Living under the sun: examination of Proverbs and Qoheleth
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The thesis, motivated by the difficulties that OT wisdom presents to OT theology, analyses the worldviews of Proverbs and Qoheleth and identifies the socioeconomic realities from which these stem, in order to understand the relationship between them. The examination concentrates on the Masoretic form of these books, attempting to analyse them along the lines of the editorial intention: Proverbs is looked upon as having a single voice, Qoheleth as representing two voices. The analysis opens with a discussion of the enterprise that produced the two books, and an attempt is made to identify the basic framework and the aims that characterise it. The worldviews are then formulated under five categories of epistemology, cosmology, theology, anthropology and social perspective, with the practical outworking of these worldviews examined subsequently. Also, some implications of the analysis for the questions of historical development and Sitz im Leben of the books are pointed out. The examination reveals a complex relationship between the two books. It is shown that Proverbs and Qoheleth proper stem from the same tradition of thought, sharing identical aims and using similar methodology, while, in contrast, the voice of the epilogue is shown to originate in a different intellectual milieu. At the same time, significant differences are found under each of the five categories. Both books build on the assumption of objectivity and uniformity of human experience, but Proverbs uses this premise to apply past communal experience to the present and future, while Qoheleth uses it to justify application of present personal experience to both the future and the past. Further, the proverbial understanding is theoretically centred around one God, but in practical terms the cosmological framework is dualistic; Qoheleth's perspective is strictly monotheistic. Neither the Proverbial Yahwism nor Qoheleth's theology, in contrast to the epilogue of Qoheleth, stem directly from the Israelite cult, and they employ different approaches to handling the cultic issues, pointing to a different stage in the relationship between wisdom and the cult. The two anthropologies also differ, with Proverbs having a significantly higher and overall more positive view of humanity. The examination further reveals that the socio-economic backgrounds of the two books are radically different. The proverbial world is one of a small and economically independent community with family as the principal socio-economic unit, and the basic proverbial perspective is likely to date back before the emergence of the Israelite monarchy. In contrast, Qoheleth's world reflects an established imperial set up corresponding well with the common linguistic date in the Flellenistic period. These socio-economic differences are the principal reason why the worldviews of the two books diverge in spite of building upon similar initial premises. This makes it difficult to treat Proverbs and Qoheleth in a simple synchronic fashion and calls for a new approach from the OT theologian.