Qoheleth the Accountant; Teaching Kids the Not-So-Neat

1.  In Bringing the Hidden to Light, I read Stephen Garfinkel’s essay, “Qoheleth: The Philosopher Means Business”.  Dr. Garfinkel taught a class on Qoheleth (Ecclesiastes) when I was at Jewish Theological Seminary, but (for reasons I don’t remember) I didn’t take it.

Essentially, Garfinkel argues that the message of Qoheleth is economic rather than philosophical: people should enjoy what they materially have while they’re still alive.  Garfinkel states that the audience of the book consisted of affluent people.  Garfinkel also presents Qoheleth as a sort of accountant in his argumentation, showing that certain things amount to zero (vanity).

2.  Randy Olds has a good post today, Theology for Our Children…And Theirs.  I’ve often wondered what theology I should teach my children, if I ever marry and have any.  Should I teach them that the Bible is absolutely inerrant, when I myself struggle on this issue?  And, if I don’t teach them that, what model of biblical inspiration will I present to them? 

In my opinion, fundamentalist conceptions of Scripture fall apart, but at least they are easy to explain: the Bible says it, so it’s true, period.  And if one part of the Bible is mistaken, how can you trust any of it?  Sounds pretty neat and clean, even if it can fall apart once a person learns about evolution and isn’t convinced by creationism, or encounters biblical contradictions and doesn’t buy into attempts to “harmonize” them, or reads about (say) God commanding genocide or collective punishment and isn’t satisfied with the “cancer” or “God’s ways are higher than our ways” explanations.

But other conceptions of Scripture strike me as convoluted or complicated.  I don’t even understand them myself, so how would I expect a child to comprehend them!  It’s not that I don’t grasp the idea that the Bible is a collection of ideologically-diverse documents, which reflect their own cultures and historical contexts (for better or for worse, in my opinion).  I have to understand that idea for my Bible comp!  It’s when non-fundamentalist Christians try to explain how the Bible can be that and still function as authoritative Scripture that I get confused.

There’s so much more that can be said about this topic, but I’ll stop here, for now.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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