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Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs: From Biblical Text...to Contemporary Life (The NIV Application Commentary) Great commentary from Homiletical perspective The NIV Application Commentary Ecclesiastes Song Of Songs Ecclesiastes And Song Of Songs Have Always Presented Particular Challenges To Their Readers, Especially If Those Readers Are Seeking To Understand Them As Part Of Christian Scripture Ecclesiastes Regularly Challenges The Reader As To Grammar And Syntax The Interpretation Even Of Words Which Occur Frequently In The Book Is Often Unclear And A Matter Of Dispute, Partly Because There Is Frequent Word Play In The Course Of The Argument The Argument Is Itself Complex And Sometimes Puzzling And Has Often Provoked The Charge Of Inconsistency Or Outright Self Contradiction When Considered In The Larger Context Of The OT, Ecclesiastes Stands Out As An Unusual Book, Whose Connection With The Main Stream Of Biblical Tradition Seems Tenuous We Find Ourselves Apparently Reading About The Meaninglessness Of Life And The Certainty Of Death In A Universe In Which God Is Certainly Present But Is Distant And Somewhat Uninvolved When Considered In The Context Of The NT, The Dissonance Between Ecclesiastes And Its Scriptural Context Seems Even Greater For If There Is One Thing That We Do Not Find In This Book, It Is The Joy Of Resurrection Perhaps This Is One Reason Why Ecclesiastes Is Seldom Read Or Preached On In Modern Churches The Song Of Songs Also Known As The Song Of Solomon Has Been Read, Historically, By Christians, In Two Primary Waysas A Text Which Concerns The Love And Sexual Intimacy Of Human Beings And As A Text Which Uses The Language Of Human Love And Intimacy To Speak Of Something Elsethe Relationship Between Christ And The Church Christians Have Often Felt That They Must Choose Between These Optionsthat A Text About Human Love And Sexual Intimacy Could Not Be At The Same Time A Spiritual Text It Is One Of The Challenges Of Reading The Song To Explore How Far This Is Necessarily True And How Far Christian Readers Have Been Influenced In Their Reading By Platonism And Gnosticism Than By Biblical Thinking About The Nature Of The Human Being And Of Human Sexuality Another Challenge Is To Discover Whether The Song Is Really One Song At All, Or Simply A Haphazard Collection Of Shorter Poems Cast Together Because Of Their Common Theme Of Love And Still Another Is To Gain Clarity On What, Precisely, Is The Connection Between The Song And Solomon This Commentary Sets Out To Wrestle Honestly With All The Challenges Of Reading These Biblical Booksthe Challenges Of Reading The Texts In Themselves, And The Challenges Of Reading Them As Intrinsic Parts Of Christian Scripture Using The Standard Structure Of The NIVAC Series, It Explores Their Original Meaning, The Bridging Contexts That Enable Their Journey To The Present, And Their Contemporary Significance In The Course Of The Exploration, These Books Are Seen To Be Deeply Relevant In What They Have To Say Both To The Contemporary Church And The Contemporary Culture Outstanding I bought this book for the Song of Solomon portion It was excellent, but the Ecclesiastes portion shed a brilliant, unexpected light on my thoughts about that book Highly recommended. Note This review covers the ECCLESIASTES portion of this commentary.Let me cut to the chase and tell you that this is not a book for the average Sunday school class or home Bible study group, unless that group is comprised of your fellow seminary students or Hermeneutics classmates But if you ARE planning to teach an Ecclesiastes class, please stay with me for some suggestions at the end of this review What this book does provide is a detailed commentary on Ecclesiastes for pastors, or for personal study or background for lay teaching by those with a solid Bible study foundation and some understanding of exegesis.Ecclesiastes is my favorite book of the Bible I read it at a time in high school when I was just beginning to question my beliefs, and the timing could not have been better The book spoke to me, and continues to do so thirty years later I had barely even heard of Ecclesiastes it is seldom preached , but had decided I would read through the entire Bible and was hitting those books I had never read before Ecclesiastes was next on that list, and I have never been surprised or pleased by any other book, within the Bible or without It asked the questions I was already asking, and through a process that continued throughout my college years provided answers And I have continued to study this book during the following decades, which eventually brought me here to Iain Provan s book These are my thoughts and observations.Dr Provan eschews Hebrew tradition from those much closer in history to the writing of this book to put forward an author other than Solomon Instead, he proposes a writer who takes on multiple personas to make his point He explores reality as if he were Solomon for example, imaginatively reenacting Solomon s reign He adds that the author himself affirms in 1 1 the FICTION of the opening chapters that Qohelet whoever or whatever this is was son of David, king in Jerusalem Capitalization emphasis mine And at this point, something interesting occurred I was surprised to find myself vehemently opposing the suggestion that the author was other than Solomon, although I had come across this viewpoint before And I realized that for many years I had been harboring an unrecognized and secret pride that the author of MY favorite book of the Bible was the wisest man who ever lived This experience brought home to me what I already firmly believed that it is truly God who has written the Bible, and not man but with a deeply personal impact that none of my Bible college courses ever achieved.Nevertheless, I did not find an objective review of Dr Provan s arguments compelling enough to change my mind about Solomon being the true author of this book He even hints than once at female authorship, without offering a single supporting fact As a Bible college student who went on to study science, I often apply Ockham s razor to Scripture as well as science and here continue to choose the simplest explanation Solomon as the best one.So having made my peace with Dr Provan and agreeing with him that It is clearly what the speaker said, however, not who he was or even when he said it, that this author wants us to understand, I was ready to continue deeper into this book I must say that while I initially held concerns about our author s analyses, they were soon dispelled as he deftly began to parse and apply Ecclesiastes He leans sometimes toward overly complex interpretations and resultantly complicated explanations, but overall I discovered a kindred spirit who provides insights and observations that had never occurred to me in than thirty years of Ecclesiastical study Dr Provan has some epiphany level applications of this ancient text, particularly to contemporary society and some of the effects of modern technology As part of the NIV Application Commentary series, this tome is entirely successful.My one big disappointment in this book occurred as I arrived at Ecclesiastes 3 21, Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth As a biologist who studies animals and must sometimes sacrifice an individual to benefit our understanding of the species as a hunter who chooses to pursue, kill, and eat certain animals and as a pet owner who has loved and shed tears over the death of a single animal out of the billions inhabiting our planet, I was extremely curious to hear Dr Provan s interpretation and analyses on the spirit of the animal He remains silent on the topic, discussing it primarily in terms of man sharing the same fate as his fellow animal death Perhaps it is because, like both the author of Ecclesiastes and myself, Dr Provan can only ask Who knows That concludes my review of this book As I mentioned, if you are looking for a Sunday school or home Bible study book, look elsewhere However, having taught two 12 week Sunday school classes on Ecclesiastes and having personally lay preached about half the sermons I have ever heard on the book, I do have some suggestions that should fit with whatever book or study guide you might select for teaching about Ecclesiastes I found an excellent study guide online at Executable Outlines First, the absolute key to understanding the book of Ecclesiastes are the words under the sun, which tell us that the author s perspective is restricted to the apparent meaninglessness of earthly living when there is no acknowledgement of the joy and blessings of Heaven to come or the eventual justice that WILL someday be meted out The other two themes woven repeatedly throughout the book are 2 The importance of serving God throughout your life, and 3 Life is a gift from God to be enjoyed to the fullest.Here are some examples of things I did during my classes Bring in old copies of Popular Mechanics magazines or Space 1999 or 2001 A Space Odyssey videos and discuss how things often don t change as quickly as we d like them to Chapter 1 A copy of Shakespeare s plays helps illustrate that human nature and many other things do not change with time Chapter 1 Bring in a picture of a cave painting, a book, audio book cassette, CD, VHS tape, DVD, and Blu ray movie to illustrate that while the medium changes the basic human need for telling a good story is nothing new under the sun Chapter 1 Begin class with an artificial apple sitting on a pedestal in the middle of the room Pass the apple from person to person and have them describe a fruit of their labor that they are proud of achieving either at work or home Or, provide advance warning and give class members a chance to bring in a related photo or item to share with the group Multiple chapters Play a YouTube video of The Byrds song Turn, Turn, Turn for Chapter 3 Bring in your kid s copy of All Dogs Go to Heaven and discuss whether you believe animals have souls or not for Chapter 3 I displayed on an easel a large canvas print I had made of my wife s favorite cat I brought in my fishing tackle box with literally hundreds of lures in it and compared it to the 100 Things Challenge where individuals try to live with only 100 individual possessions for discussing riches in Chapter 5 For the final session, I brought in many of the items that I had displayed for discussion throughout the three month class This led to many reminiscences and discussions as we wrapped up the conclusion Ecclesiastes covers a diverse range of topics, and in class object lessons and application are limited only by your imagination A chapter a week 12 weeks makes for a long class believe me , but limits the number of complex topics to be discussed in each meeting While a quarter year is a long time to study one subject, Ecclesiastes is so diverse that it should not get old as the class progresses A sub theme throughout Ecclesiastes is that bad things happen to good people The following is not straight from Ecclesiastes, but I will tell you that at least two reasons for this are 1 We live in a fallen world with earthquakes, tornadoes, viruses, and cancer Barring divine intervention these do not discriminate between Christian and non Christian and 2 God has given man free will, and again barring divine intervention that free will allows man to steal, harm, and even kill There are certainly other reasons but these are two that we discussed in the class.I hope this helps those considering purchase of this book, and those that choose to share their knowledge of Ecclesiastes with others. Provan s thoughts on any part of the Old Testament are worth your time This book is no exception Very helpful exegesis I think I picked up that Provan wishes the NIV was a better translation , and stimulating application As a working pastor I found this to be a very worthwhile purchase.


About the Author: Iain Provan

Is a well-known author, some of his books are a fascination for readers like in the Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs: From Biblical Text...to Contemporary Life (The NIV Application Commentary) book, this is one of the most wanted Iain Provan author readers around the world.


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