John Orndorff

Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Robert Johnston

Degree Program

Department of Philosophy & Religion

Degree Type

Master of Arts


The book of Qoheleth (Ecclesiastes) is perhaps the most intriguing book in the Old Testament. Readers of every age can appreciate its theme, dealing with the futility of seeking to uncover life’s mystery. Yet Qoheleth has been interpreted in many different ways. The interpretations have ranged from tragic pessimism to a triumph of piety over skepticism. It is the contention of this thesis that a proper perspective on Qoheleth’s intention can best be gained in terms of the author’s use of tradition.

Qoheleth displays an awareness of such Hebrew traditions as Wisdom, the Pentateuch, Israelite history and the prophets. Though Qoheleth does not refer specifically to the Law or to Yahweh, the God of Israel, he does not deny them. Moreover, he seems familiar with both the Pentateuch (e.g. the creation account) and the historical writings in the prophets (e.g. the account of Solomon). Qoheleth is also consistent with Old Testament theology in holding that God’s ways cannot be comprehended by man, and that it is good for man to enjoy the life that God has given him.

It is also likely that Qoheleth was familiar with the traditions of Greece and the Near East. There are many parallels between Qoheleth and these cultures, but all that these seem to represent is parallel development. For Qoheleth does not reveal any dependence on the traditions of these cultures. Rather Qoheleth differs sharply in that he refutes both the Hellenistic belief in an after life (3:21) and the tragic pessimism of Ancient Near Eastern documents.

When Qoheleth is understood in terms of the author’s use of tradition, this book is found to be true to Hebrew tradition. In this way readers are afforded a proper perspective as to how Qoheleth is best interpreted. The book is found to be practical, advising the reader to enjoy life rather than despair of it.


Arts and Humanities | Biblical Studies | Philosophy | Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion