Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Fear of the Lord.

"Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." -Ecc. 12:13-14

It has often been supposed that Solomon here renders an entirely new light on his previous treatise, like a resolved chord does to the entire melody of a song, or Amneris' prayer for peace at the end of Aida does to the whole of Verdi's tragedy. Peter Enns, like a good delusional Mennonite, suggests that this verse is in fact an editorial gloss provided to cast the reader out of the sinkhole of Qohelet's thinking. To him we may well quote Luther, who responded to the detractors of Ecclesiastes by saying:

"Does the Holy Spirit like to indulge in loquacious and foolish babble?"

This is apparently what most of the church thinks when it comes to Ecclesiastes, and it will do nearly everything to thrust this book into the attic of scriptural inquiry.

I have a practical rule which I apply faithfully to my canonical doubts: those pieces of scripture which are most ferociously hated and discarded the most frequently by the largest groups of religious individuals are most likely the Word of God. They must be doubted and questioned the least, for there is scarcely a word of prophecy that hasn't sent Israel and the church a-reeling into fanatical contempt for it.

The fear of the Lord, his commandments, and the duty binding on man does not provide man with an escape out of his meaningless condition. It is rather the commandment itself, which provides a duty for man, in which fear is enjoined, that creates a global situation of meaninglessness.

Paul sums up this argument quite well when he says: "When the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died" and "the law was added so that the transgression might increase" and "the power of sin is the law." Ecclesiastes already suggests that the source of meaninglessness for the "wise" man is that he, like the fool, must DIE (2:16). In fact death throws all of our deeds and our accomplishments into disarray and vacuousness (9:6).

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