Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Ecclesiastes, or The Preacher (cf. i. 1,12) (the title is a translation of the Greek title Koheleth, which probably means one who calls an assembly), a poetical book of the Bible, attributed to Solomon by Jewish and ecclesiastical tradition - as well as by some modern critics. Chapter ii. and other passages, indeed, seem distinctly to assert his authorship, though some ancient Jewish critics believed that the work had been edited after the reign of Hezekiah. But it is now very generally believed to be much later than the Captivity, even by orthodox critics (e.g. Delitzsch), partly on the ground of its language, which appears very late in vocabulary and grammar, and contains Aramaisms; partly from some of its alleged allusions to contemporary history (e.g. iv. 13, v. 8, x. 16), which are thought to point to the misrule during either the Persian or Macedonian supremacy, and partly from certain alleged affinities to Greek philosophy, Epicureanism (e.g. ii. 21), the doctrine of the highest good (ii. 3), and the Stoic doctrine of cyclic progress (iii.). But the significance of these allusions, especially the last-named, has been much disputed. On the strength of this internal evidence various dates have been assigned to it, ranging from shortly after the return from the Captivity to the reign of Herod the Great. There is almost as much variety in the ideas of commentators regarding its plan and scope. The author gives his own experience of life, which in a certain sense has left him a pessimist. He has found that wisdom and knowledge, luxury and power, are all alike vanity; men are subject to the inscrutable law of God, who gives to each as He wills. And the author decides for submission to the law of God (xii. 13 and iii. passim.), the life of righteousness, and the acceptance of the calm happiness of ordinary simple human life (iii. 12, v. 18, xi. 9). Perhaps this is vindicated against the growing strictness that culminates in Pharisaism (of. vii. 16). But there are sceptical and pessimistic passages, and critics have found several inconsistencies of thought. Again: while some critics have detected an elaborate arrangement of the poem in strophe and antistrophe, others have thought the work unfinished and edited after the writer's death, partly from his rough notes; and passages have, it is maintained, been modified to suit the needs of Jewish orthodoxy. There seems to be a considerable element in the book of the proverbial wisdom which is embodied in Proverbs and Ecclesiasticus. There is little doubt that the writer lived in Palestine, and was familiar with the Temple worship. Orthodox critics dispute the significance of the alleged allusions to the post-exilic period and to Greek thought, and assert that the peculiarities of the language are the effect of Solomon's intercourse with his foreign wives. The opening and closing portions especially are of great poetic beauty and dignity. The genuineness of the last chapter is much debated. The canonicity of the work was disputed between the Jewish schools of Hillel and Shammai, and was not agreed upon till after the destruction of Jerusalem. Luther wrote a commentary on it, and the works dealing with it are very numerous. Of recent commentaries those of De Ginshurg, Dr. C. H. H. Wright, Dean Plumptre, and Mr. T. Tyler may be mentioneel. The latter has attempted to show the influence of Greek philosophy. M. Renan has also written a somewhat flippant and unsympathetic treatise on the book.