Ecclesiastes and the Riddle of Authorship  book cover
1st Edition

Ecclesiastes and the Riddle of Authorship

ISBN 9781845530730
Published April 4, 2017 by Routledge
156 Pages

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Book Description

In Ecclesiastes, the authorial voice of Qohelet presents an identity that has challenged readers for centuries. This book offers a reception history of the different ways readers have constructed Qohelet as an author. Previous reception histories of Ecclesiastes group readings into "premodern" and "critical," or separate Jewish from Christian readings. In deliberate contrast, this analysis arranges readings thematically according to the interpretive potential inherent in the text, a method of biblical reception history articulated by Brennan Breed. Doing so erases the artificial distinctions between so-called scholarly and confessional readings and highlights the fact that many modern academic readings of the authorship of Ecclesiastes travel in well-worn interpretive paths that long predate the rise of critical scholarship. Thus this book offers a reminder that, while critical biblical scholarship is an essential part of the interpretive task, academic readings are themselves indebted to the Bible’s reception history and a part of it.

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgements



Chapter 1: Qohelet as Solomon

Chapter 2: Qohelet the King

Chapter 3: Qohelet and Contradiction

Chapter 4: Saint and Sinner

Chapter 5: Philosopher and Sage



Source Index

Author Index

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Thomas M. Bolin is Professor of Theology & Religious Studies at St. Norbert College, USA


"In this lively and well-written book, Bolin stands Qohelet scholarship on its head by analyzing interpretations of Ecclesiastes - in particular, mapping the varieties of portraits of its author, Qohelet - rather than simply offering one reading of the text. Bolin thus combines the work of scholars such as Jennifer Koosed, who has explored the question of Qohelet's identity, and scholars such as Eric Christianson, who has collected interpretations of Ecclesiastes that span millennia. Along the way, Bolin interjects fascinating asides about such diverse topics as Greek mythology, the origins of biblical scholarship, and consumer culture."

- Brennan Breed, Columbia Theological Seminary, USA, Ancient Jew Review 2017

"Bolin's volume represents a tour de force in the interpretation of Ecclesiastes. It constitutes a superb example of the reception historical method. It is a delightful short book, packed full of information, framed from a postmodern perspective. Bolin's wit, engaging style, and erudition make this a book to purchase, for fans of either Ecclesiastes or reception history, whether scholars, ministers and seminary students, or simply for the educated public. Carpe librum!"

- Mark Sneed, Lubbock Christian Univeristy, USA, Restoration Quarterly 2018

"[This volume] is engagingly written and never dull. Bolin takes the reader by the hand along his journey through key issues in Ecclesiastes scholarship as seen through the lens of reception history ... Bolin unmasks readerly bias [of Ecclesiastes] of every type, religious, scholarly, 'objective', rational, and otherwise. Bolin makes some important arguments here that have application to our interpretations of texts beyond that of simply 'the Preacher' himself ... This work is important in the link in makes between older reception history and more recent scholarship - it shows how we are all engaged in the same interpretaive task just from different standpoints and different cultures. The quest to understand this enigmatic books goes on ... "

- Katharine Dell, University of Cambridge, UK, Journal of Theological Studies 2018

"Although small in size, Thomas M. Bolin’s Ecclesiastes and the Riddle of Authorship is big in ideas. Bolin sets out to show that how the reader imagines and constructs the author shapes how a book is interpreted [...] He  has certainly set out the roadmap he intended, and it will offer good guidance for those who continue down this path."

- Jason Kalman, Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, Israel, H-Net Reviews in the Humanities & Social Sciences 2018

"As an early foray into the use of Brennan Breed’s model of reception history, I heartily recommend this probing study by Thomas Bolin to those interested in Ecclesiastes or in the reception history of biblical texts."

- Douglas B. Miller, Tabor College, USA, Reading Religion 2019