New Beacon Bible Commentary Upgrade (5 vols.) please don't let this PrePub die....

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Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Posted: Tue, Mar 21 2017 10:05 AM

New Beacon Bible Commentary Upgrade (5 vols.)

Please really consider a look at NBBC upgrade, I love all the volumes I have and while targeted at a Wesleyan audience it is useful for all students of the Bible. Since we just lost a number of PrePubs I wanted to see about increasing a little awareness on this set before it becomes endangered. There is no ticking clock on this one yet, but I am hoping that with so many other volumes in this series already in Logos, there can be enough interest in getting this set of new volumes in ASAP.

Here is a sample from one of the Luke volumes of the NBBC:

A. The Prologue (1:1–4)

BEHIND THE TEXT

The first four sentences of Luke are a literary prologue. This technical opening has precedent in the literature of that day. The purpose of the prologue is to shape the expectations of readers and apprise them of the nature of the document. Luke’s introduction invites readers to consider the history of his narrative, the authenticity of his sources, and the purpose of his writing.

In their introductions, all the Gospel writers shape their readers’ expectations in various ways. Mark uses a single simple sentence to introduce his Gospel: “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). Matthew opens his account with a genealogy of Jesus, emphasizing the importance of Jewish lineage and history for the coming story. John’s famous prologue opens with a sophisticated theological statement about the nature of Christ’s being.

Luke opens by appealing to seekers of historical truth. In this sense, Luke’s avowed method is particularly “modern.” Many readers today will resonate with his historical frame of reference, even if they are not entirely convinced of his historical accuracy.

The generally objective tone of vv 1–4, however, is quickly replaced beginning with v 5 by a more Jewish style of history, one characterized by epiphanies and numerous allusions to the OT. This is especially the case throughout the birth narratives (chs 1–3). Although these chapters have historical information about rulers and dates, this concern gives way in ch 4 to the more imprecise chronological style characteristic of the Bible in general and synoptic material in particular.

“The body of the Gospel itself abandons any pretense of secularity and is as much proclamation as any of the others” (Nolland 1989, 11). More like Josephus than Thucydides in this regard, Luke sees God’s hand in everything that transpires and is never reticent to invoke divine involvement in human affairs.

IN THE TEXT

■ 1 The first words in a book are important; and Luke has chosen his carefully. In his first sentence he identifies three issues about how his narrative is to be understood. First, he acknowledges that others have already written on this subject and that their work informs his. Second, he appeals to eyewitnesses instrumental in the process of preservation. Third, his own historically considered account is for Theophilus, either his patron or his broader audience symbolized as “friends of God” (see Luke and His Community in the Introduction).

First among these issues is the recognition of others who have written on Jesus’ life. Many have already written a narrative about the things that have been fulfilled among us (v 1). In saying this he indicates that, as a narrative (diēgēsin), his story has substantial textual and oral precursors. We cannot be sure whether he intends to supplant these others or simply recast and enhance their story for his audience. Regardless, his motivation drives him to undertake the task of writing a Gospel.

The subject of Luke’s narrative is the things that have been fulfilled among us (v 1). The Greek phrase emphasizes the divine origin of these fulfilled(peple rophorēmenōn, passive voice) events. That is, they were brought to pass by God, not just by human action. Luke sees these events through the lens of his reading of the OT, the deep structure on which his story rests. This fulfillment language does not so much indicate a promise/fulfillment motif as an intertextual exegesis. The OT story is central to all these things that have occurred.

Luke the historian has already tipped his hand on his views about divine causation. Unlike the historical style of Thucydides, he readily finds a divine cause at work in these events. Thus, Luke continually refers to the OT as a way to explain why these events occurred. As subsequent chapters reveal, the OT is the foundation of Luke’s theology; and the God who acts in history is its center.

■ 2 Luke’s second concern is that the accounts created by his predecessors are attested by eyewitnesses. He hands on these sacred traditions—just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word (v 2). To “hand down” a tradition (paredosan), in biblical parlance, is to convey it faithfully to others (see 10:22). In Acts, Luke refers to the traditions “handed down” by Moses (6:14), and the apostles as they “delivered” the decrees of the Jerusalem Council (16:4). Paradidōmi in the Pauline letters refers to the faithful transmission of sacred tradition, especially in 1 Cor 11:223; and 15:3. Luke uses this idea more than the other Synoptic Evangelist (see only Matt 11:27), perhaps under the influence of Paul (assuming with tradition that Luke was Paul’s unnamed traveling companion in the “we” sections of Acts; see Acts 16:11 and Col 4:14).

It is particularly important for Luke that those who attested to the tradition were eyewitnesses and servants of the word (v 2). The term “eyewitness” (autoptai) occurs only here in the Bible. It refers to a beginning point for ancient historiography, which anchors an event in time and space (Green 1997, 41; Evans 1990, 126–27; see 2 Pet 1:16). Josephus and Thucydides also use the term for this very reason. The proximity of these eyewitnesses to the events of Jesus’ life, in Luke’s view, gives their testimony particular weight. He is eager to preserve it, perhaps aware that these original members of the community are passing away. For Luke, they are more than sterile witnesses, as in a courtroom. They are servants of the word (v 2) who gave their lives in service to this testimony.

Ironically, the witnesses in the Lukan narrative are hardly above reproach. They are terrified by what they see (1:12; 9:34), disbelieve what they are told (1:18; 8:53), and misunderstand apparently plain talk (9:45). In this sense, Luke’s eyewitnesses are an unreliable lot. But from a postresurrection perspective, a true witness is someone who has “been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us” (Acts 1:21–22). These witnesses are to be heard not because they are a reliable source of historical information, but because they exemplify faithful endurance. Luke views the autoptēs as both a witness to history and one who has proven loyal to Jesus. This makes Luke more an evangelist than a dispassionate historian. His soulful bond to this band of witnesses is essential to his understanding of his narrative.

■ 3–4 Verse 3 begins with edoxeit seemed good … to me. This is one of the most “familiar idioms of the Greek language” (Evans 1990, 128). Early commentators on Luke, such as Origen, criticized him for the intellectual presumption inherent in this phrase. His was “the Greek humanist confidence in human reason and judgment” (Evans 1990, 128). Luke differs from the other Evangelists in this respect: he boldly projects his presence into the narrative from these first lines. He is present not only as narrator but also as an investigator who announces his dependence on reason and historical enquiry as adjudicating factors within the narrative.

The boldness of Luke’s authorial presence moderates in subsequent chapters as he relies more heavily on synoptic sources to structure his narrative. Throughout most of his Gospel, in fact, his presence as narrator is subdued. He subtly shapes his sources and quietly supplements existing traditional material with his own additions and themes. Ultimately, Luke shows himself to be a traditional evangelist, one whose presence is hidden behind the message, rather than the confident rationalist of vv 1–4.

Luke describes his method as having carefully investigated everything from the beginning (v 3). The adverb akribōs (carefully) is best taken as a modifier of the participle parēkolouthēkoti (investigating). That is, he performed his research “accurately.”

His research starts at the historical beginning (v 3, anōthen) of the Jesus story, the birth narratives, not the cosmic inception of the Word, as in John. He writes an orderly (v 3, kathexēs) account, “in consecutive order” (nasb). This is similar to Peter’s “step by step” (nrsv) explanation of his activities in Caesarea (Acts 11:4kathexēs). These phrases indicate a bold and engaged narrator.

The most excellent Theophilus (v 3) was Luke’s patron, friend, or simply a “catechumen or neophyte” (Fitzmyer 1981, 1:301). Theophilus was under instruction: the things you have been taught (v 4). The name Theophilus means literally “friend of God.” It was a common name of the time, so most commentators assume this was a real individual, not a symbolic reference to an implied reader (Evans 1990, 132; Marshall 1978, 43; contra Nolland 1989, 10). Perhaps he was an important figure in a Christian community who commissioned the work to advance the cause of the gospel for a broader audience. Or, he may have been a person Luke was attempting to win to the faith. We cannot be sure.

The purpose of Luke’s narrative is stated in v 4. He writes so that Theophilus can know the certainty of the things you have been taught (v 4). The verb asphaleiancertainty, has a connotation of “reliability, assurance, guarantee” in a cognitive sense (Fitzmyer 1981, 1:300). This is the “language of history” and “part of the studied secularity of the preface” (Nolland 1989, 11). Despite the historicist nature of the prologue, Luke’s purpose is ultimately that of a Christian partisan: to create confidence in “the truth of everything you were taught” (nlt).

FROM THE TEXT

For Luke, the gospel is a living tradition, passed on from witness to witness. Through his story, these “eyewitnesses and servants of the word” (1:1) enter the present to testify to a new audience. In spite of his confessed interest in historical certainty, Luke is not so much a judge of this sacred history as a participant in it. Still, the desire to know “what actually happened” is as old as the act of remembering. For Luke, factual information is important in seeking the truth. We must, he argues, be able to rely on our information. Thus, Luke begins his Gospel with the premise that a community cannot function without a shared understanding of reality.

In A Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez tells the story of a village that contracts communal amnesia due to a strange virus. Eventually, as the shared basis of language is lost, the community members resort to putting signs on things to remind themselves of their names. In time they forget the alphabet itself. This collective amnesia leads to a complete breakdown of community and culture in the village.

Similarly, Christian communities cannot function without a shared alphabet of meaning. Luke believes that the historical trustworthiness of his account is foundational to shared community. This tells us something significant about the nature of biblical inspiration. Luke’s account is informed by those who had previously researched and compiled the story. It then is reformulated through his mind, fueled by intellectual curiosity and the desire to know the real story. The inspiration of the text derives from the Spirit but arrives on the written page through an intellect on a human quest for meaning. This marriage of human mind and the experience of the divine Spirit creates a text that binds the community together.

When a set of shared truths in the text are held in common in the Spirit, the possibility of profound community is created. Conversely, when a shared sense of truth breaks down it is inevitable that community will break down—an important warning for the modern church. If we surrender the idea of shared truth to modern or postmodern relativism, the church will surely lose its way in the world, as did Marquez’s fictional Latin village.

BEHIND THE TEXT Literary or historical background information average readers might not know from reading the biblical text alone

IN THE TEXT Comments on the biblical text, words, phrases, grammar, and so forth

nasb New American Standard Bible

nrsv New Revised Standard Version

nlt New Living Translation

FROM THE TEXT The use of the text by later interpreters, contemporary relevance, theological and ethical implications of the text, with particular emphasis on Wesleyan concerns

 David A. Neale, Luke 1–9: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, New Beacon Bible Commentary (Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press, 2011), 45–49.

Posts 34
Chris Galloway | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Mar 22 2017 1:03 PM

Dan, 

Like you, I have purchased all the previous volumes... and pre-ordered these.

I am very pleased with the NBBC volumes and would recommend them to anyone!

Chris

Posts 5321
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Mar 22 2017 2:52 PM

Here is another sample... again not from the volumes on offer but one should find a similar quality in them, indeed Proverbs to me is morst exciting considering that John Hartley did a great Job in the NIC Job and Leviticus in WBC I am eager to have his insights into the book of Proverbs...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

2. Not Enough Tears (8:14–9:1)

Behind the Text

We hear in this text multiple voices; the language that dominates is that of lament. The reason for the lament is the impending destruction of land and its population by the invading army that is already in the land. The people lament in verses 14–15, 19b, 20; the prophet laments in 18–19a, 21, 22; 9:1 (8:23 in Hebrew); and Yahweh laments in 19c. The lament of the prophet is in reality the lament of Yahweh. In vv 16–17 Yahweh announces the judgment, which gives intensity to the laments in this unit.

In the Text

14 In the first lament, the people ask why they should sit around and wait for their doom to come (vv 14–15). Instead, they decide to go to fortified cities (v 14). They think that they would be safe and alive for a little while in the fortified cities rather than in their unprotected towns. They know that their destruction is the judgment of Yahweh who has doomed them to perish and has given them poisoned water to drink. Drinking poisoned water is a metaphor for Yahweh’s judgment of death upon the people (see 9:15; 23:15).

15 The lament of the people includes an explicit acknowledgment of their destruction as a consequence of their sin against Yahweh. The false prophets have promised them peace and they hoped that peace and healing would indeed come (v 15). Now they are faced with the reality of evil conditions that threaten and terrify them.

16 Yahweh’s response to this lament is not comforting or reassuring, but a harsh reiteration of his judgment against the people (vv 16–17). Judgment is already set in motion; the enemy is moving southward from Dan with their snorting, fast-moving horses. The second part of v 16 conveys the terror being caused by the enemy. The quaking of the land and the devouring of everything in the land intensify the nature of the threat. The city of Jerusalem and its citizens are on the verge of being consumed by the power of the enemy.

17 In v 17 the judgment metaphor changes to creeping poisonous snakes that cannot be tamed. The deadly poison of these snakes means sudden death. No lament, no confession, no grief on the part of the people will persuade Yahweh to suspend judgment.

18–19a In vv 18–19a the prophet expresses his agony and grief. The agony expressed in these verses is not just the agony of a suffering prophet but also of the suffering Yahweh (Fretheim 2002, 152). The NIV O my comforter in sorrow (v 18) is problematic. The Hebrew text is difficult to translate; “my joy is gone, grief is upon me” (NRSV) is a much better rendering. Harsh judgment does not bring joy but only pain and grief to both Yahweh and his prophet. Verse 19a indicates the cry of the people that is being heard from a land far away (see an alternate reading “from far and wide in the land” NRSV). A land far away suggests Babylon as the location of the cry of the nation, whereas the NRSV reading assumes the cry within the land of Israel.

19b The rhetorical questions in v 19b seem to be asked by the people (Is Yahweh not in Zion? Is her King not in her?). These questions on the one hand affirm Zion as the residence of Yahweh the King. On the other hand as part of the lament of the people, the questions imply that though Yahweh lives in Zion as their King, they have not received the help and protection that they expected to receive from him. Though kingship of Yahweh is a common theme in the Psalms (47–48; 93; 95–99), it is found only rarely in Jeremiah (see also 10:7, 10). Some commentators see these questions as Israel’s continued insistence on Zion’s inviolability because it is Yahweh’s royal residence.

19c Yahweh interrupts the lament-questions of the people with his own lament-question (v 19c). If the people believe that Zion is Yahweh’s residence, why did they provoke him with their idolatry? Though in theology the people claim Yahweh as their King, the real object of their worship is worthless foreign idols. The real cause of the present crisis is not Yahweh but the people who have broken their covenant with him. Yahweh’s question not only traces the present crisis to the nation’s idolatry but also reflects “divine suffering … because of what has happened” to his relationship with his people (Fretheim 2002, 152).

20 The lament of the people is picked up again in v 20. Yahweh’s lament does not give the people any more reason to complain, but their response is now a “pathetic mutter” (Holladay 1986, 293). Some commentators see the first two lines as a proverbial expression. The harvest refers to the grain harvest season in April–June and the summer refers to the summer months or the fruit-gathering season. Harvest seasons are seasons of joy and celebration. The proverb suggests that the deliverance the people expected at its appointed time has not come. The people lament because they realize that it is time for the harvest of Yahweh’s judgment (see v 13). We are not saved is the cry of the community that is faced with the threat of total destruction.

21 In 8:21–9:1 (8:21–23 in Hebrew) the prophet expresses his agony and laments over the sickness that is destroying the nation. Though we identify these verses as the lament of the prophet, it is difficult to separate them from Yahweh’s lament. Fretheim thinks that Yahweh is the primary speaker in these verses (2002, 152). It is likely that the prophet is expressing his grief, which in reality is a reflection of Yahweh’s grief. Both Yahweh and the prophet suffer because of Judah’s sin and of the necessity of judgment. The prophet who speaks Yahweh’s judgment word does not walk away but remains with the people and suffers with them. Their brokenness is his brokenness; their suffering is his suffering (v 21). Since the people refuse to repent and seek Yahweh’s mercy, the prophet mourns and expresses his horror at the devastation that is coming upon them.

22 The first two questions in v 22 affirm what is already a known truth. Certainly, there is balm in Gilead; certainly, there are healers known for their ability to heal in Gilead. Gilead, located in the northern part of Transjordan, was well-known for balm, a high-quality and aromatic resin from the balsam tree. The text indicates its medicinal use to heal wounds. Gilead also had its share of healers, the local practitioners of medicine. The intent of these questions is to assert the truth that just as Gilead is a dependable source of healing balm and physicians, so is Yahweh, the trustworthy healer of Israel (see Exod 15:16; Pss 103:3; 147:3; Jer 3:22; 17:14; 30:17; 33:6; Hos 6:1–3). The third question raises the issue of the continued sickness of Judah, though Yahweh is its healer. The text literally reads as follows: “why has new flesh not arisen on the daughter of my people?” The nation remains wounded and sick, though Yahweh is its healer. The reason for this is clear. Yahweh’s people (see repeated reference my dear people, or “Daughter of my people” [bat ‘ammî] four times in 8:19–9:1) refuse to turn to their healer for cure.

9:1 Verse 23 in Hebrew is 9:1 in English translations. The text begins the prophet’s desperate wish for an unceasing supply of tears (Oh, that my head were … water and my eyes a fountain of tears). The prophet’s grief here cannot be separated from Yahweh’s grief. What would enable him to express fully his grief and sorrow for the dying people of Judah is a head filled with water and eyes out of which tears will flow like a fountain. Perhaps then he can adequately express his grief and pour out tears day and night for the people who would soon face violent death by the enemy. We find in this verse human and divine grief expressed in the most distressing and hopeless manner.

The Suffering God

Fretheim helps us to understand the grieving heart of God and his suffering, which is a central issue in 8:4–9:1. He states:

The refrain-like use of the phrase “my (poor) people” (vv 19, 21, 22; 9:1, 2) is filled with pathos; the reader can almost envisage God uttering these words with “his head in his hands.” To speak of judgment is no joy, for either God or prophet … the prophet here makes those divine feelings publicly available for all to see and hear. (2002, 156)

From the Text

This text is one of the “most pathos-filled” poetic units in the book of Jeremiah (Brueggemann 1998, 91). One cannot read this text without feeling the intensity of the prophet’s grief over Judah’s stubborn determination to die rather than to seek healing from God. Jeremiah is not alone in grief here; the prophet’s grief is an “embodiment of God’s grief” (Fretheim 2002, 155). The mixture of divine anger and divine sorrow in this text indicates that in his anger God does not detach or disassociate himself from his people. The angry God does not walk away in his wrath. Brueggemann correctly points out that “God’s anger … is largely subordinated to the hurt God experiences in the unnecessary death of God’s people” (1998, 92). Life, and not death, is what God wills for sinners (Ezek 18:32). Judah, however, has chosen the path of death and rejected life. This brings intense hurt and heartache to God.

This biblical portrait of God who grieves over human sin and suffers with sinful humanity provides a corrective to the often misunderstood perception of God in the OT as a God of wrath and vengeance. The text also indicates that God grieves not only over human sin but also over human insistence to continue in the sickness of sin that leads to death. The implicit offer of the text is healing to the terminally ill. The text clearly portrays God as the healer of sin-sick souls. The text also recognizes the power of sin, which prevents sinners from coming to God for their healing. Death and destruction come to sinners not because there is a “deficiency of grace” but because they refuse to come to God for healing and life (Clarke, 280).

The exilic community would have heard in this text God’s grieving over those whom he exiled into a foreign land. God’s grief is not a one-time expression. His “day and night” weeping indicates that he remains passionate, grieving, and heartbroken even after judgment. The exilic community would also have been reminded by this text that God is their healer and the One who would bring them back to their homeland (see this hope expressed in Ps 147:2–3).

In our hearing of this text focus should be given to both of these aspects: God who grieves and God who heals. Divine pathos we find in this text finds another poignant expression in the weeping of Jesus over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41–44). As the Gospels indicate, grief moved Jesus to action, to his death on the cross, which in the Christian understanding is the symbol of God’s healing love for the sin-sick world (see 1 Pet 2:24; Isa 53:5).

 Alex Varughese, Jeremiah 1–25: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, New Beacon Bible Commentary (Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2008), 129–133.

Posts 1589
Rick Ausdahl | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Mar 22 2017 4:56 PM

Dan Francis:

New Beacon Bible Commentary Upgrade (5 vols.)

Please really consider a look at NBBC upgrade, I love all the volumes I have and while targeted at a Wesleyan audience it is useful for all students of the Bible. Since we just lost a number of PrePubs I wanted to see about increasing a little awareness on this set before it becomes endangered. There is no ticking clock on this one yet, but I am hoping that with so many other volumes in this series already in Logos, there can be enough interest in getting this set of new volumes in ASAP.

I'm always looking for good contemporary commentaries in the Wesleyan tradition.  At the moment, I only have the two commentaries on Romans from this series, but I've placed a pre-order for the upgrade and added the full set (as much of it as there is) to my wish list.

Posts 1198
Dale E Heath | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Mar 22 2017 5:11 PM

I've also ordered the pre-pub upgrade and have the NBBC on my wish list along with upgrades 3 and 4. When is the last time the NBBC went on sale?

Dale Heath

Posts 5321
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Mar 22 2017 5:33 PM

Dale E Heath:
When is the last time the NBBC went on sale?

I honestly don't know. I am sure they likely have been on sale at times but don't know of when. If you have them on a wish list you might get a notification email when they go on sale. I was raised lutheran and now Anglican but I really love this series.. I had the  original BBC which was very devotional... I got rid of it in a purging moment and regret that. That said the NBBC is a better set and have loved using it since the start... FL has the spanish translation of the original BBC but I hate that the new volumes languish in prepub.

-Dan

Posts 9072
DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Mar 22 2017 5:41 PM

I own the entire 10 volume (OT/NT) set in Spanish. It must be the old Beacon commentary 1969 edition. Still, very insightful for an older commentary.

DAL

Posts 1198
Dale E Heath | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Mar 23 2017 10:15 AM

I would probably never do this, but I noticed that Beacon will sell you the entire set in kindle, nook, or ebook, and future additions for a 30% discount. Seems like a good deal, but I like the Logos advantage. It's tempting because I currently don't have any of Beacon's products.

Dale Heath

Posts 5321
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Mar 23 2017 11:18 AM

I thought they had the same deal with Logos but i see that the prepub discount is only 25% I suppose I could also buy them in Kindle format and import them over to Logos as a personal book but not only would this be a bit tedious I would not have them on my iPad in the Logos environment.

-Dan

Posts 5321
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 28 2017 10:33 AM

Here is another sample from the series... again please note NOT FROM THE BOOKS ON OFFER IN THIS UPGRADE, just an example of the level of quality in the books of the NBBC series:

I. VANITY OF VANITIES (TITLE AND THEME) (1:1–2)


BEHIND THE TEXT

The opening sentence of Ecclesiastes is the superscript and functions as a kind of title page for the book. The first word or words of a Hebrew book are often used as the title, and so these are chosen carefully. The Hebrew title of Ecclesiastes is the second word, qōhelet (Teacher). Like the superscripts of other OT books, v 1 was probably added by an editor or scribe to identify the book.
The mention of the son of David, king in Jerusalem calls to mind Solomon in all his glory, but there are reasons to think that Ecclesiastes comes from a later time, the Persian or Hellenistic period (see Authorship and Date sections in the Introduction).

The first two verses of Ecclesiastes establish the editorial framework and theme for the book. Verse 1 is the title of the book and v 2 introduces the theme of the book. The phrase “vanity of vanities” (KJV) (hăbēl hăbālîm, Meaningless! Meaningless!) is a literary device indicating the greatest or best of something (e.g., Song of Songs). It also forms an inclusio with its counterpart in 12:8. Though v 2 sets the tone, the declaration of Meaningless! is not followed in an absolute sense by the rest of the book. Rather, this declaration is explained with examples from the complexity and, often, ambiguity of life.


The Words of the Teacher

Editorial titles for OT books or collections often begin with the words of x or a similar formula. The book of Proverbs begins with “The proverbs of Solomon” and also has collections introduced as “The sayings of Agur,” “The sayings of King Lemuel,” “Sayings of the wise,” and “These are more proverbs of Solomon” (Prov 1:1; 30:1; 31:1; 22:17; 25:1). Prophetic books also use this formula, for example, “The words of Jeremiah” and “The words of Amos” (Jer 1:1; Amos 1:1). A similar formula is found in the Egyptian Wisdom literature called “instructions,” for example, “The instruction of the Mayor and Vizier Ptahhotep” (Pritchard 1969, 412).


IN THE TEXT


A. Title (1:1)

■ 1 Verse 1 introduces the content of the book as the words of the Teacher (qōhelet). Qōhelet is a word unique to Ecclesiastes and derives from the noun qāhāl, which means “assembly, convocation” (BDB 874). Thus qōhelet is “convener [of an assembly]” or “collector (of sentences)” (BDB 875 [although the verb is never used for collecting objects]). BDB identifies this as a masculine noun, but it has a feminine noun ending, and it takes the masculine verb (except in 7:27, which could be a scribal error). Ginsburg explained the feminine form by suggesting that Solomon was the personification of wisdom, which is a feminine noun in Hebrew (1861, 7; so Augustine and others). However, there are other cases of an office using a feminine form, even though the holder of the office is male (soferet, scribe, Ezra 2:55), and also of males whose names have a feminine form (Alemeth, 1 Chr 7:8). Moore’s translation is “the Worship Leader,” which is based partly on Solomon’s dedication of the temple in 1 Kgs 8 (2001, 17, 117). Leading worship is not a function of Qoheleth in Ecclesiastes. Another suggestion is “arguer,” based on Aramaic vocabulary (Ullendorff 1962, 215).
The Septuagint translated qōhelet with the Greek word Ekklesiastou (“member of the political assembly”). The translation “Preacher” (ESV) is misleading because Qoheleth was not the preacher in a church or other religious gathering.
Instead of an office or function, qōhelet could be a pseudonym or a nickname (Lohfink 2003, 10). In one or two uses of the word, the article is used (“the Qoheleth,” 12:8 and probably 7:27), which would be unusual for a personal name. However, Ecclesiastes also uses qōhelet as a personal name in 1:12 and 12:9–10. There is no son of David or any other known person with the name qōhelet, although the verbal form is used with Solomon as subject in 1 Kgs 8:1. Ginsburg thought that qōhelet was used in order to present Solomon as an ideal and not as the actual author (1861, 244–45).
This commentary will use “Qoheleth” to refer to the author of the book and “Ecclesiastes” to refer to the book as a whole.
The phrase son of David, king in Jerusalem clearly points to Solomon, even though it is not a reliable indicator of Solomonic authorship. Solomon was considered the father of wisdom in ancient Israel, and his request for wisdom in 1 Kgs 3:3–15 is well known. In the list of Solomon’s accomplishments he is also credited with writing three thousand proverbs and one thousand and five songs (1 Kgs 4:32). He is connected with the book of Proverbs, Song of Songs, and the apocryphal book Wisdom of Solomon.


B. Theme (1:2)

■ 2 Verse 2 establishes the theme of the book with Qoheleth’s declaration, “Meaningless! Meaningless!” The meaning of the Hebrew word underlying meaningless (hebel) is difficult to convey in English. The context must determine which meaning is intended in any given verse. In this thematic verse, the context is the book of Ecclesiastes as a whole, thus it carries the rich connotations of the different uses. These meanings can be summarized as futile, unattainable, evil, fleeting, profitless, inconsequential, ineffective, and incomprehensible (see Introduction).
The literal meaning of hebel is breath, vapor. Breath is not by nature meaningless. It is essential for life. It is, however, brief, and while it is satisfying to breathe, breathing must be a continuous activity if life is to be sustained. So an individual breath gives no lasting satisfaction, but there must be more. Likewise, breathing is not an end in itself but is merely a means to life. This is the nature of life. It is filled with good things that are, by their nature, temporary, and that may be satisfying but are not an end in themselves. The Hebrew word hebel is a suitable vehicle for this aspect of life, which Qoheleth wishes to convey. The pleasures and accomplishments of life are meaningful, but they do not provide ultimate meaning. That is to be found in relationship with God.


Hebel (Meaningless)

The noun hebel is used thirty-eight times in Ecclesiastes and thirty-five times elsewhere in the OT. The literal meaning is vapor, breath, which is seen in Isa 57:13 where hebel is used in parallel with “wind.” The wind or breath will carry the idols away. The figurative meaning is “vanity” in the sense of insubstantial or worthless (BDB 210), and thus refers to something that evaporates (Ginsburg 1861, 259). This is relevant in the case of idols that “will perish” (Jer 10:15). The books of Deuteronomy, Kings, and Jeremiah often use hebel with the meaning “worthless idols” (e.g., Deut 32:21; 1 Kgs 16:13; Jer 2:5). Isaiah denounced the military help of Egypt as hebel in the sense of “useless” (Isa 30:7). The word is also used in parallel with “nothing” (tōhû) in Isa 49:4. The name “Abel” is hebel in Hebrew and shows the meaning of “temporary” as his life was so short (having been murdered by his brother Cain). The same root is used as a verb five times (2 Kgs 17:15; Job 27:12; Ps 62:10; Jer 2:5; 23:16).

The phrase “vanity of vanities” (KJV) (hăbēl hăbālîm, Meaningless! Meaningless!) follows a Hebrew idiom that expresses the superlative. Other examples are “Song of Songs” (the best song), “heaven of heavens” (KJV) (“highest heaven,” 1 Kgs 8:27), “servant of servants” (KJV) (“the lowest of slaves,” Gen 9:25), and “holy of holies” (NASB) (the “Most Holy Place,” Exod 26:33). The superlative nature of “vanity of vanities” seems out of place as the rest of the book uses this vocabulary for various aspects of life but not as a blanket assessment of life as a whole (except as an inclusio to the whole book in 12:8). This may be an indication that v 2 (and 12:8) was added by the final editor (so Rashbam; Japhet and Salters 1985, 92, 212). Another reason it seems to be an editorial addition is that Qoheleth is referred to in the third person.
Verse 2 also seems to indicate that the significance of what Qoheleth observes about life and nature is not limited to his generation. The Hebrew verb ʾāmar (says) is in the perfect, which is usually translated with the past tense. However, it can also refer to an event that is viewed as a whole, even though it may not be completed at the time of writing. The present tense translation says emphasizes the continuing relevance and validity of Qoheleth’s conclusions (Crenshaw 1987, 58).
Verse 2 concludes with the phrase, Everything is meaningless. The Hebrew word kōl (everything or all) is found throughout the book, in about ninety-one verses out of the two hundred twenty-two verses of the book. The predominant use of this word in Qoheleth conveys a universal perspective and Qoheleth’s concern with “all of life,” as he reflects on the meaning of life (Towner 1997, 278).
Verse 2 serves not only as the theme or motto for the whole book but also as the opening statement for the introduction (1:3–11). This introduction does not use the word hebel but describes the continuous activity of nature, the lack of novelty, and the lack of remembrance. The author describes the activities in vv 3–11 as hebel, which in the context may be taken to mean “incomprehensible, ineffective.” The impact of the alliteration in v 2 is striking. There is a preponderance of “h” and “l” sounds, not least because of the repetition of the word hebel (five times in eight words): hăbēl hăbālîm ʾāmar qōhelet hăbēl hăbālîm hakkōl hābel. The very sound of the sentence has a continuous and incomprehensible nature to it. This alliteration serves to emphasize the continuous nature and incomprehensibility of the activities described in vv 3–11.


FROM THE TEXT

For the author of Ecclesiastes Solomon is a prime example of someone who had great wisdom and wealth but who failed to grasp the real meaning of life. While the descriptions of Solomon’s wisdom and wealth in 1 Kings are superlative, he ended his life away from God, entrapped by the very pleasures that were available to him because of his wisdom and wealth. Thus the example of Solomon serves as a dire warning to those who would make wisdom and wealth an end in themselves and thus risk losing the real meaning of life: a right relationship with God and contentment with whatever God in his sovereignty has apportioned to each one. However, for most people in ancient Israel, life on earth was not meaningless, though in their faith there was no clear development of the idea of an afterlife. The faithful in Israel were committed to living their life to the fullest in the here and now. Qoheleth does not say that life in the final analysis is “meaningless” or “absurd.” While he viewed life as temporary and incomprehensible, he also regarded it as a gift from God that is to be valued and lived to the full. It is this perception of life that leads us to find contentment in Christ. This is what Paul seems to be saying when he writes: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Phil 4:11; see also Phil 1:21–26). Living life to the full in submission to God is the antidote to despair and meaninglessness.
A picture of vanity: The still-life painting style known as “vanitas,” from sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Northern Europe is often accompanied by the motto from Eccl 1:2 in Latin. The paintings are intended to convey the transient and fragile nature of life by means of symbols such as skulls, bubbles, musical instruments, and hourglasses (Leppert 1996, 57–58).


Stephen J. Bennett, Ecclesiastes/Lamentations: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, New Beacon Bible Commentary (Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press, 2010), 41–45.

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Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Apr 7 2017 9:30 PM

BUMP!

Confused

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Vincent Chia | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Apr 8 2017 2:41 AM

PLaced the pre-order some time ago. Really hope it will go through to production soon.

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JoshInRI | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Apr 8 2017 7:27 AM

include a link please...

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Kenneth Neighoff | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Apr 8 2017 8:49 AM

.

JoshInRI:

include a link please...

The link is included in Dan's very first post

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Kenneth Neighoff | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Apr 8 2017 8:50 AM

This is a great set of commentaries.  I have been in since it first hit prepub

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Earl Sheneman | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Apr 8 2017 10:44 AM

I placed my pre-order. I still have the original Beacon Bible Commentary 10 volume set published I believe in the 60's. My first set of commentaries.

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Kenneth Neighoff | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Apr 8 2017 10:50 AM

Earl Sheneman:

I placed my pre-order. I still have the original Beacon Bible Commentary 10 volume set published I believe in the 60's. My first set of commentaries.

I still have that set as well.  I had two sets and gave one away. 

I also have the Beacon Bible Expositions in hardback.

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Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Apr 8 2017 11:17 AM

JoshInRI:

include a link please...

New Beacon Bible Commentary Upgrade (5 vols.)

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Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Apr 12 2017 10:48 AM

Bump!

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Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Apr 21 2017 1:59 PM

Dan Francis:

Bump!

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