is not saying, of course, that we ought to work all through the day, or that it is wrong to have a time of leisure and relaxation; rather, he is pointing out the benefits of having other interests besides work. There is something wrong in the lives of those who, having finished their day's work, hang a sign on the door of their lives that says: "Do Not Disturb." If, after your day's work, you are too tired to focus on something else then perhaps you ought to re-evaluate that part of your lifestyle. (It's easy for me to tell you that because I've done it. Or it may be that I just thought about doing it. Don’t disturb me, I’ll think about it later.)

Some other aphorisms

  1. the essence of good taste is never to be offended by bad taste
  2. politics is theology applied
  3. Linus: I love mankind it's people I can't stand. But widom says that mankind or humanity stinks but humans can do good.
  4. I want to rid evil from the world -- but -- I don't want to get my hands dirty. Here it says work towards something.
  5. What to say when in doubt: the tough truth rather than the hapless lie?
  6. Peter appealed to 3 matters on the historical record; 1) miracles of Jesus 2) the resurrection 3) fulfillment of OT prophecy.

The Chronicles of Narnia and Lewis’ Philosophy, “There is a Tao of Narnia.”

Tao is the term that C. S. Lewis uses to describe “the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false.”
In other words, the Tao of Narnia is what theologians call natural law—the belief that moral truths are present in the natural world that can be known by all, which, in Narnia, includes dwarves, fauns, centaurs, and mice.
As Mosteller notes from his book, Lewis does not argue for the Tao in his Narnia books; he illustrates it. Accepting the Tao involves three things:

  1. “ A commitment to an objective moral order that is independent of what I or anyone else thinks;
  2. an openness to moral development only within the Tao, and
  3. a willingness to follow the Tao in all situations.”
The characters in Prince Caspian illustrate various responses to the Tao. For example, the valiant mouse Reepicheep wholeheartedly accepts the Tao and strives to live by it—even at the loss of his tail.
By contrast, King Miraz denies that loyalty to his nephew Caspian, the true king of Narnia, is a valid moral demand. Yet, he demands unswerving loyalty from his own men. In other words, Miraz tries to pick and choose which elements of the Tao he wants to live by. But as Mosteller notes, this is impossible because “all parts of the Law rest on the same self-evident moral axioms; any moral values the picker-and-chooser may appeal to have no authority outside the Tao as a whole.”

We also have the dwarf Nikabrik, who wants to conjure up the White Witch for help in overturning Miraz. Nikabrik is the ultimate pragmatist: To him, moral truth is whatever works. As Mosteller observes, Nikabrik fails to realize that the Tao is not just one morality among many: “It is the only morality—Aslan’s Owner’s Manual for true success and fulfillment, for Humans and Talking Beasts alike.”

These days—as in Lewis’s time—schools routinely teach that there is no objective moral truth: Morality is subjective, a matter of just personal preferences. And then they wonder why kids lie, cheat, and steal. As Lewis himself observed, “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue . . . We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”

Stories like Prince Caspian reveal, in the most exciting and dramatic way, that there is an objective moral law known to, and binding upon, us all. May we see the movie and come away as brave as Reepicheep and noble as the Lion.

Chapter 2: Wisdom of Proverbs 8

Week 2

Please read again Ecclesiastes 2 plus contemplate on the whole rest of the book. Find the places in almost every chapter where Solomon refers to "under the sun" which he uses as a point or demarcation for the reader to focus their lens of understanding on.

Read Proverbs 8. If you would, read 1-9, for it is all an overarching theme of wisdom as a 'women'. Then read, below, "Who is Wisdom"

Terms to look up: figurative language, literary genre, personification, encomium, proposition, humanism, idealism, Epicureanism, hedonistic, materialist, empiricist


I’m an enthusiast for "the Bible as literature." There are, of course, liabilities to this popularized label since in some circles it runs the risk of implying that the Bible is only literature and therefore devoid of the special authority that Christians ascribe to it as a religious book.

No less a literary giant than C. S. Lewis expressed that same reservation when he accused those who read the Bible "as literature" of reading the Bible "without attending to the main thing it is about." Two sentences later, however, Lewis asserted unequivocally, "There is a saner sense in which the Bible, since it is after all literature, cannot properly be read except as literature; and the different parts of it as the different sorts of literature they are." What Lewis meant is that the Bible is composed of different kinds (genres) of literature — narrative, poetry, prophecy, epistle (authoritative teaching in the form of a letter), and so on — and each part of the Bible must be read according to the kind of literature it is. It is this principle I propose to explain: literary genre should influence our interpretations, and an awareness of literary genre can spare us from misreading of the Bible (though that is not its only usefulness).

How to Misread Proverbs 8.

One biblical text that illustrates this principle is a famous poem that praises wisdom (Prov. 8:22–31). Here are the first five verses of the poem:
The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.
Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth,
before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world. (ESV)

Who is speaking here? The lead-in to the speech answers the question: "Does not wisdom call?" (v. 1); and in verse 12, we read, "I, wisdom, dwell with prudence." The repeated first-person references (my lips, my mouth, etc.), therefore, are to wisdom.

How to Recognize Personification.

As I said earlier, I will make the case for literary genre as an effective way to spare us from misreading the Bible. We noted that wisdom is the speaker in Proverbs 8. Wisdom, someone might protest, cannot speak. Well, yes she can if she is a personification of an abstract concept.

Poets have always used personification, and biblical writers did as well. Just recall some famous examples: "

  • Sin is crouching at the door" (Gen. 4:7 ESV).
  • "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Ps. 85:10 KJV). "
  • Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death" (James 1:15 ESV).
  • My personal favorite is Zechariah’s vision of a woman named Wickedness sitting inside a cereal container (Zech. 5:6–8).

How can you know when a writer-poet has used personification?

It is not complicated: whenever a poet attributes human qualities to some- thing inanimate, often an abstraction, he or she has used personification.

This takes us back to Proverbs 8. The main subject of Proverbs chapters 1–9 is wisdom, which is an abstract quality or character trait rather than a person, but wisdom is treated as a woman from the first chapter right through chapter 9. Wisdom is portrayed as:

  • a woman of dazzling attractiveness and virtue, who teaches in the marketplace of the town (1:20),
  • who is romantically embraced (4:8–9),
  • who can be addressed as "my sister" (7:4),
  • who utters a long speech commending herself to the public (chap. 8),
  • and who builds a house and invites people to an alluring banquet (9:1–6).

Is Proverbs 8 Literal Fact or Literary Fiction?

We would make so much more sense of biblical poetry if we would simply acknowledge that poetry is a form of fiction and quite often of fantasy. In its usual pose, it asserts something that we know to be literally untrue and often openly fantastic. Surely personification illustrates this in its pure form. We all know that blood does not literally cry from the ground (Gen. 4:10) and that light and truth are not literally travel guides to Jerusalem (Ps. 43:3). Similarly, in Proverbs 1–9, wisdom is not literally a woman who speaks eloquently about herself and prepares a banquet. Wisdom is a quality of the soul.

The purpose of the entire eighth chapter is to praise and exalt wisdom. In conducting this praise, the writer invents a fictional creation story in which wisdom, as an attribute of God, was actually present at creation. Proverbs 3:19 tells us propositionally that "the Lord by wisdom founded the earth." Proverbs 8 turns that statement into a fictional narrative in which a personified wisdom was present at the creation of the world. It is as simple as that.

Proverbs 8 as an Encomium.

A proper understanding of Proverbs 8 does not absolutely depend on viewing the poem as an encomium, but the dynamics of the passage will fall even more into place if we do so. The encomium, one of the most beautiful and exalted types of literature used in the Bible, is a composition in praise of either an abstract quality or a general character type.

First Corinthians 13 is an encomium in praise of love,
Hebrews 11 in praise of faith,
and Proverbs 31:10–31 in praise of the virtuous wife.

The writer of an encomium conducts the praise by using a standard set of literary motifs (elements):

(1) introduction to the subject, (2) the distinguished and ancient ancestry of the subject, (3) a list of the praiseworthy acts and qualities of the subject, (4) the indispensable and/or superior nature of the subject, and (5) a conclusion urging the reader to emulate the subject. Proverbs 8 has all of these familiar motifs. In verses 22–31, we find the motif of the ancient and distinguished ancestry of wisdom, which was present from the beginning and even participated in the creation of the world.

All Literature Requires Interpretation.

I can imagine some readers questioning whether what I have said in this article introduces an element of subjectivity into the interpretation of the Bible. After all, whether the speaker in Proverbs 8 is a personified wisdom and whether the passage is an encomium are decisions that the interpreter makes. Yes, they are, but two things need to be asserted in regard to this.

First, all texts require interpretive decisions, and the more literary and more ancient the text, the more interpretive decisions are potentially required.

Second, all interpretive decisions involve an element of subjectivity. To decide that a statement in the Bible is figurative is no more subjective than to decide that it is literal. This element of subjectivity, moreover, does not mean that all interpretive decisions are entirely subjective. With practice we can learn to recognize what kind of literature we are reading and let that influence our interpretation. We can get a sense of the meaning that was intended in the original autographs.

1. Leland Ryken,
2. C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1958), 3.
3. R.C. Sproul
4. F.F. Bruce, Kaiser and …
5. Gleason Archer

Ecclesiastes 2:25-26

I also used to blame this book, unworthily, for what I regarded it as saying, that it was similar to the philosophy of Epicureanism. The frame of mind to eat, drink and be merry for we only go around once.
But this charge I held is false on several counts.

I found that the text is not translated correctly.
I missed the point that death is not the natural sequel to eating and drinking.

The translation issue is corrected by it reading, "There is not a good {inherent} in a person that he or she should be able to eat, drink or get satisfaction from his {or her} work. Even this, I realized, was from the hand {or 'the power' of God."} This translation avoids the phrase "there is nothing better." Even though such a comparative form does exist in somewhat similar formula in Ec. 3:12 and 8:15, it does not appear in the context. Furthermore, the writer is not saying at the point that no other options exist for the race other than to try calmly to enjoy the present. This would, like I thought, be hedonistic and materialistic philosophy of life that would effectively cut God off from any kind of consideration.

The Qoleheth's point is not one of despair--"There's nothing left for us to do than the basically physical acts of feeding one's face and trying to get as many kicks out of life as we can." Rather, his point is that whatever good or value is to be found, its worth cannot be determined merely be being part of the human race.
We mortals must realize that if we are to achieve satisfaction and pleasure from anything in life, even things as base and mundane as eating and drinking, we must realize that it all comes from the hand of God. The source of pleasure, joy and goodness does not reside in the human person, and humanism or idealism would want us to believe. This has been something quite difficult for me to shed.

  • Ec. 2:25 is more adamant on this point. Who will be able to find any enjoyment unless they first find the living God who is the only true source of all joy, satisfaction and pleasure? The text assures us that "without Him" such satisfaction is a lost search.
  • Ec. 2:26 carefully sets forth the distribution of joy. It is a matter of pleasing God first. The opposite of pleasing God is "one who continues to live in sin." This same contrast between pleasing god and being a sinner is found in Ec. 7:26 and 8;12-13. Another way to define the one continually choosing sin is "one who does not fear god."

God will grant three gifts to those, according to Ecclesiastes, who please him: wisdom, knowledge and joy. but to the ‘marred focused sinner’ who persists in trying to remake God's world, there is also an outcome: "a chasing after the wind." This reference to the chasing of wind is to the frustrating activity in which the person works night and day to heap things up only to find in the end that he must, and as a matter of fact does, turn them over to the one who pleases God.

So when Solomon says, “Eat, drink, and be merry.” Is he presenting a
nihilist, hedonist world view, like the beer commercial, “You only go around
once in life, so go for all the gusto you can get”?

No, if you read Ecclesiastes, you will see that he spends all of Chapter 2
on the stupidity of pleasure-seeking. He got all the gusto he could get, and
was empty. What he says in Ecclesiastes is to work and to do good, and to
enjoy the fruits of our labor. This is a consistent theme in the Bible, that we
are to work, and we are to rest and to enjoy the fruits of our labor. This is
what the Sabbath is all about. God rested and enjoyed the fruit of His labor,
and we are to also. Solomon says, in Ec 6:3, that there is no tragedy greater
than a person who works his whole life and never enjoys the fruit of his labor. The person who heaps things up in this life, beyond what he can really use or enjoy in this life, is a fool. Solomon is perfectly consistent with Paul, who said, “I have found the secret of contentment in every situation,” (Phil 4:12),

  • “Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it,” and also “Make it your aim to work with your hands,” (1 Thess 4:11) and
  • “Whatever you do, do it with all your might, as unto the Lord.” (Col 3:23)
Compare this with Solomon, who said,
  • “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might,” (Ec 9:10), “When God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work– this is a gift of God,” (Ec 5:19)
  • and “I know there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.” (Ecc 3:12)
Solomon is not encouraging great self-indulgence, but rather, enjoying the simple things of life, neither being lazy and wallowing in pleasure, nor working endlessly without ever enjoying ourselves. This is quite different from the type of “eating and drinking” which Paul condemns in 1 Corinthians 15:32, when he quotes Isaiah 22:13. Isaiah 22:13 speaks of the “revelry” of the people at a time when they should have turned to the Lord in repentance.

5 types of Biblical writings

Each type of writing has its own special considerations for biblical interpretation.
The author's intent is somewhat implied by the type of literature.

A. Historical narrative (55% OT, 66% NT)

Matt: Written with the Jews in mind; starts with a genealogy, presents Jesus as King
Mark: Written with the Romans in mind; presents Jesus as Servant
Luke: Written with the Greeks in mind; presents Jesus as perfect Man
John: The gospel of belief unto eternal life; presents Jesus as Son of God
Acts: The early church in transition

Much of the Old Testament

B. Wisdom literature


C. Poetic literature

Song of Solomon

D. Epistles

Written to:
Individual people: Titus, Timothy
Specific churches: Ephesus, Philippi, Corinth
Regions: Galatians
Groups of people: Hebrews, Romans

Generally for the purpose of:
Solving a problems or...
Instructing in proper conduct for Christians and Christian workers.

E. Prophecy

Major & minor prophets
Book of Revelation

Chapter 3: Time-Purpose-Beauty


What time is it? What time is it for you personally?
Is there another alternative way of telling time in this book?
The description and concept of Coram Deo--what is it and what does it mean?
Who are 4 of the more prominent Existential philosophers?
Is the axiom “ignorance is bliss” true or not?
What is the answer this chapter provides as an antidote to pessimism?
Does this chapter deal with the appropriate time to act or not to act?
Are their exceptions to these timely purposes? Such as hate or kill or war?
Is there anytime that we should hate? A time of appropriate hate?
There are at least three different words in the NT (New Testament) for time that I can think of. What are there different meanings? Find a few scriptures in the gospels that use these different words?
Does this chapter implicitly make reference to the Will of God?
Is Ecclesiastes a book that Christians should study --but-- its time and place has past. Now, our devotion and pertinence is to the New Testament?

Terms to know and research: Beneficence, Benevolent, implicit vs. explicit, informal fallacy of “propter hoc ergo post hoc” (really, It just might be good to know these)

We are living in a revival of ancient skepticism and unprecedented times of pessimism. We are assaulted on almost every side by the theme of negative existential philosophy.

Which teaches, among others, one of two things:
Right now doesn’t count at all
Right now counts for right now and only now and that’s all.
And if right now is all we have then there is not a bit of difference of what now means and nothing in the end. Either is a frightening existence.

The lasting significance of life. Were all concerned about this. How our effort and production will count, and not wanting to work for what perishes. So Coram Deo is Latin for that which ‘counts forever.’ Everything has eternal significance. Nothing is cyclical here in this truth. Everything we do has this regard in time. If this book, Ecclesiastes is right. Which trust ,in our journey of faith, makes assured.


So the 1st chapter deals with vanity or the perishable transience of life.
The 2nd is regarding the Qoheleth and his speaking on the pain or sorrow in the acquisition of wisdom. The axiom “ignorance is bliss” is true in a way. The more knowledge we acquire the more wisdom we gain the more pain we are alert to. This chapter deals with the vanity of pleasure. For me and all of us, the most common response to pain and the threat of a fruitless life is to seek temporary joy in pleasure. The ancient world and it’s vantage point of the lifestyle of hedonism. But here it says that that also, is vanity. Whatever pleasure is gleaned will in this earth bound pursuit will always be less that satisfying in the end.

The conclusion of the 2nd is?

Then on to the profound ideas of chapter 3.

read here the 1st part of chapter 3

The folk song written by Seeger uses the poetic repetition of “turn-turn-turn” as it were, a cyclical orientation of life and time. People say there are many interpretations of these verses but here in chapter 3, a season speaks of a time of purpose in everything under heaven. This heavenly perspective brings a timeliness to and a purpose for everything we do. This right here, provides the answer for pessimism. If there is a purpose and a meaning to what I do then and the timeliness of it, then what we do matters. It is not a cycle of just random reoccurring life conditions we must deal with.

What is appropriate to do?

Fact: We can do the right thing at the wrong time. Or the wrong things at the right time. To solve these problems Wisdom leads us to do the appropriate thing, given the options; given the situation; given the timeliness of it and assessing the whole of it. Ethics and behavior always takes place in a concrete situation. Our life is lived in a very concrete manner. So is this the type of wisdom we must have, the type that we just don’t have at times, how does it come in these concrete junctions in our life? How do we get it?

But the author here expounds on a simple yet profound term here in ‘timely purposes’...

Verse 2:
Birth and death. They had time to do something within their time of birth and the time of death. By Jewish terms one’s days are numbered by the Lord. Then, there must be with God no untimely deaths. No premature death. God sets the time. It is His ordaining of a time and a place. (Explain this to me when we meet.)

Verse 2:
Plant and pluck. Cosmology and exploration and the diligent study that the ancients did in astronomy. They saw “wandering stars” and studied them. They named them planets, which is star wander. Phases of the moon the cycles of motion amongst them and their conclusions were that there was an average length of a solar year, average days of a lunar period and so on. All these calculations measure time. Years-days-hours-minutes-seconds were derived from these studies. But there was a very practical motivation for all this work. This wasn’t just all naked and pure scholarly pursuit, there was a commercial motivation as well.

People needed to know what time it is --so-- they could survive. They had to know what season and what part of a part of the season it was. For the optimal benefits of planting seeds. And to harvest. Whether in Maine or Oklahoma there is a time that is appropriate.

Verse 3:
Kill and heal. This is not referring to murder. But that there are times when we need and it is appropriate to inflict death. When we are sick and we take a shot we say we are going to kill this disease.

Verse 5:
Build up and bring down. Example of Jeremiah and God telling him this is the time to beak Israel down. He was to be the architect of the demolition. Renewal was to come after this tearing down. And he was so unpopular.

When there are times in our life when things must be dismantled it is very painful. To tear down so something better can be put up in it‘s place. We can all see daily in organizations that change is almost always resisted. We all like the security of sameness. Comfort thru what they are accustomed to. It’s always threatening. We always did it this way. Some change is destructive but that is not “appropriate.” We must keep growing or we will die.

Verse 4:
Weep and laugh. Mourn and dance. All these have their good and ill-suited times of use. We learn how not to mix them up and do them at the wrong setting.
Verse 8:
Time to love and a time to hate. Is there anytime that we should hate? A time of appropriate hate? And your answer is…..?

Yes. God says he hates evil and so there are times for us to be filled with repulsion of that which is destructive and hate it. To them who do evil should be hated. But the wisdom here is that one can’t be filled continually with hate, for that too is destructive. Both love and hate have their appropriate times. What do you think?

Verse 8:
War and peace. Is peace our only Godly solution? Are there clear answers for this today?

Verse 11:
Everything is beautiful in it’s time. Wow. What an affirmation of the transcendent nature of God with His sovereignty.

This is the Old T statement of “everything is beautiful in His time.” The New Testament has one very similar and Paul say’s it in Romans that “all things are working together for good to those…for His purpose.” There is purpose again, again and again.

Verse :
Put eternity in their hearts. But we can’t find out the works of God from start to finish. This our lot as Christians and children whom God has seen to reveal Himself to. A sense of eternity in our souls and we know it but, as we live each day to day none of us grasps the time frame of God. He seems to just tease us with a little notion of eternity. We have to hear His Word to have some idea of it. This will, in it’s reading and meaning, assure us that there is a time that He has established for all things.

So to conclude here, let me ask you; what time is it for you and me? And don’t look at your watch because that is not the vital question. Both in your’s, your spouse, your children’s life, your parents life, in the life of your church, your business. We live in time but we life for eternity. Or that is what I am considering that Ecclesiastes is imparting to me. Can we truly be aware of the real time that it is for us and our world?

Extra reading:

There are at least three different words for time that I can think of. What are the different meanings?

Kairos (Gk)
Chronos (Gk)
Yeom (Heb)
Zeitgeist (Ger)

Which scriptures in the gospels use which words? (Use and search and look for the Greek translation of each verse)

Mark 1:15
Mathew 2:7
Mathew 25:29
Mathew 26:18
Luke 1:20
Luke 1:57
Luke 4:5
Luke 4:13
Extra time words: epi, tote, eukairoin

Week 1 & 2: Vanity and Futility

“We're all travelers in this world. From the sweet grass to the packing house. Birth 'til death. We travel between the eternities”
Broken Trails, Robert Duvall

Week 1
A brief overview of the themes: despair, futility, pessimism, nihilism,

Hedging your bets is what I see in Greek life, as when Paul observed, they make large artistic marble sacraments to their 'the unknown God.' That is what I used to think Ecclesiastes was about.

But, upon further life experience, there are only two options about the purpose of life, and God, within Ecclesiastes.

My generation is, to quote my mentor Dennis Prager, is “The age of Stupidity.” And I have been affected by it in a serious way. But all other generations have theirs and are affected by similar foolish outlooks.

One is the example is of Hemingway's life and death and it's decidedly macabre finish in which he took. He secretly rose from his bed after his wife had gone to sleep and in the kitchen and with his favorite hunting rifle, there, he set it up to shoot himself. And he indeed did shoot himself. For he was consistent through out his career and adult life, where he took a pessimistic view of life in general. And the nature of his response to this view, was one of our first array of themes. Where he said and wrote that we must get an edge over life because death will creep in sooner or later. He said we should choose the time and place and the method of our death where ever we can see it fit in to this over all view of futility. He preached the doctrine of self-aware suicide throughout his whole life. He said we must take and use your life on one’s own terms and basis. His themes in his books were about the great struggles of life; of deprivation, or violence, or attaining and using power, or evil and of warfare and danger. He wrote about the modern existential hero who is deviant and will take a stand against a Sovereign’s notion of life. And with this view a cosmos that seems to be meaningless and of no great and timeless significance. "The Sun also rises" is his book title which is an exact quote from a book of the OT. Written in Ecclesiastes in the first chapter.

In verse 1:1 we read: …..In the opening here of this book; the words in this passage are words that drip with despair.

What we have in Ecc (Ecclesiastes) is one of the most difficult narratives of literature in the Bible to handle well. Some have thought it shouldn’t be in the canon of scripture because so much of the message is filled rightly with despair and pessimism of how life is lived. These 3,000 year old ancient writings had their own version of wisdom literature and how to understand it. A type that the Bible would use was called ‘literary pessimism.’ This type of literature was not that uncommon then. For this is the way the ancients used to seek out a way of dealing with human suffering, grief, death, mourning and of pain. Other cultures around Mesopotamia had there own versions of wisdom literature too. It was a universal attempt to try to answer that age old question of 'what's it all about'.

How can you find Godly meaning in an existence that is so filled with pain and disappointment, denial of good and flagrant treasonous living?

What was so, on the surface, apparent to me earlier in my life, is that the first chapter was written in an almost quixotic sense of perspective. You can do nothing to solve the riddles and calamities in life. Because it suggests an atmosphere of hopelessness and futile aspirations. My question to myself was is this so or is there something else I must imbibe from this statement.

But, as a result of much weariness and experience, I believe it to be so and can find firm evidence for it, that God himself inspired this book that reaches us today, was not for that understanding I started with. No. For in an expression that is 500 years old, "the HS (Holy Spirit) is not a skeptic" and is not succumbing to this outcome written for our benefit in Ecclesiastes. And for that matter, the HS is not a pessimist and doesn't deliver and surrender to despair, like I do.

So why does the HS inspire a book that starts out in the beginning chapter with "vanity" doubled?

So, to tell you in just the briefest language, it was a self conscious literary device used here in the OT as a type of apologetic device. The work of the apologist is usually reserved for technical philosophers and theologians that will formulate intellectual arguments for the truth claims of Christianity and God Himself. So ‘apologia’ is rendered in Greek for ‘a reply.‘ To answer objections that are raised by competing and contradictory worldviews.

This book sets out to take the theories and views that people take of life from an earth bound perspective and put those ideas on a collision course with the God of A-I-J, i.e. Israel. Which seeks to understand human existence always in “Coram Deo.” Always before the face of God. Always under the Sovereignty of God. Always to be lived to the glory of God. So what we see here is an exposition of these competing worldviews. There are key words that you want to look for in Ecclesiastes and these two phrases are:

  1. Under the sun
  2. Under heaven

It’s focus is on the tension between the "under the Sun" and it’s human focus and the opposite perspective and side; "under Heaven," a privileged position of ultimate truth.

Let’s go back to 1:1 and unravel what vanity is trying to describe.

The first meaning of vanity is: My Grandmother had a little table and mirror, a piece of furniture, with a chair and she called this piece of furniture a Vanity. Well, the abstract meaning of the furniture comes from the notion of one being vain and preoccupied with themselves and how the appear and look. The puffed up pride we call vanity. That is about as much as people understand vanity.

The second and the weightier and relevant meaning that the Bible wants to convey is as a synonym for the word futility. That which is vain is that which is useless, that which brings no advantage or brings no blessing and brings no profit. It is empty of any value, empty of any significance--in a word futile.

I hate the word futile. Because the thing that I fear more that anything else is the possibility our life being futile. Could life be full of futility even for the God-fearers? It is one thing to work ourselves to the bone, to sweat and to labor. To go thru all sorts of anxiety and all manner of effort. We do this, because, we are motivated by the hope or expectation of producing something that is valuable and something that is useful.
How would you feel about your labor if you came to the conclusion that in the final analysis your labor is futile. All useless. An example is that you are using your computer and writing important information and after an hour it all vanished from your file. Lost. Unrecoverable. My reaction is to so despise the notion of lost labor that you work for hours trying to recover the document rather than cutting your loses and starting all over. But the way I did it, the whole episode was a pure attempt in futility. This is the idea of vanity. It is one thing to go through pain for a ‘purpose’ it is another to go thru pain for no reason at all.

So here we have a book that is concerned with reality and starts out and states that life is vanity. But not just one vanity but, bang, vanity of vanity.

What does that phrase communicate?

It is not talking about the futility of doing work in a futile manner, rather, it is using a literary device that communicates ‘radical emphasis.’ For example, we say a man is “a man amongst men.” we say the Bible is not just a book but “ the book of Books.” Jesus isn’t a king but the “King of Kings.” So this literary structure takes the simple word “Vanity” and elevates it to the ultimate degree.

So reading here, all-all! Is vanity. This is the creed of nihilism. Everything is futile. Meaningless. In verse 3 you see the regard from the perspective of “under the sun.” Here is the framework for why it is for nothing. Also ‘generation to generation’, ‘sun up and down’, wind to the east and then north thru the circuit again’, rivers run and then run again. Even in verse 9 it says from ancient times which is from Solomon’s backward glance from his time period. Our looking back is 2,900 years.

This is the view and was one of the competing philosophies of that age in contrast to the Jewish view of history that it has a definite beginning. And is moving in a definite purpose. With a definite point of consummation. This view is on a collision course with other skeptical views of the ancient world which taught a cyclical view of history. Which was borrowed in the 19th century when Fredrick Nietzsche wrote “The Myth of Continual Recurrence.” Which he borrowed from the Greeks. Which says all of history is a circle or cycle. No beginning or end or significant meaning along the road. In contrast to a linear meaning which the Jew understood. Greeks took the pessimistic view of nothing is new. Aimlessly going nowhere.

I love Ecclesiastes because it puts all the marbles on the table or all the chips on the floor (to mix metaphors.) It brings us to a stark reality of the conflicting and ultimately competing worldviews that are offered. From no meaning to eternal purpose. There is nothing in between ultimately. Either we have value or we don’t. If all we know is from the vantage of ‘under the Sun’ then all we really can know is that the Sun rises and it sets but it is not new and it is all vanity.

What I got wrong is that this is not just a patchwork quilt of ideas to stop us from full despair. Partial uselessness, fine. This was not the only message of this book. But it is an exposition to the alternatives of biblical revelation. Next week we go on to others.

Week 2

Please read again Ecclesiastes 2 plus contemplate on the whole rest of the book. Find the places in almost every chapter where Solomon refers to "under the sun" which he uses as a point or demarcation for the reader to focus their lens of understanding on.

Terms to look up: figurative language, literary genre, personification, encomium, proposition, humanism, idealism, Epicureanism, hedonistic, materialist, empiricist.

The contents of Ecclesiastes is a book which focuses upon the limits of life to teach wisdom. The point of view, here, is that of Solomon and his name, “Qoheleth” whose wealth, wisdom, and glory placed him at the upper limit of human success. From his royal pinnacle Qoheleth surveyed life and judged it to be vanity because of the inescapable limits God and sin place on even the most successful human being. Thus the book cannot be dismissed as the disillusioned pessimism of one whom life had cheated.

Human limits are various:

  • humans cannot make straight what is crooked (Ecclesiastes 1:15);
  • what is lacking cannot be numbered (Ecclesiastes 7:13);
  • nor can humans remove injustice (Ecclesiastes 3:16) and oppression (Ecclesiastes 4:1-2; Ecclesiastes 5:8) from the earth.
  • Sometimes good folk receive evil while the wicked prosper (Ecclesiastes 7:15; Ecclesiastes 8:14; compare Psalms 73:1).

Thus, humans are unable to achieve their dreams and ambitions because of sin and because of their limited knowledge, power, and goodness. In his focus on limits Qoheleth, like Job, attacked those who selectively misuse traditional wisdom to promote a false gospel of unlimited success for the “righteous.” Even if humans do seem to succeed, like Qoheleth himself, had even this is vanity, because their knowledge is limited and imperfect: “no man (adham) can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Moreover, even the best, richest, and wisest life is ended by death. Thus even the greatest goods and achievements, indeed, “everything under the sun” must be labeled as “vanity.”

The Hebrew word translated as “vanity” is hevel whose literal meaning is “breath” or breeze. The author used this word metaphorically, often with the added phrase “striving after wind,” to express the transience, weakness, and nothingness of human life. All things pass away. His view of life was much like that of the godly psalmist who prayed,

  • “Lord, make me to know mine end that I may know how frail I am. Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity (hebel)!” (Psalms 39:4-6; compare Job 7:16; Psalms 62:9; Psalms 78:33; Psalms 144:4).
  • Elsewhere, the Bible conveys this view of human limits by the imagery of grass, which grows and withers while the Word of God alone endures forever (Psalms 90:5-6; Isaiah 40:6-8; James 1:10-11; 1 Peter 1:24). In this light, it is quite mistaken to translate hevel as “meaningless” as does the NIV throughout Ecclesiastes.

Since life is vanity, what then is good?

Qoheleth's answer has two points which are repeated several times in the book (though many commentators overlook this aspect of the book's teaching).

The first point is summarized by the editor at the end of the book:

  • “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
  • God's sovereign actions are beyond human ability to change (Ecclesiastes 7:13);
  • God has done this “that men should fear before him” (Ecclesiastes 3:14).
  • It is God who has set the limits on human life and knowledge (Ecclesiastes 7:14).

Thus Qoheleth's world is “vain,” but only in the sense noted above. It is not a world without God.

from God comes,

  • “who can eat and who can have enjoyment?” (Ecclesiastes 2:25 NAS).
  • Even if a person experiences injustice (Ecclesiastes 3:16; Ecclesiastes 5:8; Ecclesiastes 7:15; Ecclesiastes 8:14),
  • God is still a just Judge (Ecclesiastes 3:17-18)
  • who acts in His own time (Ecclesiastes 8:6; Ecclesiastes 11:9).
  • For Qoheleth, worship of God and vows made to Him are matters of utmost seriousness (Ecclesiastes 5:1-2,Ecclesiastes 5:4).
  • Since God judges sin (Ecclesiastes 5:6), people should avoid foolish talk and “fear God” (Ecclesiastes 5:7).
  • “Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life, still I know that it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly. But it will not be well for the evil man and he will not lengthen his days, like a shadow, because he does not fear God” (Ecclesiastes 8:12-13 NAS; compare Ecclesiastes 7:18).

Qoheleth's second point is:

humans do not have sovereign control over life, being limited by vanity (habel) in all its forms, especially death.

  • Because of this, they should enjoy life and its ordinary pleasures of work and play, food and drink, love and family, all as gifts from God (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26; Ecclesiastes 3:12-13; Ecclesiastes 5:18-20; Ecclesiastes 9:7-10).

If there is resignation in Qoheleth, it is that of one who has left the riddles and painful mysteries of life in God's hands, while accepting its limited joys with sober thanks.

Rom 1:18 and ‘Alethia’ and what is true in any matter under consideration. Evident-faneros-manifest

Correction: Rom 1:25 should be 1:21. 1:29 wickedness, unrightness and also evil. What of 1:30 and inventors of…evil? What gives are they the same?

Week 2:
Questions to answer---Discussion topics--movies for Tuesday---Extra reading if interested

The Nag Hammadi and gnostic codices: what are they, when and where were they discovered, and are they important today? Were the books of Solomon found there? Just spend ten to 15 minutes or so at to find the answer. It’s in Volume 3, Section B in parts 24-28.
Is this book Qoleheth getting under your skin and heart yet?
What does the word 'ecclesia-church-assembly' mean Old Testament to New? How is Paul meaning ecclesia as it concerns who he was writing to? Relate how we should understand this in our time period?
So, then, what is the New Testament understanding of ekklesia?
If this word isn't equivalent to "church," what other English word or words might better render the sense of ekklesia?
Does this have some residual wisdom on how we should understand Ecclesiastes?
How would the Greek or Roman citizen of the first century understood this word? In other words, is it alright for the meanings of words in scripture to change and morph over the centuries? We just pick up the new meaning and move along.
What do you think---does Ecclesiastes impart wisdom on how we are to live well in order to die well?
Does this book stimulate your thinking on the truths about the fragility of human life, what we should do with the life we have left, and what it takes to get to heaven?
Does this book inspire talk about the existence of God, and how to best number our days?

Here are a few more movie tie-ins as I think they relate to Ecclesiastes and wisdom, with my short summaries. I'm assuming we all like a good movie (and they are hard to find) now and then. Come next time with a thought thru opinion on these or one of your own.

Citizen Kane: Talk about the idea of money accumulation and buying things to a limitless degree. Discuss pride, hypocrisy, marriage, and what the movie says about 'to love and be loved.'
Cinderella Man: Am I willing to do right even when times are hard? discuss parental sacrifice and discipline. Bring up the ideals of prayer, humility and counting the cost even when the cost is unknown in the present circumstance.
Amazing Grace: How does having principle make decision making easier? Talk about acting on principle, a well chosen spouse, and the connection between working and a calling. I think inside the movie there is the idea and need for restitution and heroism. Tell me if you see that also.
It's a Wonderful Life: Cogitate on the contrasts between values and influence. What it means to live a rich life.
The Pursuit of Happyness: How do we find strength in the face of short or long lasting adversity. The role in bitterness as a robber of applicable wisdom, how do we overcome, and the power of the tongue.

Extra Reading:
From Mark D. Roberts blog: I performed a wedding today for a young woman from my church and her new husband. In the wedding they literally tied the knot, taking a couple of minutes to weave together three strands of rope, and then tie the strands together with several knots. The three piece of rope were meant to represent the joining of their two lives together, with the third piece standing for Christ's presence in their marriage. All of this was connected to the text of Ecclesiastes 4:12, which reads, "A threefold cord is not quickly broken." Now this couple has a memento of their wedding, something that reminds them, not only of the wedding itself, but also of the centrality of Christ in their married life.
As I was preparing to do the wedding homily, I began to wonder where the expression "tie the knot" comes from. So I googled on "tie the knot," and came up with 1,180,000 hits. After poking around a bit I discovered that there are a several theories about the origin of "tie the knot" as a way of talking about getting married.
One suggestion is that "tie the knot" derives from the time when married couples would need a new bed. Before mattress and box spring sets, beds were made from wooden frames with ropes strung across the frames, upon which were placed straw mattresses. Newlywed couples thus had to "tie the knot" of their marriage bed.
Another suggestion points to the ancient Celtic wedding ritual in which the hands of the bride and groom were ceremonially tied together to signify their marriage.

Could we hammer home, along with the discussion last week, what the various differences in "vanity" should be understood as. They are of two different word groups in Hebrew.

What is the meaning of the word vanity

Should we read vanity anywhere in the Old Testament and New that it is useless, futile and transient?
What does Paul mean when he writes in Romans 1:25 about vanity?
What does Exodus 20:7 mean when it is translated vanity? Is it the same as Ecclesiastes 1:2?
Job, David, Solomon, Jeremiah , Habakkuk and Malachi all wondered why the way of the wicked prospered. Do they have a genuine and clear answer for this fact?

  • vanity (shav')
job 7:3
jonah 2:8
exodus 20:7
Roman 1:25
psalm 119:37

  • Vanity (habel)
Psalms 39:11
Psalms 62:9
Ecclesiastes 1:2
Ecclesiastes 2:1
Ecclesiastes 4:16
Ecclesiastes 11:10
Ephesians 4:17
jeremiah 2:5

Ex 20:7, "You shall not take (carry, bear, lift) the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. "
This is not the same word as in Ecclesiastes.

Here, it is 'shav' and means: falsely, worthless, deceitfully, lying. 53x

#Fw:( shâv'’ covers a range of meaning from falsehood to wickedness and the English translation "do not take the Lord's name in vain" is a bit limp and could better be rendered "do not treat God's name falsely or wickedly", thereby making it worthless, e.g., by making a false oath in his name, or attributing evil to him, either of which destroy God's reputation.
Fortunately, the poetic works offer us some parallelisms of usage. We find #Fw:( shâv'’ occurring in poetic parallelism with:

(Fw:a ’âven wickedness, vain effort (Strong's #205) Job 11:11, Psalm 41:6

Isaiah echoes some of the same parallelisms as above when he writes:
"No one calls for justice, Nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; They conceive evil and bring forth iniquity." (Isaiah 59:4, NKJV)

Could we hammer home also the word rasha. wicked-worthless-evil-guilty…

Ecclesiastes 7:15

I have seen everything in my days of vanity:

There is a just man who perishes in his righteousness,
And there is a wicked man who prolongs life in his wickedness.

Ecclesiastes 3:17

I said in my heart,

"God shall judge the righteous and the wicked,
For there is a time there for every purpose and for every work."

râshâ‘ (Strong's #7563) "wicked" or criminal or guilty, often in opposition to God. This word occurs 263 times most frequently in the Psalms (82x), Proverbs (78x), Ezekiel (28x) and Job (26x). It is used in parallel with almost every Hebrew word for sin, evil, and iniquity. It describes the person more as an adjective whilst the noun r#) resha‘ (Strong's #7562) describes the wicked or criminal act itself, "wickedness proceeds from the wicked" (1 Samuel 24:13).

Its use is most clearly seen in its being opposed to righteousness. The contrast with righteous/righteousness is most common in the book of Proverbs where over half of the 80 occasions in which the words are used together in contrasting parallelism occur. The first time we find the word in the Bible is in Genesis 18:23 in Abraham's dialogue with God over the innocent in Sodom, "...would You also destroy the righteous cDyq tsaddîyq, Strong's #6662) with the wicked?" (cf. v25).

In the legal context we find in Numbers 35:31, "you shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death" it seems best to translate as "guilty" but it could equally be "wicked to the death" or "rotten to the core", as the preposition translated "of" is actually "to the" in Hebrew.

In the beautiful word picture of Psalm 1:4-6 the wicked (used 4 times in its 6 verses) are compared to the chaff that is driven away by the wind, they are those that are unable to stand with the righteous.

Job (12:6, 21:7), David (Psalm 73:3), Solomon (Ecclesiastes 7:15), Jeremiah (12:1), Habakkuk (1:4,13) and Malachi (3:15) all wondered why the way of the wicked prospered. In God's time (Ecclesiastes 3:17), though, the whirlwind will come upon the wicked (Jeremiah 23:19, 30:23) and in their death they will find banishment (Proverbs 14:32) whilst the righteous will find the rest that the raging soul of the wicked will never find.

"There is no peace, Says my God, for the wicked" (Isaiah 57:21)