Saturday, March 31, 2012

Turn! Turn! Turn!: An Exegesis of Ecclesiastes 3: 1 - 15

What follows is a prospectus I just wrote for my OT2 class for a exegesis of Ecclesiastes 3: 1 - 15.  I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions before I get into the heart of the paper!

The song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” written by Pete Seeger but popularized by the Byrds in 1965, puts forward a message of peace and nonviolent resistance.  Borrowed from Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 of the King James Version of the Bible, the song’s lyrics are only slightly modified from the original Biblical text, with a few changes of verse order and the addition of “I swear its not to late” after the “a time for peace” line.  Beneath the flower power of the popular 1960s anthem however is the centuries old message of Qoheleth, a teacher, preacher, king or assembler living under the political oppression of Ptolemaic Jerusalem.  Once subjected to contemporary methods of textual, historical, sociological and literary criticism, the lyrical source of “Turn! Turn! Turn!” combined with the seven verses following it can become a deep spring of meditative wisdom and reflection.  What I propose then is a type of cultural reading of Qoheleth 3: 1 – 15 that first illuminates the intended message of its original author and then brings the light of that message into the present context of those baby boomers who first heard it with the jingle-jangle of Roger McGuinn’s twelve-string Rickenbacker playing in the background.  My thesis is that when read as indicated above, Qoheleth 3: 1 – 15 wisely argues that peace can only be found in the balance of working solely for the good of God and experiencing the joy of God’s many gifts, despite the relative freedom of fleeting human life.
Proposed Bibliography
Burkes, Shannon. Death in Qoheleth and Egyptian Biographies of the Late Period. Atlanta, Ga:
Society of Biblical Literature, 1999.

Freedman, David Noel. The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. New Haven, Conn: Yale University
Press, 2008.

DeYoung, Curtiss Paul, Wilda C. Gafney, Leticia A. Guardiola-Saenz, George “Tink” Tinker
and Frank M. Yamada, eds. The Peoples' Companion to the Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010.

Krüger, Thomas, O. C. Dean, and Klaus Baltzer. Qoheleth: a commentary. Minneapolis, Minn:
Fortress Press, 2004.

Patte, Daniel, and Teresa Okure. Global Bible Commentary. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2004.

Rindge, Matthew S. "Mortality and enjoyment: the interplay of death and possessions in
Qoheleth." Catholic Biblical Quarterly 73, no. 2 (April 1, 2011): 265-280. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed March 31, 2012).

Sneed, Mark R. The Politics of Pessimism in Ecclesiastes: A Social-Science Perspective. Atlanta:
Society of Biblical Literature, 2012.

Whybray, Roger N. "A time to be born and a time to die:" some observations on Ecclesiastes
3:2-8." In Near Eastern studies dedicated to H I H Prince Takahito Mikasa on the occasion of his seventy-fifth birthday, 469-483. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1991. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed March 31, 2012).

Zimmermann, Frank. The Inner World of Qohelet. New York: Ktav Pub. House, 1973.

Dustin is a Masters of Divinity candidate in his second year of study at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. While seeking ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, his focus is on the intersection between worship, service and justice building in de-centralized faith communities unencumbered by a traditional church building. In his free time, Dustin really likes playing frisbee, hiking and pretending to know how to sing.

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