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Wisdom In Transition: The Book Of Ecclesiastes

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Chapter Summary

The book of Ecclesiastes (or Qoheleth), a classic among ancient Wisdom texts and throughout all of world literature, has received a great deal of attention in the last few decades. This chapter examines the act-consequence relationship, or lack thereof, in Qoheleth, and the probable context for this author's preoccupation with human mortality. Qoheleth is not the first Jewish sage to discover that life can be unfair or that death comes to everyone, but he addresses these matters in a more direct way than the editors of Proverbs. Even if certain commentators have oversimplified the outlook in the earlier collection, Qoheleth?s ideas about retribution and the possibility for consistent outcomes represent a clear departure. The chapter points to the early Hellenistic period, the era of the Ptolemies, as a time of reevaluation and reconfiguration within the Jewish wisdom tradition and the most likely setting for this book.

Keywords: act-consequence relationship; ancient Wisdom texts; book of Ecclesiastes; Jewish sage; Jewish wisdom tradition; Proverbs; Ptolemies; Qoheleth?s ideas



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