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Symbol and Rhetoric in Ecclesiastes

The Place of Hebel in Qohelet’s Work

Series:

Douglas B. Miller

Interpreters of Ecclesiastes have struggled with the word hebel (traditionally "vanity" but literally "vapor"). The positions they have adopted regarding the term have influenced their interpretation of the book as a whole. This work defends a new thesis for hebel. It presents a methodology for metaphor and symbol, then demonstrates how Qohelet employs hebel in the book with referents related to "insubstantiality," "transience," and "foulness." These referents are incorporated into a single, multivalent vapor-symbol by which Qohelet represents human experience. The study provides significant substantiation for the "realist" position on Ecclesiastes: Qohelet does not declare life to be entirely meaningless or absurd, but rather says that life is filled with limitations and complications and counsels his readers how to make the most of that life. The study concludes with a proposal for the rhetoric of Ecclesiastes in light of the symbol thesis.

Paperback edition is available from the Society of Biblical Literature (www.sbl-site.org)

The Politics of Pessimism in Ecclesiastes

A Social-Science Perspective

Series:

Mark R. Sneed

Scholars attempt to resolve the problem of the book of Ecclesiastes’ heterodox character in one of two ways, either explaining away the book’s disturbing qualities or radicalizing and championing it as a precursor of modern existentialism. This volume offers an interpretation of Ecclesiastes that both acknowledges the unorthodox nature of Qoheleth’s words and accounts for its acceptance among the canonical books of the Hebrew Bible. It argues that, instead of being the most secular and modern of biblical books, Ecclesiastes is perhaps one of the most religious and primitive. Bringing a Weberian approach to Ecclesiastes, it represents a paradigm of the application of a social-science methodology.