“Qoheleth: The Ironic Wink”

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Professor Emeritus James L. Crenshaw’s latest book, Qoheleth: The Ironic Wink, engages modern interpreters in a debate over the lasting relevance of the author of Ecclesiastes and the place of Ecclesiastes as a book of the bible.

The book was published by the University of South Carolina Press as the fifteenth volume in the series, Personalities of the Old Testament, which Crenshaw edits.

Crenshaw examines the great mysteries of Ecclesiastes—authorial deceit, veiled truth, elusive essence, ocular deception, and surreptitious givens—in this controversial book of the bible authored by someone calling himself Qoheleth.

Qoheleth, whose reflections on the human condition judged all human endeavors to be futile, determined that observation is the only avenue to understanding; an arbitrarily wrathful and benevolent God created and rules over the world; and death is unpredictable, absolute, and final. His message was simple: seize the moment, for death awaits.

In the book, Crenshaw discusses the wide range of interpretations of Ecclesiastes from ancient to modern times. In extensive notes, he evaluates scholarly interpretations and offers fresh readings, many of which go beyond his findings in his previous book, Ecclesiastes: A Commentary (Old Testament Library, Westminster, 1987).

Because of the numerous contradictions in Ecclesiastes, Crenshaw inquires about Qoheleth as a flawed genius at work.

Crenshaw taught Old Testament at Duke Divinity School from 1987-2008.