Bundvad, M., Time in the Book of Ecclesiastes. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.
The book of Ecclesiastes is one of those books that present many challenges to students, researches, professors, and pastors. Authorship and date of composition are still subject of discussion among scholars. The book “Time in the Book of Ecclesiastes” offers a noteworthy approach to the concept of time in the book of Ecclesiastes.
In this book Bundvad does a very thorough research of the concept of time in the book of Ecclesiastes. She begins by providing insights regarding the composition and structure of the book. She approaches to the book of Ecclesiastes as a single-author work that latter received few additions to the main body of the book. Bundvad argues in favor of an intertestamental period for the composition of the book. She suggests the third century BCE as the most plausible date of writing. That eliminates Salomon as the author of the book.
The author appeals to linguistic and theological-philosophical arguments to affirm a late date of composition of the book of Ecclesiastes. She sees similarities between the wisdom reflected by the author of Ecclesiastes and Greek philosophers, though she does not adopt a specific position among early or posterior Greek philosophers. Bundvad considers this way of dating the book of Ecclesiastes as the most accepted point of view among today scholars and states that only few scholars argue against that date of composition.
In chapter 2 Bundvad presents an overview about the concept of time in the Hebrew Bible. Once again, she appeals to linguistic arguments as a necessary component to the study of the concept of time in the Hebrew Bible.
It is in chapter 3 where Bundvad begins the study of the concept of time in itself. She uses the poems placed at the beginning and the end of the book of Ecclesiastes (1:4−11 and 12:1−7) as two point of reference for the study of the concept of time in the book of Ecclesiastes. She provides a cosmological and human perspective of the concept of time and how these two perspectives relate to each other and interact through the book of Ecclesiastes.
Chapter 4 is devoted to the study of the present from a human perspective and how we assimilate and understand our condition in the time we live; our own experience and what we learn through our lives. Bundvad’s conclusion in chapter 4 is that Qohelet (the term she uses to refer to the author of Ecclesiastes) is not interested in providing a final word of judgment about life, i.e. if life is good or bad. Instead she sees that the author’s main concern is related to the here and now concept and the opportunities the present offers to humans.
In chapter 5 Bundvad disseminates the connection that Qohelet makes between the concepts of present (developed in chapter 4), past and future. The main idea enclosed in this chapter is that the author of Ecclesiastes understood that the present needs to be examined in juxtaposition with the past and the future. The author examines the conclusions that Qohelet makes about the past and the future compared to present experience.
Chapter 6, the closing chapter, focuses on the narrative aspect of the book of Ecclesiastes and the role of storyteller that Qohelet takes throughout the book. Bundvad also presents a broader explanation regarding authorship concerns on the book of Ecclesiastes. She also analyzes the first-person and third-person discourses comprised in the book of Ecclesiastes.
Summarizing, this book offers a deeper perspective on the subject of time in the book of Ecclesiastes, as this concept is the cornerstone for the study of the whole book. This book is recommendable for pastors who are or will be preaching or teaching on the book of Ecclesiastes as sooner or later the theme of time needs to be addressed in order to understand the book of Ecclesiastes.
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