« PreviousContinue »
will be seen, in the course of the Introduction and the Notes that follow, that I have consulted most of the commentaries that were best worth consulting. It is not, I think, necessary to give a complete list of these or of other books which I have, in the course of my labours, laid under contribution, but I cannot withhold a special tribute of grateful admiration to the two works which have most helped me—the Commentary of Dr Ginsburg, the result of many years of labour, and characterized, as might be expected, by an exhaustive completeness; and that by Mr Tyler, which, though briefer, is singularly thoughtful and suggestive, and to which I am indeed indebted for the first impressions as to the date and character of the book, which have now ripened into convictions.
Those convictions I now submit alike to students and to experts. They will clash, it may be, in some points with inherited and traditional opinions. I can but hope, however, that those who are drawn to the study of the book may find in what I have written that which will help them to understand it better than they have done. They will find in it, if I mistake not, that it meets, and, we may believe, has been providentially designed to meet, the special tendencies of modern philosophical thought, and that the problems of life which it discusses are those with which our own daily experience brings us into contact. They will learn that the questions of our own time are those which vexed the minds of seekers and debaters in an age not unlike our own in its forms of culture, and while they recognize the binding force of its final solution of the problems, "Fear God and keep His commandments," on those who have not seen, or have not accepted the light of a fuller revelation, they will rejoice in the brightness of that higher revelation of the mind of God of which the Christian Church is the
inheritor and the witness. If they feel, as they will do, that there is hardly any book of the Old Testament which presents so marked a contrast in its teaching to that of the Gospels or Epistles of the New Testament, they will yet acknowledge that it is not without a place in the Divine Economy of Revelation, and may become to those who use it rightly a maldaywyos els Xplotov-a “schoolmaster leading them to Christ."
Oct. 23rd, 1883.
The name Ecclesiastes, by which the book before us is commonly known, comes to us from the Greek version of the Old Testament, known as the Septuagint (the version of the Seventy who were believed to have been the translators), as the nearest equivalent they could find to the Hebrew title K oheleth. Jerome, the translator to whom we owe the Latin version known as the Vulgate, thought that he could not do better than retain the word, instead of attempting to translate it, and it has been adopted (in the title though not in the text) in the English and many other modern versions 1.
We are thrown back therefore upon the Hebrew word and we have, in the first instance, to ask what it meant, and why it was chosen by the author. In this enquiry we are met (1) by the fact that the word occurs nowhere else in the whole range of Old Testament literature, and the natural inference is that it was coined because the writer wanted a word more significant and adapted to his aim than any with which his native speech supplied him; possibly, indeed, because he wanted a word corresponding to one in a foreign language that was thus significant.
1 Luther gives Der Prediger Salomo, which the English version reproduces in its alternative title.