Ecclesiastes 7:20 and Obsolete Theology

One of the most difficult things to do is to read the Bible honestly, allowing the different parts of it to balance and inform other parts. This is difficult because it is easy to simply say that all of the Bible is equally valid. The appropriate objection to this is comes from those who support same-sex marriage when they ask why we object to this issue and not to women wearing pants or men shaving the sides of their faces. It is also easy to say that everything that comes before Jesus is no longer valid. The appropriate objection to this is simply to look at how much the Old Testament figured into Jesus’ ministry and how much of it permeates the New Testament.

Every once in a while, though, there is a section in the Old Testament that is theologically obsolete. Here in Ecclesiastes there are a few places:

7:20 Remember: there’s no one on earth so righteous as to do good only and never sin.

8:8 No one has control over the life-breath, to retain it, and there’s no control over the day of death.

9:5-6 But the dead know nothing at all. There is no more reward for them; even the memory of them is lost.  Their love and their hate, as well as their zeal, are already long gone. They will never again have a stake in all that happens under the sun.

empty_tombBecause of Jesus Christ, these are now obsolete. First of all, the incarnation itself makes much of Ecclesiastes obsolete since the recurring theme throughout the book is that there is nothing new under the sun. God becoming man is completely new, and as Jesus walked the earth, he made 7:20 obsolete since he was without sin. Easter Sunday made 8:8 obsolete since Jesus rose from the dead. In fact in the Gospel of John Jesus says that he has the authority to lay down his life and take it up again. Because of Jesus’ resurrection being the precursor to the general resurrection and life everlasting in the Kingdom of God, 9:5-6 is obsolete since we will have a stake in what happens under the sun once again.

What this means is that there may be wise truths in Ecclesiastes, but the majority of the book and its themes are more of a snapshot of what the world was like before the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Living on this side of the life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus it is easy to forget that when God entered into creation it fundamentally changed reality. Ecclesiastes reminds us of that fact.

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