This is the first full-length study of Ecclesiastes using methods of philosophical exegesis, specifically those of the modern French philosophers Levinas and Blanchot. T. A. Perry opens up new horizons in the philosophical understanding of the Hebrew Bible, offering a series of meditations on its general spiritual outlook. Perry breaks down Ecclesiastes' motto 'all is vanity' and returns 'vanity' to its original concrete meaning of 'breath', the breath of life. This central and forgotten teaching of Ecclesiastes leads to new areas of breath research related both to environmentalism and breath control.
T. A. Perry is Professor of Comparative Literature (Emeritus) at the University of Connecticut. He has previously taught at Williams College, Smith College, Loyola University, Hebrew University and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. He is the author and editor of numerous books, including Wisdom Literature and the Structure of Proverbs, The Honeymoon is Over: Jonah's Argument with God, Erotic Spirituality: The Integrative Tradition from Leone Ebreo to John Donne, The Moral Proverbs of Santob de Carrion: Jewish Wisdom in Christian Spain, and God's Twilight Zone: Wisdom in the Hebrew Bible.
Introduction: the path of moral philosophy and beyond; Part I. Human Hebel ('Vanity'): Sins of Collection: 1. 'I Qohelet was king' (1:12): the collector theme (1:12-2:26); 2. Fool's toil (1:2-3); 3. Excess and its passions (1:8-11); 4. A practical guide for living wisely; Part II. Universal Hebel ('Wind'): Transience, Time, and Indifference: 5. Cosmic patterns of return and renewal; 6. The catalogue of human times (3:1-8); Part III. The Hebel of 'Dis-aster': Totalities, Transcendence, and Crossover Concepts: 7. Totalities and the outside (dehors); 8. Living 'under the sun' and with transience; 9. Breath of breaths: Qohelet's motto and theme and refrain: a Levinassian exegesis; Part IV. The Hebel of Words: 10. Nothing remains (1:3)? Nothing new (1:9; 12:8-12); Part V. Theological Conclusions: 11. Qohelet's very final words: a judging God, or judging God (12:13-14); 12. Qohelet's very first words: testifying against God and his 'evil' (1:13); 13. The 'all' of humans: fear God but also keep the Commandments (12:13); Conclusions: singing in truth; Appendix: further notes and topics on breath research.