Something New Under the Sun: Ancient Wisdom for Contemporary Living

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His journey to knowledge is, in the end, incomplete. The reader is not only to hear Kohelet's wisdom, but to observe his journey towards understanding and acceptance of life's frustrations and uncertainties: the journey itself is important.

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Few of the many attempts to uncover an underlying structure to Ecclesiastes have met with widespread acceptance; among them, the following is one of the more influential: [4]. Verse is a superscription, the ancient equivalent of a title page: it introduces the book as "the words of Kohelet, son of David, king in Jerusalem. Most, though not all, modern commentators regard the epilogue —14 as an addition by a later scribe. Some have identified certain other statements as further additions intended to make the book more religiously orthodox e.

The ten-verse introduction in verses —11 are the words of the frame narrator; they set the mood for what is to follow: Kohelet's message is that all is meaningless. After the introduction come the words of Kohelet. As king he has experienced everything and done everything, but nothing is ultimately reliable. Death levels all. The only good is to partake of life in the present, for enjoyment is from the hand of God. Everything is ordered in time and people are subject to time in contrast to God's eternal character.

The world is filled with injustice, which only God will adjudicate. God and humans do not belong in the same realm and it is therefore necessary to have a right attitude before God. People should enjoy, but should not be greedy; no-one knows what is good for humanity; righteousness and wisdom escape us. Kohelet reflects on the limits of human power: all people face death, and death is better than life, but we should enjoy life when we can. The world is full of risk: he gives advice on living with risk, both political and economic.


Mortals should take pleasure when they can, for a time may come when no one can. Kohelet's words finish with imagery of nature languishing and humanity marching to the grave. The frame narrator returns with an epilogue: the words of the wise are hard, but they are applied as the shepherd applies goads and pricks to his flock. The original ending of the book was probably the words: "The end of the matter" but the text we have continues: "Fear God" a phrase used often in Kohelet's speech "and keep his commandments" which he never uses , "for God will bring every deed to judgement.

The book takes its name from the Greek ekklesiastes , a translation of the title by which the central figure refers to himself: Kohelet , meaning something like "one who convenes or addresses an assembly". Scholars arguing for a Persian date c.

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Also unresolved is whether the author and narrator of Kohelet are one and the same person. Ecclesiastes regularly switches between third-person quotations of Kohelet and first-person reflections on Kohelet's words, which would indicate the book was written as a commentary on Kohelet's parables rather than a personally-authored repository of his sayings. Some scholars have argued that the third-person narrative structure is an artificial literary device along the lines of Uncle Remus , although the description of the Kohelet in —14 seems to favour a historical person whose thoughts are presented by the narrator.

Ecclesiastes has taken its literary form from the Middle Eastern tradition of the fictional autobiography, in which a character, often a king, relates his experiences and draws lessons from them, often self-critical: Kohelet likewise identifies himself as a king, speaks of his search for wisdom, relates his conclusions, and recognises his limitations. Ecclesiastes differs from the other biblical Wisdom books in being deeply skeptical of the usefulness of Wisdom itself.

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Wisdom was a popular genre in the ancient world, where it was cultivated in scribal circles and directed towards young men who would take up careers in high officialdom and royal courts; there is strong evidence that some of these books, or at least sayings and teachings, were translated into Hebrew and influenced the Book of Proverbs, and the author of Ecclesiastes was probably familiar with examples from Egypt and Mesopotamia.

The presence of Ecclesiastes in the Bible is something of a puzzle, as the common themes of the Hebrew canon—a God who reveals and redeems, who elects and cares for a chosen people—are absent from it, which suggests that Kohelet had lost his faith in his old age. Understanding the book was a topic of the earliest recorded discussions the hypothetical Council of Jamnia in the 1st century CE.

One argument advanced then was that the name of Solomon carried enough authority to ensure its inclusion, but other works which appeared with Solomon's name were excluded despite being more orthodox than Ecclesiastes.

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A modern suggestion treats the book as a dialogue in which different statements belong to different voices, with Kohelet himself answering and refuting unorthodox opinions, but there are no explicit markers for this in the book, as there are, for example in the Book of Job. Yet another suggestion is that Ecclesiastes is simply the most extreme example of a tradition of skepticism, but none of the proposed examples match Ecclesiastes for a sustained denial of faith and doubt in the goodness of God.

Scholars disagree about the themes of Ecclesiastes: whether it is positive and life-affirming, or deeply pessimistic [23] ; whether it is coherent or incoherent, insightful or confused, orthodox or heterodox; whether the ultimate message of the book is to copy Kohelet, the wise man, or to avoid his errors [24]. Stories that have become most important to Randy Olson involve cultures or environments that are under threat, usually from some form of commercial consumption.

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Something New Under the Sun: Ancient Wisdom for Contemporary Living - Introduction

For over two decades, Phyllis Galembo has documented cultural and religious traditions in Africa and the African Diaspora. David Hiser is an editorial photographer and photography educator whose work has been published in over National Geographic books and magazines, as well as many other international publications.

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Every time Monica Denevan travels to Burma she is struck by the meditative beauty of the landscape, the sensory chaos of the cities, and the quiet elegance of the people. Another important scholarly argument about Proverbs concerns how to describe the figure of Lady Wisdom in the introduction, especially in chapter 8.

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The question asks, is Lady Wisdom simply a personification or literary trope? Or is Wisdom here more concrete and substantial? Some scholars see Wisdom as functioning as an attribute or extension of God Kaminsky et al. In chapter 8, there is an argument that Wisdom is a goddess Kaminsky et al. I believe that Wisdom is personified in chapter 8.

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Wisdom first appeared in Proverbs as a person crying out on the street and in the gate. Lady wisdom preaches repentance from folly and a return to Wisdom. Lady Wisdom cries out that Wisdom is available and that people need to submit to instruction. In Wisdom says, 'I love those who love me', and that those who listen will prosper. From the above, it seems as if this cannot be anything but a personification of Wisdom. The Yoruba people of Nigeria. As this article is on the comparison of ancient Israelite and Yoruba proverbs and the identity of the ancient Israelites, it is also important to discuss the identity of the Yorubas who are less known.

This will enable readers to have a bird's eye view of the people called the Yorubas of Nigeria.

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In fact, the status of the Yorubas of Nigeria and Africa influenced the author's choice to compare Yoruba with Israelite Proverbs. There is no agreement amongst scholars concerning the origin of the Yoruba people of Nigeria. Several suggestions have been put forward.

Egyptian Lucas , Atlantic Frobenius , Hebrew Williams and independent Olubunmi origin have been suggested. They also live in parts of the Republic of Benin, and Togo. Amongst the Yoruba people, names are important. For example, to know someone's name is to gain insight into that person's being or character. That is the reason why the naming of a child is very important and celebrated because of the strong belief that the meaning of the name of a child may determine his character and his destiny.

The Yorubas are a strong homogenous group and 'many Yorubas are better educated than the other two major tribes Ibos and Hausas in Nigeria' Ayandele Their levels of education and high migration rate have caused many of them to be well-placed in significant formal and sometimes informal positions all over the world. With regard to their social and cultural values, the Yorubas have undertaken more academic work than any other specific African tribe. They are described as 'the most outstanding people of "Black Africa" with respect to their myths' Lange The Yorubas are amongst the richest in Africa considering the preservation of the oral history of their past Lange Yoruba unique sculptures like the Ife Bronze head and their genetic uniqueness in producing the highest dizygotic twinning rate in the whole world 4.

Furthermore, Yoruba history is the most researched and the most documented history compared to any other tribe in Sub-Saharan Africa. Yoruba ruling elites have established institutions and worked out ways through which their history is preserved Akintoye These gestures, initiated by many Yoruba elites, have helped to keep good records about the writing of their contemporary history.

Their proverbs are more documented than any other race in Africa. In fact, historians and archaeologists worldwide are unanimous that the Yoruba are the most urban black people of all time Olubunmi Proverbs as advice in Israelite and Yoruba traditions. It seems to me that the function of proverbs in the Old Testament and in Africa Yoruba tradition is to advise, encourage, reproach, and elucidate important facts, the main purpose of which is to understand life and make it easy for living.