Corps de l’article

Stuart Weeks is Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at the Durham University (England). He has aimed to publish a critical and exegetical commentary on Ecclesiastes in two volumes. This volume, the first one, has 736 pages. It has been published by T&T Clark in the “International Critical Commentary Series (ICC)”. The immense work offers an introduction and commentary on Ecclesiastes 1.1-5.6. The book reports on the current state of research on Ecclesiastes. Just as Weeks revealed in the Preface : “Ecclesiastes has been treated already in the ICC series, and George Barton’s 1908 commentary remains a valuable resource, often cited” (p. xi). Barton himself was so aware of the limits of his investigations for the new generations that he stated that “those who expect to find here the advocacy of new and startling theories of this fascinatingly perplexing book will be disappointed” (ibid.). Many scholars have been involved in commentating Ecclesiastes during the centuries and their works have reached unprecedented sort. Modern approaches based in linguistics and lexicography back away moved away from text-critical work. The text does not change, but the way to read and receive it does. That is why Weeks says his commentary is not “new” as such while comparing with Barton’s work. It is merely informed by more recent data and engages with more recent scholarship. Weeks’ commentary is influenced by recent developments in literary theory and modern sensitivities. However, Weeks has the primary purpose of devote space to text-critical and philological issues after revealing that « many of the ways in which particular passages have been understood […] are either wholly speculative or demonstrably wrong. There are many problems, and many places where more than one reading is possible, but the accretion of suggestions over the centuries has made it much harder than it should be for readers to determine what the text certainly does or does not say » (p. xii). The author wants therefore his commentary to be a commentary for commentators where they find the information that they need in order to reach their own conclusions.

The structure of the book is one of the easiest never find out in a book whose extent exceeds 700 pages. The table of the contents only speak about Preface, Introduction, Commentary and Bibliography. Nevertheless, Weeks’ commentary is interested on the Ecclesiastes’ attribution and authorship, the literary form and the particulars genres of the book of Qohelet, Qohelet’s ideas in particular, the outline and the hebel statements about the “vanity” of various phenomena, which tie into the programmatic declarations at 1.2 and 12.8 as well as the analogue form of declaration “this (also) is vanity” that occurs nineteen times (1:14 ; 2:1.11[twice]. ; 4:4.8.16 ; 5:9 ; 6:2.9 ; 7:6 ; 8:10.14).

Finally, Weeks’ study is a critical an exegetical commentary of the five first chapters of Ecclesiastes. The author scrutinizes, through the strictest literary criticism, the “Superscription (Ecc: 1.1)” (p. 230-247), “The Challenge (1.2-3)” (p. 248-260), “The Evidence from the World (1.4-11)” (p. 261-326), “The Evidence from Experience (1.12-2.11)” (p. 327-419), “The Reflections on Experience (2.12-26)” (p. 420-481), “The Work of God and Humans (3.1-15)” (p. 482-530), the “Hidden Distinctions (3.16-22)” (p. 531-564), “Work and Other People (4.1-16)” (p. 565-623), and, finally, “Speaking to God (5.1-7)” (p. 624-658). But just as Weeks said, “it is as difficult to pull apart the various elements of the discourse in Ecclesiastes as it is to separate the significance of its words from the way they are presented” (p. 4). Therefore, he opted to the challenge of presenting a single brief account of the book, covering both aspects together and he has excellently succeeded.