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Old 11th January 2018, 07:19 PM
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stylofone stylofone is offline
I am no feeble Christ, not me.
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Default Today's bible study

Wandering past a TV, the words "all else is vanity" drifted into my ears. "What's that from", I thought. Usually the answer is Shakespeare or the Bible. It turned out to be the latter... the much-vaunted Ecclesiastes. I thought I'd have a read.

Verses 2 - 3 answered my initial query:

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
There follows a wealth of sources for literary references. The very next verse provided the title for one of my favourite novels:

One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.
George Stewart broke it down to "Earth Abides", to lead you headlong into one of the definitive post-apocalyptic tales.

The next verse was similarly good for Ernest Hemingway:

The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.
You begin to wonder if there is any verse in the book that hasn't been quoted in literature. Later the author of Ecclesiastes coins the phrase "there is nothing new under the sun." And after that he gives Pete Seeger all the lyrics to his song "Turn Turn Turn". If you love literature and music and art and culture you can't help but marvel at the glory of the language, and all the great work it has inspired.

But while some of those nice little extracts from Ecclesiastes might give you a warm feeling, when you look at the guts of the book, it's a bit of a downer. Like Hamlet, the teacher quoted in Ecclesiastes is wondering whether life is all it's cracked up to be. The new International Version prefers "meaningless" to the King James Version's "vanity". Life is meaningless; death is meaningless; wisdom, wealth, work... everything!

But there's a bit of a clash here - meaninglessness and vanity are two very different words. Apparently the Hebrew word was "hebel" which literally means "smoke" or "vapour", so it had the sense of something elusive, something that it's futile to try to control. I read a reference to Bart Ehrman positing that it referred to the smoke which drifted off the dump next to Jerusalem and occasionally blew its funk into the city. If the translators have that much liberty, maybe they could use the word "shit" instead. So in the NSV (New Stylofonic Version), it could be

Shit of shits, saith the Preacher, shit of shits; all is shitty.
What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
In any case, there's something lost in translation.

The conclusion of Ecclesiastes is that only God is capable of shovelling all that smoke (or shit), so you should just live in the present, do as you're told, turn off your brain and leave everything up to God. Like so much of the not-so-good book, it's a pretty despicable message. So much of what the supposed "teacher" in Ecclesiastes presents as meaningless or futile is actually stuff you should strive to study, to understand, to improve upon. It's a real shame that it's presented as a message to live by in modern times. If we could just look at it as a bit of poetry reflecting the views and philosophies of a person living circa 5th Century BCE it would have a lot more value, as a poetic work which has some pretty words, and gives a few examples of how NOT to live your life.
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Old 12th January 2018, 01:02 AM
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Default Re: Today's bible study

The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.
Ecc 1:5

In 1492 Columbus set forth to sail the blue in the vigorous endeavour to finally establish that the Earth was in fact a globe (also look for gold to plunder really *cough!*).

Had he taken this nihilist disquisition attributed to Solomon 'the Preacher' to heart and went "fuck bothering to even be curious", we would all still be flat Earthers to this day.

Solomon needed antidepressants and Dan Hicks.
Everything admits of a naturalistic explanation.
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Old 13th January 2018, 06:40 PM
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SEG SEG is offline
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Default Re: Today's bible study

There are some nice passages, but also some pretty dumb ones too:

3:11a "He hath made every thing beautiful."
Cancer, bubonic plague, syphilis, bed begs. God thinks they are all cute.

4:5 "The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh."
Bloody idiot!

and my fav;
9:8 "Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment."
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Old 13th January 2018, 06:47 PM
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The Irreverent Mr Black The Irreverent Mr Black is offline
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Default Re: Today's bible study

SEG said View Post
9:8 "Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment."
This verse brought to you by Persil and Brylcreem.

We tend to scoff at the beliefs of the ancients.
But we can't scoff at them personally, to their faces, and this is what annoys me.- Jack Handy

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