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The question of who wrote the book we know as Ecclesiastes has been the subject of much debate. For a thousand years or more it was believed that king Solomon wrote the book. This was both its salvation, for it kept the religious leaders of the day interested in preserving the book, and also its downfall for that tradition says that Solomon wrote it when he was old and cynical and therefore the book can’t be trusted to communicate anything worthwhile.
All we know for certain is that the book was written by someone who decided to record his name as “Kohelet.” a word that means “to gather.” Later this name was changed into “the one who gathers an assembly together”. The Latin word for this is “ecclesia” so his name became “Ecclesiastes” and in English this was translated as “the preacher” or “the teacher”.
Whoever this mystery person was, all we have is a short biography at the end of the book that was written by someone who knew Kohelet well.
“Kohelet was wise and he passed on his teachings to the people. He pondered, searched out, and set in order many proverbs. He studied to find just the right words, and what he wrote was honest and true.”
Kohelet loved to teach. He was a wordsmith who searched out wisdom and put it into a memorable format that others could apply to daily living. Wise people from all cultures and times have employed this method for they knew it is the most effective way to communicate wisdom. These short sayings stick in our minds and we use them in our daily lives. One of my favorites is “Better to light a candle that curse the darkness.” This old Chinese proverb has taught many to quit complaining and get on with finding a solution to their problems. Kohelet embeds a number of proverbs in his book and also elaborates on them. The proverb “A live dog is better off than a dead lion” is used to teach us to embrace the hope that is inherent in being alive under the sun.
We will never know for certain whom Kohelet was. I wonder if that was part of his plan. His goal was to communicate a lifetime of wisdom, not to make a name for himself. He knew that fame was futile, that writers were quickly forgotten but true wisdom would last throughout the ages. He desired to write words that were “honest and true” and he succeeded. Kohelet’s words are humanities oldest and more thorough teachings on work. Every person who lives under the sun would do well to meditate upon his words.
(I have begun writing a fictional account of Kohelet’s life to give an alternate perspective on whom he may have been. Now that I have translated, memorized and performed his work I have found it immensely enjoyable to put myself into his world, even in a fictional sense. I have attached a chapter of the draft manuscript – The Scroll)
Article on Kohelet – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecclesiastes
A short selection of world proverbs – http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~sstm/wpoverbs.htm
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