(English Index)

(Original Index)




Qohelet (Hebrewקהלת, 'Ecclesiastes' derives from the Greek translation of the Hebrew book title) is a book of the Hebrew Bible. The book title derives from the designation claimed as either the proper name or title (possibly "Assembler") of the author/narrator in the first verse: "The words of Koheleth, son of David, King in Jerusalem". The author represents himself as the son of David, and king over Israel in Jerusalem (Ecclesiastes 1:1,12,16 and Ecclesiastes 2:7,9).

The work consists of personal or autobiographic matter, largely expressed in aphorisms and maxims illuminated in terse paragraphs with reflections on the meaning of life and the best way of life. The work emphatically proclaims all the actions of man to be inherently "vain", "futile", "empty", or "meaningless", depending on translation, as the lives of both wise and foolish men end in death. While the teacher clearly promotes wisdom as a means for a well-lived earthly life, he is unable to ascribe eternal meaning to it. In light of this perceived senselessness, the preacher suggests that one should enjoy the simple pleasures of daily life, such as eating, drinking, and taking enjoyment in one's wife and work, which are gifts from the hand of God. The book ends with postscripts, perhaps as many as three.

According to Talmud however, the point of Qohelet is to state that all is futile under the sun. One should therefore ignore physical pleasures and put all one's efforts towards that which is above the Sun. This is summed up in the second to last verse: "The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone".

The Hebrew קהלת (Qohelet) is a feminine participle related to the root קהל meaning "to gather". Scholars are unsure whether it means the "one who gathers" or the "one among the gathering". The English title of the book, Ecclesiastes, comes from the Septuagint translation of Qohelet, Εκκλησιαστής. It has its origins in the Greek word Εκκλησία (originally a secular gathering, although later used primarily of religious gatherings, hence its New Testament translation as "church").

The word Qohelet has found several translations into English, including The Preacher (translating Jerome's ecclesiastes and Martin Luther's Der Prediger). Since preacher implies a religious function, and the contents of the book do not reflect such a function, this translation has largely been rejected by modern translations and scholars. A better alternative is "teacher", although this also fails to capture the fundamental idea behind the original Hebrew title.