Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Recovering an Ancient Tradition: Toward an Understanding of Hezekiah as the Author of Ecclesiastes
by Quackenbos, David Allen, Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2019, 296; 13878094
Abstract (Summary)

The thesis of this study is that King Hezekiah of Judah wrote the book of Ecclesiastes toward the end of his life, in the early seventh century BCE. In the history of Ecclesiastes interpretation, two views have prevailed regarding authorship of the book. From the early centuries CE through the Reformation, Solomon was considered the author, and this view was virtually unquestioned. Since the seventeenth century the consensus view is that the author is an unknown Jewish sage of the Ptolemaic era, i.e., the third century BCE. This conclusion is based largely on alleged late linguistic features in the book. However, both of these views contain difficulties when compared to the text of Ecclesiastes. Often forgotten in the study of Ecclesiastes authorship is a text from Baba Bathra 15a in the Babylonian Talmud, which states that Hezekiah and his men wrote Ecclesiastes. Linguistic studies over the past three decades by Daniel Fredericks, Ian Young, and others have persuasively argued for preexilic authorship of the book. The conclusions of these scholars have opened the door to examine alternate preexilic candidates for the authorship of the book. This study tests the statement made in Baba Bathra 15a that Hezekiah wrote the book; the conclusion is that Hezekiah stands as a better candidate than Solomon, a third century BCE Jewish sage, or any other ancient figure as the probable author of Ecclesiastes.

Research Methodology

The central section of this dissertation (Chapter Three) consists of an extended analysis of the book of Ecclesiastes and the Hezekiah narratives of 2 Kings 18-20, Isaiah 36-39, and 2 Chronicles 29-32. This comparison reveals many literary and lexical links that suggest Hezekiah as the author of Ecclesiastes.

In terms of linguistic analysis of Ecclesiastes, this study seeks to build on recent studies (e.g., Fredericks, Young) that argue persuasively for a preexilic date of authorship. Chapter Four will discuss the substance of these scholars' studies. Based on their conclusions, it will be argued that the linguistic profile of Ecclesiastes is consistent with Hezekiah's life and milieu.

Chapter Five consists of an examination of the statement in Baba Bathra 15a concerning Hezekian authorship of Ecclesiastes. A study of the context of this statement, especially the rabbi's use of [Special characters omitted], as well as a comparison to other talmudic statements regarding the authorship of Ecclesiastes, reveals that Baba Bathra 15a allows for an understanding that Hezekiah composed the book.

Chapter Summaries

Chapter One contains an introduction to the topic, to include the research question, significance, research methodology, and an outline of the study.

Chapter Two examines the history of interpretation of the authorship of Ecclesiastes. It will be demonstrated that once Solomonic authorship was accepted in the early centuries CE, it was virtually unquestioned until after the Reformation. Then, starting in the seventeenth century, the consensus shifted to the view that Ecclesiastes was written late, i.e., in the third century BCE. Throughout the history of interpretation, there has not been an impetus to question these two conclusions. However, two scholars in the past century have briefly proposed alternate candidates for the authorship of Ecclesiastes. Hubert Grimme's article, "Babel und Koheleth-Jojakhin" (1905) suggests King Jehoiachin wrote the book at the time of the Babylonian exile. Joel Weinberg's article "Author and Authorship in the Ancient Near East and in the Hebrew Bible" (2003) provides a cursory explanation that the postexilic leader Zerubbabel wrote Ecclesiastes. While neither of these views has gained traction in the scholarly community, they are analyzed here due to their relevance to the current study.

Chapter Three consists of a summary of the life of Hezekiah to set the stage for a comparison of his life and times to the text of Ecclesiastes. Several connections are established which suggest that the book of Ecclesiastes matches well the life and Sitz im Leben of Hezekiah. Further, it is argued that these links between Hezekiah and Ecclesiastes offer better explanations than those advanced in defense of Solomonic or late authorship.

Chapter Four addresses the linguistic argument for Hezekian authorship of Ecclesiastes. Scholarly studies over the last three decades have demonstrated the plausibility of preexilic authorship. This chapter will discuss specific linguistic factors in Ecclesiastes such as Aramaisms, Persian loanwords, vernacular/colloquial language, and northern dialect, showing how Hezekiah is a good candidate for someone who would have employed all of these features in his writing.

Chapter Five analyzes the statement in Baba Bathra 15a regarding Hezekian authorship of Ecclesiastes. It will be argued that the context of this statement supports an understanding that Hezekiah composed the book. Further, an analysis of other talmudic statements on Ecclesiastes authorship, namely those in Megillah 7a and Shabbath 30, do not constitute explicit claims to Solomonic authorship.

Chapter Six consists of a summary of findings and implications of Hezekian authorship of Ecclesiastes.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Moseley, Neal A.
Commitee: Fredericks, Daniel C., Rooker, Mark F.
School: Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Department: Theology
School Location: United States -- North Carolina
Source: DAI-A 80/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Religion, Biblical studies
Keywords: Authorship, Baba bathra, Ecclesiastes, Hezekiah, Qoheleth
Publication Number: 13878094
ISBN: 9781392120095
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