Biblical scholar gives insight into Ecclesiastes


An expert on the Hebrew language and culture discussed the book of Ecclesiastes and how he believes it should influence Christian thought on Wednesday. Robert Holmstedt delivered a talk entitled “Why Take Advice from a Curmudgeon?” in the Gentile Gallery.

Holmstedt, who holds a doctorate in Hebrew and Semitic Studies, is a professor of language at the University of Toronto and has just finished a grammatical commentary on Ecclesiastes. Throughout his talk he commented on the grammar, structure and meaning of the book and how it should be applied to Christian thought.

“There is nothing frivolous about this message,” Holmstedt said. Because of the repetitive style of the book, he said that it can seem that the author Qoheleth is pointlessly saying the same thing over and over again.

Holmstedt went on to compare this repetition to viewing a crystal from all sides, as each side shows something a little different about the whole of the crystal.

He also spoke on the defeated tone of the book and the emphasis it gives to the difference between what is expected and hoped and what is reality. Holmstedt said that is is an import aspect of the book, but more important is the emphasis put on living for today without worry and being thankful for and enjoying the good things that God gives us. He compared this aspect to what Christ tells us in the Gospels.

In conclusion, Holmstedt brought all these points back to Christian thought and said that we should try to incorporate this practice of seeing things from all angles and accepting both the goodness and brutality of the world.

Jacob Flores, sophomore, said, “I think the talk certainly reminded me of the limits of human thought and understanding, but it also gave me hope … that you shouldn’t be discouraged by the mystery of faith.”