[b-hebrew] Qohelet Genre T.Longman
c stirling bartholomew
cc.constantine at worldnet.att.net
Fri Jun 27 00:22:40 EDT 2003
on 6/26/03 5:00 PM, Martin A. Shields wrote:
> Longman defines autobiography (in part) by saying "The composition must be
> written in the first person and include reminiscences of the past life of
> the first-person narrator." (Fictional Akkadian Autobiography, pp 40-41)
> So it isn't enough that the text is framed in the first person, it needs to
> make reference to the past life of the narrator.
These criteria for identifying an autobiography are explained briefly in
Longman's commentary (pp. 17-20 Eccl. NICOT). I noted that his only stated
criteria for calling the Akkadian autobiographies **fictional** was date.
The works were considered too late to have been written by the first person
narrator. Perhaps he gives other criteria in FAA.
This approach of establishing fictional status does not work well with
Qohelet as you have noted:
on 6/25/03 3:48 AM, Martin A. Shields wrote:
> Until we find the postmark on the original envelope used to post the work to
> the publishers, I don't think much headway is going to be made regarding the
We know that "I, Claudius" is fiction because we know who the author is
(Robert Graves) and when know when it was written. We don't know either of
these things about Qohelet.
There are some sections in the wisdom portions of Qohelet which don't sound
to us moderns and postmoderns like the words of a fabulously rich King with
too many wives, for example Eccl. 4:1-3,5:7-8 (English 5:8-9), 10:20.
I wonder if the three Akkadian works Longman uses to establish his sub-genre
contain statements like this in the wisdom material which undermine the
identity of the first person narrator in the autobiographical section? In
other words, are there internal indicators in these Akkadian works which
identify them as fictional or are we left with nothing but the date to
We moderns and postmoderns are used to expecting an narrator to establish
and maintain "suspension of disbelief" and when this breaks down as it does
in the wisdom material of Eccl. we get upset. We don't like a fabulously
rich King taking the side of the poor and oppressed. But this expectation is
our problem not the ancient authors.
I guess a little more explanation of the criteria for establishing the
fictional status of an ancient autobiography might be useful. Do we consider
a work fictional which was written for a King by someone else just because
it uses the convention of first person to narrate? Even if the contents of
the narration are essentially historical?
Just to clear the air, I am not arguing for Solomon as the author of
Qohelet. For psychological reasons alone I find Solomon a poor candidate for
authoring Qohelet. From what we know of Solomon, he was a super achiever in
terms of public works. I cannot make myself accept the idea that a super
achiever could have written this book. Wrong sort of temperament.
thanks for your comments,
Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
Three Tree Point
P.O. Box 255 Seahurst WA 98062
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