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Durham e-Theses
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The Interpretation of Ecclesiastes with Specific Reference to Qoheleth's Claims to Knowledge

WILSON, NORMAN,SAMUEL (2017) The Interpretation of Ecclesiastes with Specific Reference to Qoheleth's Claims to Knowledge. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 05 June 2020.


This dissertation explores the interpretation of Ecclesiastes with a specific focus on the epistemology of its author. Chapters 1 and 2 lay the groundwork for this thesis by examining Qoheleth’s ideas about the world and humans’ place in it. The use of three key terms – lbh, lm[, and !wrty - reveal a man with a very strong, negative, and pessimistic outlook that sets the tone for the whole book. Qoheleth’s observations and reflections have suggested to some that he was an empiricist. These claims are described in chapter 3, where we also present a working definition of empiricism, and a short survey of epistemological theory.
Chapters 4 and 5 explore the epistemic claims Qoheleth makes about God. We found that Qoheleth’s very substantial theological claims could not have been derived from an empirical grounding; rather, we concluded that his theology was not only non-experiential, but also counter-experiential. Qoheleth’s use of three crucial experiential verbs har, [dy, and acm are examined in chapters 6 -10. Despite the prima facie experiential potential of these verbs, our interpretation of the evidence did not, in the main, endorse the claim that Qoheleth was an empiricist. However, it was acknowledged that the description ‘empiricist’ was only partly justified with reference to Qoheleth’s personal experiments recounted in chapter 2. Chapter 11 briefly surveyed some facets of Qoheleth’s argumentation that I submit strengthen my thesis that Qoheleth does not warrant the appellation ‘empiricist’. I argued that the early material in the book revealed a man with a very large ego whose dogmatic assertions on many issues lacked the necessary supporting evidence. Finally, in the conclusion, I succinctly drew all the strands of my arguments together, and on this basis I advanced the case that in epistemological terms, Qoheleth is better understood as a foundationalist, rather than an empiricist.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:06 Jun 2017 09:18

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