Ecclesiastes and Contemporary Argument

in European Judaism

The book of Ecclesiastes is one of the least studied in the Bible. It should be more closely analysed for its critique of conventional, more ‘normative’ biblical books. Its relevance to contemporary thought has been unwittingly highlighted recently. Its argument against the normative view in the Bible mirrors arguments made in a recently published book by the British philosopher John Gray against the work of the Canadian psychologist and neuroscientist Steven Pinker. Ecclesiastes raises issues fundamental to contemporary discourse, such as whether we live in a world that progresses or whether the world is static and one where we are condemned to repeat the mistakes made by previous generations. This article demonstrates that current arguments, apparently deriving from Enlightenment thought, actually have origins going much further back. The author finally asks whether there really is nothing new under the sun. It is an article with a twist in the tail.