Friday, November 04, 2016

The Condition of the Dead: A Discussion About Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth)

In context, Qoheleth does say that all men, no matter what their station is
in life, in time die (Eccl. 9:3). He then proceeds to inform us that "to him
that is joined with all the living there is hope; for a living dog is better
than a dead lion" (Eccl. 9:4).

Is Qoheleth saying that "hope" only exists for the living from the standpoint
of men living "under the sun"? When he wrote that "a living dog is better
than a dead lion," did he mean that a live dog is superior to a dead lion in
the eyes of men only? Or is such a statement objectively true?
The context implies that interpreting Qoheleth's words non-objectively
could result in the utter misconstrual of Eccl. 9:5ff since the writer
makes a stark contrast between the living and the dead in Eccl. 9:5.
He even adds these solemn words in Eccl. 9:10: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth
to do, do it with thy might: for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge,
nor wisdom, in Sheol, wither thou goest" (ASV).

So Qoheleth apparently thought the dead are objectively conscious of nothing, not just from the standpoint of earthly observers. Furthermore, the Tanakh consistently teaches that the dead know nothing at all:

"For in death there is no remembrance of thee [Jehovah]: In Sheol who shall give thee thanks?" (Ps. 6:5).

"For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one
dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no
advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity. All go to the same place.
All came from the dust and all return to the dust" (Eccl. 3:19-20).

Cf Job 3:11-19.

An argument could be formalized as follows:

1. Either the dead praise YHWH in Sheol or the dead remain silent.
2. The dead do not praise YHWH in Sheol.
3. Therefore, the dead remain silent.

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