May 3, 2010
Qoheleth’s Views on Life and Death
At one time or another, most adults question the meaning of life. In Ecclesiastes, one wise man reflects on whether or not life has meaning, and he finds his answer. Qoheleth, the main character, has some pretty gloomy things to say about life: “Futility of futilities! All is futile. There is nothing new under the sun.” (1:2, 1:8) But Qoheleth perseveres in his effort to find meaning in life. Through Qoheleth's struggle to find life meaningful, readers might come to better understand – and accept - their own search for meaning. After noting that life goes through cycles and that there is a “time to every purpose under heaven,” Qoheleth begins his experiment in lifestyles. He is trying to find the answer to this question: "What kind of life will make me content and give fulfillment and purpose to my life?" To find the answer, Qoheleth sets off to try a series of experimental lifestyles, but in each he finds these pursuits wanting, no matter the outcome of his pursuits. In the end, he finds that we all die, that “all is futile.” His discouragement increases; despair is near. He continues to search for a purposeful, meaningful life. He is determined to find the meaning of life. That determination comes from a faith that life does have meaning. Qoheleth must wait till the end of his journey to find out what life adds up to, and his answer is a return to faith in God: “The sum of the matter, when all has been considered, is to revere God and keep God’s commandments.” (12:14) Qoheleth’s conclusion offers encouragement to those who travel life's journey, in search of a meaningful and fulfilling life. Death is a problem for Qoheleth because it is a finite situation in his understanding. “Sheol” is the abode of the dead, neither Heaven nor Hell, but more similar to the underworld of the ancient Greeks. There is no escaping it; everyone will go there. In his views, Qoheleth determines that humanity’s fate is no...
Cited: The New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Print
Kreeft, Peter. Three Philosophies of Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989. 13-58. Print.
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