oa Conspectus : The Journal of the South African Theological Seminary - The Axiology of Qohelet and Life ‘Under the Sun’: what is good for us to do? - research

Volume 27 Number 1
  • ISSN : 1996-8167



Many readers of the Book of Ecclesiastes have concluded that Qohelet (the ‘Preacher’) teaches that life ‘under the sun’ is meaningless or worthless. The aim of this paper is to show why that assessment is mistaken. In the first place, if life is as Qohelet describes it—as enigmatic and fleeting, most often frustrating, uncertain, incomprehensible, beyond human control, and subject to evil—then it makes sense to ask, as he did, what is to our advantage and good for us to do? To support this claim, Qohelet’s axiology―his view of the kinds of things that are good or valuable, what it is that makes them valuable, the kinds of value there are, and the relationship between ‘good’ and ‘right’―is clarified and described from a theological perspective. The analysis reveals that life ‘under the sun’ now requires prudence, and the most prudent thing to do is to fear God and obey his revealed moral will. This is not only the essence of wisdom; it is the only value that has implications for our present life and the afterlife. The paper also shows that Qohelet’s axiology is consistent with the teachings of Genesis 1−3, Deuteronomy 6, and the New Testament. It concludes that Qohelet deeply cares about our good, well-being, and happiness, and that the ultimate source of that care is ‘one Shepherd’, which makes it impossible to think that life is meaningless or worthless.

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