..."alive" after death in the HB?
Ben and Jo Crick
ben.crick at argonet.co.uk
Sun Dec 22 17:16:59 EST 2002
On Sun 22 Dec 2002 (16:28:31 +1100), mshields at mail.usyd.edu.au wrote:
> Since it reads the H on "goes upward" and "goes down" as the article.
> Most ancient versions, however, read it as an interrogative, from which most
> English versions render "Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward..."
> The context certainly warrants the latter reading, and demands a negative
> answer (rather than the positive answer you suggest). Qohelet's point has
> been that there is no distinction between humans and animals. To introduce
> such a distinction here completely undermines his argument that (to use
> Qohelet's words in Eccl 3:19) "humans have no advantage over the animals..."
> If Qohelet argued that humans enjoyed some afterlife not shared by animals,
> his point makes no sense.
> Finally, if there is any doubt about the matter, it is cleared up completely
> in Eccl 9:5-6, 10. If there is an existence after this life, from what
> Qohelet has to say it can't really be called "life."
I agree. But we have to consider that Qoheleth is talking 'tongue in cheek',
answering the pessimism of the ungodly who find nothing in this world
beyond the physical and the ephemeral. For the ungodly, "life is just one
damned thing after another", as Elbert Hubbard said in his /A Thousand and One
Epigrams/. A time to do something, and a time to undo it. In the Babylonian
/Dialogue of Pessimism/ suicide is the only escape. In the /Gilgamesh Epic/
the god Shamash can only pronounce "The life you pursue you shall not find".
Only for the pessimist is there no difference between human-animal and
But God the Creator has added an extra dimension to the human psyche, or
rather NePe$: the dimension of *Eternity*. Man alone has inklings of
immortality, Ecclesiastes 3:11. GaM 'eT-Ha`oLaM NaTaN B:LiBBaM [God] has
even set Eternity in their hearts. Man is striving after purpose and meaning
in Life, but cannot find it without reference to the Personal/Infinite
Creator of the Universe and of Time itself. Only God knows "the end from the
beginning" (Isaiah 46:10). What God does is not ephemeral; what God does is
for eternity L:`oWLaM (verse 14). What we have done is recorded as if on
videotape in the heavenly archives.
Life is not "let us eat and drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die" (Isaiah
22:12). There is Judgment ahead, for "God requires that which is past"
(verse 15). The only way God's Qohelet can make the ungodly understand is
to point out to them the logic of their own position (that there is no
difference between man and animals). Genesis 1:26-27 says that God created
Man uniquely *in his own image*: including the dimension of Eternity.
Vive la diffe/rence!
Revd Ben Crick BA CF, and Mrs Joanna (Goodwin) Crick
<ben.crick at argonet.co.uk>
232 Canterbury Road, Birchington, Kent, CT7 9TD (UK)
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