from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Kohelet, chapter 1 in the Biblia de Cervera (around 1300, Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal ).
Ketuvim (writings) of the Tanakh
Sifrei Emet (poetic books)
חמש מגילות- Megillot (fixed rollers)
Textbooks or wisdom books of
the Old Testament

Names after the ÖVBE . Pseudepigraphs of
the Septuagint are in italics .

Old Testament books
History books


"Little" ( Book of the Twelve Prophets )

Kohelet (also: Prediger ; abbreviated Koh or Pred; Hebrew קֹהֶלֶת"Assembly") is a book of the Tanakh , which there belongs to the Ketuvim ("Scriptures"). In the Christian Old Testament (OT) it is counted among the books of wisdom. In the Luther Bible , the book is entitled The Preacher Solomon .

This biblical writing is characterized by its multiple perspectives. Some of their interpreters see Kohelet as being shaped by deep pessimism and skepticism . Others, however, understand the author as a wisdom teacher who calls for serenity in the face of the incomprehensible vicissitudes of life. The overall message of the book must be understood in the context of Kohelet's intention to find a meaningful lifestyle. He deals with traditional wisdom , especially with the relationship between doing and doing : The righteous will fare well, the wicked badly. Kohelet notes that experience often teaches the opposite. He also comes to the realization that with death, all attainments of life are ultimately wiped out. In the face of an uncertain future, he recommends enjoying the good in life as God's gift.


The Hebrew wordקֹהֶלֶת According to Koh 1.1  EU, Ḳohelet refers to a person whose teachings form the content of the book. Sometimes Kohelet is used like a proper name in the book. It is unusually a participle feminine to the verb קהל ḳahal "collect", so one could translate: "the gathering". Since this feminine participle is constructed with a masculine verb and Ecclesiastes is also referred to as “son of David” in 1.1, Ecclesiastes is a male person. There are comparable names in Biblical Hebrew for men with a participle feminine; This is a designation based on activities that were carried out regularly. That can also be assumed here. A job title is used secondarily as a person name. Two interpretations are possible, both of which are supported by the book:

  • Kohelet was a collector of proverbs, which he improved and brought into shape (cf. Koh 12.9  EU ).
  • Kohelet gathered people. According to the content of the book, however, it could not have been a political meeting or the cult community, but Kohelet appeared publicly in the manner of Greek wandering philosophers and gathered a group of students around him.

The ancient translators into Greek ( Septuagint ) decided to translate Kohelet as Ekklesiastes ( Ἐκκλησιαστής ), "speaker in a popular assembly". The Latin book title in the Vulgate is derived from this : Liber Ecclesiastes . Jerome suggested the translation into Latin contionator or concionator ("popular speaker") because the author is not addressing a single person, but rather the public as a whole. Martin Luther's book title “Preacher Solomon” follows this tradition.

Identification with Solomon

Ancient water reservoirs near Jerusalem were named
Solomon's Ponds because of Koh 2.6  EU

Although the name of the Israelite king Solomon is not mentioned explicitly, the text suggests that the author identifies with Solomon. The “I” that is spoken in the book presents itself as follows: “I, Ecclesiastes, was king over Israel in Jerusalem .” ( Koh 1.12  EU ) Assuming the reader has the appropriate knowledge, this becomes a “Solomonic trace " placed.

The historical-critical exegesis agrees that the book of Kohelet is one of the younger of the Tanach. The historical Solomon cannot therefore be the author. Rather, Kohelet takes on the role of "Solomon" in the sense of a Solomon or king fiction, an ideal wise and rich ruler who has every opportunity to shape his life independently. The exegetes, however, are divided as to whether the role of the philosopher king is given up from the passage Koh 2.25  EU ( Norbert Lohfink : "The king's cloak then sinks ... to the ground") or is retained until the end of the book.

The "wisdom" ( Hebrew חָכְמָה It is ḥokhmāh ) of Solomon that makes him interesting as a role- giver . It is alluded in particular to Solomon's prayer for wisdom ( 1 KingsEU ) and Solomon as a wisdom teacher ( Prov 1,1-3  EU ). Another central Salom tradition, Solomon as the builder of the Jerusalem temple, is not discussed.

Time and place of origin

Many researchers assume that it originated in the early Hellenistic period (3rd century BC). Today Jerusalem is assumed to be the place of origin, but Alexandria cannot be ruled out either.

The oldest identified quotations or adoptions from the book of Kohelet contain the book Jesus Sirach , which was probably written in the early 2nd century BC. Was written: Sir 39.12–35  EU can be understood as a critical examination of KohEU .

Among the Qumran texts there are two fragments of the Book of Kohelet, 4Q Koh a (= 4Q 109) and 4Q Koh b (= 4Q 110); the older fragment 4Q Koh a can be traced back to the period between 175 and 150 BC. BC and thus provides an additional term ante quem for the drafting of the work. A few decades after its presumed drafting, the text of the Book of Kohelet existed in various orthographic and lexical variants. The two Qumran fragments contain no evidence of an older text form than the Masoretic text .


Hugo Grotius (painting by Michiel van Mierevelt , 1631, Stedelik Museum Het Prinsenhof )

The Hebrew of the book of Ecclesiastes is peculiar and indicates a late development of the text. Hugo Grotius was the first to deny that he was a Solomonic author. He wrote in 1644: “I don't think Solomon was the author. It was later written under that king's name ... The arguments for this are the many vocabulary that you normally only find in Daniel , Esra and the Targumen . "

Although one could explain some of the differences to classic Biblical Hebrew through dialect or colloquial language , the anomalies brought together Franz Delitzsch in 1875 to the conclusion: If the book of Kohelet came from Solomon and therefore in the 10th century BC. If it had been written in BC, "there would be no history of the Hebrew language."

Late dating is now the consensus of research. It is supported by the observation that two loan words from Persian occur:

  • Hebrew פַּרְדֵּס pardēs "Baumgarten" (as a loan word in German: Paradies );
  • Hebrew פִּתְגָם pitgām "message".

There are also influences from Aramaic in the vocabulary and grammar . When the province of Yehud was part of the Persian Empire , this left its mark on the Hebrew language. They are a feature of the recent writings of the Tanach . On the one hand Kohelet has an individual style like no other author of the Old Testament, on the other hand his vocabulary, taken from the field of public administration, indicates that the social origin of the author and his intended readership is to be sought here.

Unique Gräzismen in Ecclesiastes vocabulary does not exist. One possible Graecism is, for example, Ecclesiastes' use of the verb Hebrew תור door . In Biblical Hebrew it usually means scouting out, spying, but with Kohelet (and only with him) a thoughtful exploration and fathoming: Koh 1.13  EU , Koh 2.3  EU , Koh 7.25  EU . This development of meaning can be influenced by the Greek philosophical term σκέπτεσθαι sképtesthai (“look, peek, contemplate, examine”, cf. the foreign word skepticism ).

Social history background

The archaeological site of Qasr el-Abd is identified with Tire , the residence of the Tobiad Hyrkanos in the East Bank

Reading the Book of Ecclesiastes takes the reader back to a time when the Jewish religion was under the strong influence of Hellenism. The book echoes the economic and social changes that this brought with it:

The small temple state of Judaia (within the province of Syria and Phenicia ) was part of the Ptolemaic Empire . The way in which Kohelet / Solomon is represented as ruler reminds Norbert Lohfink of the Ptolemaic imperial ideology, which “stylized the entire state as a kind of huge private household of the king.” The author stands by the “great deeds” of his royal self ( Koh 2 , 4  EU ) the distant example of the Lagiden Palace in Alexandria with surrounding ponds and parks in mind, but also the smaller-sized palace complexes of the Greek and Judean upper classes based on this model - above all the Tobiaden Palace Tire in the East Bank.

There were economic innovations: breeding new plants, building terraces and artificial irrigation. The majority of the population hardly benefited from the increase in agricultural yields; rather, it was put under great pressure by the tax lease system. “The way it worked was to bid on a city's tax, get a bid for a certain price, and then make sure that the money was collected. You only had to pay the agreed fixed sum to the king ... and you could book everything you pressed in excess of the lease price as profit. ”The local elite were able to enrich themselves enormously through the tax lease. New ways of shaping their lives opened up for them, as the biographies of the Tobiads Josef and Hyrkanos show. JiSeong James Kwon names a number of motifs that were important in the Tobiad family and that are addressed in the Book of Ecclesiastes, including a distanced attitude towards the Jerusalem temple, an interest in palace and garden architecture and international banking.

The Koheletbuch was created in a time of upheaval and takes an ambivalent stance towards these changes: “The experiences of political and economic outside determination, the questioning of social orders and values, and increased pressure to perform ... can lead to a feeling of powerlessness and being at the mercy, but also as Opportunity to be grasped to achieve a 'profit' through courageous and risk-taking action, which would have remained unattainable under more stable conditions. "(Thomas Krüger)

Examination of Hellenistic philosophy

It is undisputed that the Koheletbuch takes up current topics from the time of its creation. But does Kohelet also show knowledge of Hellenistic authors? That would mean that one “reconstructs an intercultural discussion forum, so to speak, in which Kohelet takes part.” Krüger, for example, sees a common basic approach of different directions of Hellenistic philosophy in “determining the happiness attainable for humans by devaluing and comparing everything that is unavailable” recorded in the book of Kohelet and critically reflected.

Diethelm Michel takes the opposite position. The book of Kohelet is understandable from an internal Jewish problem constellation. Kohelet argues in two directions:

  • against the opinion that by doing the right thing one could gain permanent gain or advantage ( Hebrew יִתְרוֹן yitrōn ) procure in life;
  • against asceticism , suffering in the world and hope for a balance in the hereafter as a consequence of the experience that the doing-doing-connection (the good is doing well, the wrongdoer bad) empirically often does not work - a disturbing experience that Kohelet shares ( Koh 8,14  EU ).

Confrontation with the wisdom tradition of Israel

While the older wisdom texts of the Hebrew Bible were about an educational material that the functional elites need, wisdom in more recent texts is religiously charged. In chapters Pr 1 to 9, wisdom and Torah converge. They are a supplement to the proverbs from the Hellenistic period and are therefore only a little older than Kohelet.

According to Thomas Krüger, the author of the Book of Kohelet has a positive view of the older tradition of wisdom, which offered itself in a relatively pragmatic way as a doctrine of life that would help lead to a successful life but could not guarantee it. The new view of wisdom, heavily attacked by Kohelet, identified it with the order of creation, personified it as a feminine, quasi-divine figure and thus surrounded it with a religious nimbus, with which it was beyond critical examination. When wisdom has been imagined even as playing partner YHWH in the creation of the world ( Prov 8.22 to 31  EU ), an influence of Hellenistic is Isis - Aretalogien possible, which is quite conceivable in the Ptolemaic period.

In looking for an alternative to the younger wisdom, Kohelet is not simply continuing the older wisdom. Traditional wisdom would have attached little importance to the experiences of an individual, as Kohelet expounded them in his reflections. These reflections, held in the first person singular, give the book of Kohelet its “modern character”: a discrepancy between personal observation and social knowledge becomes discernible. The author recommends acquiring specialist know-how with which sources of danger can be avoided (cf. Koh 10.8–11  EU ). However, he gives no more guarantees of success than the older wisdom did.


The older exegesis ( Franz Delitzsch 1875, Kurt Galling 1940) saw the Koheletbuch as a loose collection of sentences . Walther Zimmerli (1974) worked out, however, that Koh 1.12–2.26 forms an arc of tension. Many later exegetes built on this. In chapters 1 to 3 a compositional unit (“treatise”) is often recognized that either ends with Koh 3.15  EU or extends to Koh 3.22  EU .

In the more recent exegesis, the prevailing assumption is that the entire book of Kohelet is planned in a planned manner. Norbert Lohfink (1980, main translator for Kohelet in the standard translation ) adopted an overall composition that encompasses the entire book . He saw an exciting simultaneity of linear-dynamic and " palindromic " arrangement. The "palindromic" conception of Lohfink, in the center of which was the criticism of religion (Koh 4.17-5.6), remained a minority opinion, while Franz-Josef Backhaus and Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger Lohfink modified the linear structure. In Schwienhorst-Schönberger (1997) the following structure of the text results:

1.1 heading
1.2 Frames and mottovers Breeze
1.3-3.22 Propositio Possibility of human happiness
4.1-6.9 Explicatio Dealing with traditional values
6.10-8.17 Refutation Rejection of other happiness determinations
9.1-12.7 Applicatio Practical consequences
12.8 Frames and mottovers Breeze
12.9-14 Afterwords

Two afterwords by different editors have been added to the Book of Ecclesiastes.

  • The first editor wrote the heading Koh 1,1  EU and the epilogue ( colophon ) Koh 12,8–11  EU .
  • The second editor is responsible for the end of the books Koh 12.12-14  EU . It is a reinterpretation of Kohelet's teaching in order to bring it back into the wisdom school tradition from which Kohelet had distanced himself.

Literary genre and genres

King's Testament

Kurt Galling (1932) met with broad approval, but also contradicted his proposal to understand the Book of Kohelet as a doctrine of wisdom in the form of a (fictional) royal will based on the ancient Egyptian model (examples: doctrine for Merikare, doctrine of Amenemhet ). Even Gerhard von Rad represented in the standard work wisdom in Israel (1970) this thesis. The royal doctrine of life is a specialty of ancient Egyptian literature. However, it is not an independent form of literature, but belongs to the "life lessons" that existed outside of Egypt. So-called hypomnemata , which were ascribed to politically important personalities, have survived from the Hellenistic period .

There are interesting parallels that can be placed alongside the King's Testament within the Hebrew Bible:


As his structure shows, Schwienhorst-Schönberger sees formal and content-related similarities between the Book of Kohelet and the Hellenistic diatribe . Lohfink had already emphasized Kohelet's closeness to the diatribe with her “speech pragmatism tailored to effect and conversion”: “Relatively early, after a few shock operations, the main thesis was clear. Then it is deepened, defended, extended into practical life. "

Small forms

Kohelet quotes, writes, and refutes proverbs . He shows that he is in a critical conversation with the wisdom tradition. There are about 70 proverbs in the book:

Art sayings Recognizable by the parallelism membrorum . Example: "In a dream one concludes many deals, the uneducated makes many words." (Koh 5,2)
Proverbs Example: "A living dog is better than a dead lion." (Koh 9.4b)
Double proverbs Example: "Better the outcome of a thing than its beginning, better long-suffering than arrogance." (Koh 7: 8)
TOB -Proverbs Comparisons that name the better ( Hebrew טֹוב ṭôb "good") Example: "Knowledge is better than power." (Koh 9,16a)

In addition, there are other small forms: a sample narrative ( Koh 9.14 to 15  EU ) and three poems about the cosmos ( Koh 1.4 to 11  EU ) over time ( Koh 3.1 to 9  EU ) and the Growing old ( Koh 12.2–7  EU ).

Tensions and contradictions

It has always been noticed that there are tensions and contradictions in the book. After literary-critical models were not convincing, the Book of Kohelet (except for the heading, epilogues and glosses) is now mostly a uniform work; the tensions are explained by the theory of citation and reasoning.

Gloss model

Contradictions can be an indication that texts from different authors have been worked together. The extreme application of the literary method brought Carl Siegfried (1898) to distinguish nine layers in Koheletbuch. There was no consensus. More recently, the “gloss model” represented by Aarre Lauha (1978) and James L. Crenshaw (1987) has stood for this research direction: accordingly, editors inserted dogmatic corrections into the book of Kohelet as glosses . The particularly clear case of Koh 11.9b  EU shows how the editor (in italics ) corrected Kohelet's argument:

“Rejoice, young man, in your youth, have a cheerful heart in your early years! Walk the ways your heart tells you to go to what your eyes see in front of you! And be aware that God will judge you for all of this! Keep your mind free from anger and protect your body from illness; because youth and dark hair are a breath of wind! "

Polar structures

Some see in the contradictions of the text a specific peculiarity of Kohelet's thinking, a "yes-but". James A. Loader (1986) found the formulation "polar structures" for this. On a theoretical level Kohelet describes this with his windbreath statements; On a practical level, he resolved the contradictions he noted by calling for joy in life. Loader sums up: “Aside from the epilogue, there isn't a single tangible contradiction in the book. The 'contradictions' which caused so much headache for the rabbis and which have been so artfully eliminated by literary criticism are nothing more than intended polar structures . "

Quote and reasoning

Other interpreters assume that Kohelet cites other opinions in order to then critically examine them (according to Lohfink and Michel). However, it is difficult to differentiate between the quotation and the comment. This leads to the assumption that precisely this ambiguity is wanted by the author: “Theses and antitheses function like a kind of navigation. The reader is guided without being able to immediately and clearly understand and assign the contradictions and tensions ... ”This is the approach taken by Krüger and Schwienhorst-Schönberger.


Tomb of the Bnei Hesir , an aristocratic Jerusalem family, 2nd century BC Chr.


One of the key words in the Book of Kohelet is Hebrew הֶבֶל hevel , in the status constructus : havel . The noun specifically denotes the breath of air and metaphorically something light, inconstant. Outside the Koheletbuchs met hevel in the Hebrew Bible in complaints about the transience of human life. Assumed valuable assets such as wealth or military strength can turn out to be hevel . Polemically, other deities and their cult images are described as powerless nonsense and hevel . Kohelet takes up this usage, but also gives the word its own meaning.

As mottovers, Koh 1,2 is prefixed to the book:

  • Hebrew הֲבֵ֤ל הֲבָלִים֙ אָמַ֣ר קֹהֶ֔לֶת הֲבֵ֥ל הֲבָלִ֖ים הַכֹּ֥ל הָֽבֶל׃ havel havālīm amar ḳohelet havel havālīm hakol hāvel .
  • Literal translation: "Breath of breath, said Kohelet, breath of breath, all that - breath."

The translation of the Vulgate , which is important for the history of reception , remained very close to the Hebrew text: Vanitas vanitatum dixit Ecclesiastes / vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas . "Nothingness of nothingness, said the Ecclesiastes, nothingness of nothingness, everything is nothing."

Some German translations of Koh 1,2 are intended to show the range of possible interpretations.

Martin Luther: Biblia Deudsch (1545) Everything is completely vain / said the preacher / Everything is completely vain. "Eitel" has undergone a change of meaning in German since Luther's time: The basic meaning is "empty", from which "nothing but" (e.g. vain gold), but also "conceited" developed.
Martin Buber / Franz Rosenzweig: The Scriptures (1929) Haze of fumes, says the gathering, haze of fumes, everything is haze. Term-consistent translation: "Haze" should cover all occurrences of hevel in the Tanach . Connotations of obscurity and deception (“blue haze”) can be heard.
Standardized translation (1980) Breath of wind, breath of wind, said Kohelet, breath of wind, breath of wind, that's all breath of wind. The standard translation sticks to the literal meaning of hevel without offering the reader an interpretation of the metaphor .
Diethelm Michel: Qohelet (1988) Completely absurd , said Qohelet, completely absurd - everything is absurd. Michel ties in positively with Albert Camus : the wisdom question about meaning remains unanswered.
Zurich Bible (2007) Void and fleeting, said Kohelet, null and fleeting, everything is null. Where the term hevel occurs several times in motto-like formulations in the Book of Kohelet, the Zurich Bible uses it to offer the reader two adjectives. They sound similar so that the reader can recognize them as belonging together.

enjoyment of life

Kohelet asks about the “good” in life, in Hebrew טׂוב ṭov . Schwienhorst-Schönberger understands this to mean human happiness. It is concretized as an experience of happiness, not as the possession of material and social goods. Köhlmoos prefers the term joie de vivre. In Kohelet, “good” is understood as a gift from God that is unavailable and fleeting ( Carpe-diem motif).

God and fear of God

The god Kohelets grants goodness to man and thus enjoyment of life; he is also the creator and ruler of the world in a way that is unrecognizable to humans. However, according to Köhlmoos, he is not a personal counterpart and does not intervene in the world. Thus Kohelet has an outsider position within the Old Testament. Schwienhorst-Schönberger also notes an aspect of apersonality. Kohelet emphasized the secret character of the Jewish god.

According to Frank-Lothar Hossfeld , Kohelet recommends maintaining contact with God, but avoiding excess and not trying to manipulate God. Kohelet's basic religious attitude is shy and respectful in the awareness of the distance between man and God. Thomas Krüger defines Kohelet's fear of God as critical participation in religious practice. The fear of God has its worth and does not expect any reward. The issue of fear of God becomes concrete , for example, with the question of vows . Kohelet rather advises against this religious practice. But if one has nevertheless taken a vow, one should keep it without seeking excuses ( Koh 5,3–6  EU ).

Essence of time

In Koh 3,1–15  EU , unusual reflections on the nature of time are made for the ancient Orient. Human Time ( Hebrew עֵת et ) and the time of God or eternity ( Hebrew עוֹלָם olam ) denote different "spaces", whereby the time of God can only be guessed at by man: his task is to discover what is life-enhancing in the time available to him and to act "in accordance with the times" (cf. the Greek concept of kairos ).

Verses Koh 3: 1–8 have had an important history of impact. The text is understandable by itself, it is a traditional piece that Kohelet took over and (probably) provided with its own heading (v. 1). In a loose sequence, diametrically opposed pairs of terms are named which “find their unity in the fact that they all take place at the right time.” They are not absolutely good or bad, and it is not necessary to consider them as desirable or not, rather show himself to be wise by knowing when it is time to do or not to do something.

Position in the canon

The book of Kohelet is part of the Ketuvim part of the canon and also one of the five scrolls ( megillot ) assigned to Jewish feast days. There are two traditions in the arrangement of the megillot:

  • in the order of the feasts in the Jewish calendar: Song of Songs - Ruth - Lamentations - Kohelet - Esther
  • According to the date of origin assumed in the Middle Ages (this tradition is followed by the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia ): Ruth - Hoheslied - Kohelet - Lamentations - Esther

In antiquity, however, there was also a different structure of the Ketuvim part of the canon, where Kohelet was placed between the Book of Proverbs and the Song of Songs . It was taken over from the Greek translation ( Septuagint ) and shaped the Christian tradition. According to Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger , this order has its logic, because the Koheletbuch critically examines the wisdom school tradition as it is in the Book of Proverbs, and calls for enjoyment of life, which is the central theme of the Song of Songs.

Ancient translations

The Book of Kohelet was probably first translated into Greek between the First Jewish War and the Bar Kochba uprising . The differences between the Septuagint version and the Masoretic text are slight.

In the 2nd / 3rd A translation into Syriac ( Peschitta ) took place in the 17th century AD . The translators were presented with a Hebrew text that was very close to the Masoretic text. The translators consulted the Greek version for difficult passages. Jerome did the same when he translated the book of Kohelet into Latin ( Vulgate , from 390 AD). He was also able to use his own commentary on the Book of Ecclesiastes, which had been written before the translation project.

Impact history



Decoration for a Tabernacles : Text of Koheletbuchs as micrograph, ink and watercolor on paper (Israel David Luzzatto, Trieste 1775, Jewish Museum )

The affiliation of the Book of Kohelet to the Bible canon was still controversial in Judaism between the 1st and 5th centuries AD. The book was then included in the canon because it was assumed that King Solomon was the author ("Solomofiction"). Solomon's wisdom was identified with the Torah , and Kohelet was interpreted as a Torah teacher.

The in the 6./7. Targum , a translation into Aramaic with interpretive additions, which was created in the century AD , shows how Kohelet could be understood as sacred scripture by rabbinic Judaism:

  • Kohelet / Solomon prophetically foresaw the history of Israel, the destruction of the temples and exile. That explains the "breath of wind" statement.
  • “Under the sun” there is no gain for humans (cf. Koh 2,11  EU ), but there is in the world to come .
  • The joy to which Ecclesiastes calls is a joy in the Torah.

church service

The custom of reading the entire Book of Ecclesiastes on Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) has been attested in some Jewish communities since the 11th century. Today, Kohelet is read in Ashkenazi congregations on the Sabbath, which falls in the week of the Sukkot festival, or on the eighth day of the festival ( Shmini Azeret ). Kohelet became the reading of the Feast of Tabernacles because the other four megillots have clear contextual references to the Jewish holiday on which they are read. Sukkot and Kohelet are more or less left over and were therefore connected to one another.

Subsequently, certain contextual references were discovered. The wisdom of Kohelet can be contrasted with the wisdom of the Torah - the festival of Sukkot has the delivery of the Torah to Israel as its content. Living in huts is reminiscent of the unsteady way of life of Israel during the desert migration and thus the unsteadiness of human life in general, a topic of the Book of Kohelet. The security of material existence is questioned by the experience of living in the tabernacle for a while, and this questioning of everyday security also occurs with Kohelet.



Young Man with Skull, Vanitas (painting by Frans Hals , around 1626, National Gallery )

The Christian interpretation of the book was shaped by the church father Jerome . According to the doctrine of Kohelet, the world is by no means vanitas in itself ( per se ) , but with regard to God ( ad Deum comparata ). This results in a contempt for the world ( contemptus mundi ) for Jerome and the occidental tradition that followed him . The works of creation are good but impermanent. Man should not remain attached to it, but should orientate himself towards the transcendent reality . When Ecclesiastes calls for joy, Jerome can literally understand it as advice on moderate enjoyment. But more important to him is the spiritual interpretation: where Kohelet praises the pleasure of eating and drinking, Hieronymus relates this to the Eucharist and - an additional level of meaning - to the Bible study .

Jerome's interpretation of the Kohelet was continued in the monastic tradition. Thomas a Kempis, for example, took from Koh 1,2 the call to despise everything earthly and to desire only heavenly goods. The Reformers turned against this tradition of interpretation, interpreting the book as a call to the relaxed fulfillment of everyday duties. Their own theological questions shaped the message they took from the Book of Kohelet: denial of free will ( Martin Luther ), divine providence ( Philipp Melanchthon ), justification ( Johannes Brenz ).

From a modern Christian perspective, the Book of Ecclesiastes could be assessed radically negatively by individual exegetes in the 20th century: The Old Testament wisdom fails that Kohelet falls into "ideological bankruptcy" ( Aarre Lauha ), and precisely this supposed failure of Kohelet is "the most shocking messianic prophecy, which the AT has to show ”( Hans Wilhelm Hertzberg ). That means: Kohelet only has a right to exist in the Bible because he illustrates that Israel's faith is meaningless without Jesus Christ . This makes Kohelet the key witness of an anti-Jewish substitution theology.

church service

In the reading order of the Catholic Church , the first reading is taken from the book of Kohelet on the 18th Sunday of the year (reading year C) (Koh 1, 2, 2, 21–23). In addition, texts from the Book of Kohelet are read in the masses for the working days of the 25th reading week (year II).

In the revised evangelical pericope order (2018) Koh 3.1–15  LUT on the evening of the old year, Koh 7.15–18  LUT on Septuagesimae and Koh 12.1–7  LUT on the 20th Sunday after Trinity as a reading or sermon text from the Old Testament intended. This makes Kohelet one of the biblical books that the revision has brought more into the focus of the community. In the previous pericope order, Kohelet appeared only marginally: Koh 3,1-14 was the sermon text on the 24th Sunday after Trinity (rows III and VI). In the church year, however, this Sunday only occurs if Easter is very early. Therefore, Ecclesiastes was preached about only about once every 30 years. For weddings , the section is often Koh 4.9 to 12  LUT used for funerals Koh 3.1 to 8  LUT .


Musical and literary adaptations

Winged words

Emblematic illustration of Kohelet Koh 10,8  LUT , including a rhyming paraphrase; Woodcut from 1751

Georg Büchmann lists a number of Winged Words taken from the Book of Ecclesiastes:

  • "Everything is vain" ( Koh 1,2  LUT ),
  • "All waters run into the sea" ( Koh 1,7  LUT ),
  • "Nothing new happens under the sun" ( Koh 1,9  LUT ),
  • "Every thing has its time" ( Koh 3,1  LUT ),
  • "A living dog is better than a dead lion" ( Koh 9.4  LUT ),
  • "Woe to you, land whose king is a child" ( Koh 10.16  LUT ), in Shakespeare : "Woe to that land that's governed by a child" ( Richard III 2,3),
  • “These are the days of which we say: We do not like them” ( Koh 12.1  LUT ).


Text output



  • Tremper Longman: The Book of Ecclesiastes (= The New International Commentary on the Old Testament ). Eerdmans, Grand Rapids / Cambridge 1998.
  • Annette Schellenberg : Kohelet (= Zurich Bible Commentaries. AT . Volume 17). TVZ, Zurich 2013, ISBN 3-290-14762-2 .
  • Anton Schoors: Ecclesiastes (= Historical Commentary on the Old Testament ). Peeters, Leuven 2013, ISBN 978-90-429-2940-1 .
  • Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger : Kohelet (= Herder's theological commentary on the Old Testament ). Translated and interpreted. Herder, Freiburg (Breisgau) et al. 2004, ISBN 3-451-26829-9 .


  • Alexander Achilles Fischer: Skepticism or Fear of God? Studies on the composition and theology of the book of Kohelet (= supplement to the journal for Old Testament science . Volume 247). Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1997. ISBN 3-11-015458-7 .
  • James A. Loader: Polar Structures in the Book of Qohelet (= supplement to the journal for Old Testament science. Volume 152). Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1979. ISBN 3-11-007636-5 .
  • Diethelm Michel: Investigations into the peculiarity of the book Qohelet (= supplement to the journal for Old Testament science . Volume 183). Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1989. ISBN 3-11-012161-1 .
  • Diethelm Michel: Qohelet (= income from research 258). Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1988, ISBN 978-3-534-08317-6 .
  • Annette Schellenberg: Knowledge as a problem. Qohelet and the Old Testament discussion about human knowledge (= Orbus Biblicus et Orientalis . Volume 188). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2002. ISBN 3-525-53045-5 .
  • Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet: Status and perspectives of research . In the S. (Ed.): The book Kohelet: Studies on structure, history, reception and theology (= supplement to the journal for Old Testament science . Volume 254). Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1997. ISBN 3-11-015757-8 . Pp. 5-38.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Diethelm Michel: Qohelet , Darmstadt 1988, p. 2f. Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet , Freiburg 2004, p. 41.
  2. Norbert Lohfink: Kohelet , Würzburg 1980, 4th edition 1993, p. 12.
  3. Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet , Freiburg 2004, p. 43.
  4. So already with Flavius ​​Josephus ( Jüdische Antiquities 8,136). Cf. Martin Hengel : Qumrān and Hellenism. In: Judaica et Hellenistica. Small fonts I . Mohr, Tübingen 1996, pp. 258-294, here p. 262.
  5. Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet , Freiburg 2004, p. 118.
  6. Diethelm Michel: Investigations into the character of the book Qohelet , Berlin / New York 1989, p. 18.
  7. Norbert Lohfink: Kohelet , Würzburg 1980, 4th edition 1993, p. 23.
  8. Melanie Köhlmoos: Kohelet , Göttingen 2015, p. 44.
  9. Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet: Status and Perspektiven der Forschung Berlin / New York 1997, p. 24 f.
  10. Jan Christian Gertz (Ed.): Basic information Old Testament. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 6th revised and expanded edition 2019, p. 472.
  11. ^ A b Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet , Freiburg 2004, p. 112 f. Melanie Köhlmoos: Kohelet , Göttingen 2015, p. 71.
  12. Antoon Schoors: The Preacher Sought to Find Pleasing Words: A Study of the Language of Ecclesiastes , Peeters, Leuven 1991, p.1.
  13. ^ Franz Delitzsch: Hoheslied and Koheleth , Leipzig 1975, p. 197.
  14. Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet , Freiburg 2004, pp. 109–111. Melanie Köhlmoos: Kohelet , Göttingen 2015, p. 71.
  15. Antoon Schoors: The Preacher Sought to Find Pleasing Words: A Study of the Language of Ecclesiastes , Peeters, Leuven 1991, p 413th
  16. Antoon Schoors: The Preacher Sought to Find Pleasing Words: A Study of the Language of Ecclesiastes , Peeters, Leuven 1991, p 499th
  17. Melanie Köhlmoos: Kohelet , Göttingen 2015, p. 63 f.
  18. Antoon Schoors: The Preacher Sought to Find Pleasing Words: A Study of the Language of Ecclesiastes , Peeters, Leuven 1991, p 251 f.
  19. a b Norbert Lohfink: Kohelet , Würzburg 1980, 4th edition 1993, p. 27.
  20. Thomas Krüger: Kohelet (Prediger) , Neukirchen-Vluyn 2000, p. 41. Cf. Koh 5,7–8  EU and Reinhold Bohlen: Kohelet in the context of Hellenistic culture . In: Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger (Ed.): Das Buch Kohelet , Berlin / New York 1997, pp. 249–274, here pp. 257–261.
  21. Jan Christian Gertz (Ed.): Basic information Old Testament. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 6th revised and expanded edition 2019, p. 181.
  22. Klaus Bringmann : History of the Jews in antiquity. From Babylonian Exile to the Arab Conquest , Stuttgart 2005, pp. 82–84.
  23. JiSeong James Kwon: Common intellectual backgrounds in Kohelet and in the family tradition of the Tobiads . In: Journal for Old Testament Science 130 (2018), pp. 235-251.
  24. Thomas Krüger: Kohelet (Prediger) , Neukirchen-Vluyn 2000, p. 42.
  25. ^ A b Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet: State and Perspectives of Research Berlin / New York 1997, p. 28.
  26. Thomas Krüger: Kohelet (Prediger) , Neukirchen-Vluyn 2000, p. 43 f.
  27. Melanie Köhlmoos: Kohelet , Göttingen 2015, p. 65.
  28. Melanie Köhlmoos: Kohelet , Göttingen 2015, pp. 40–42.
  29. Thomas Krüger: Kohelet (Prediger) , Neukirchen-Vluyn 2000, p. 45.
  30. Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet , Freiburg 2004, p. 63 f.
  31. Thomas Krüger: Kohelet (Prediger) , Neukirchen-Vluyn 2000, p. 46.
  32. Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet: Status and Perspektiven der Forschung Berlin / New York 1997, pp. 7–9. See Walter Zimmerli: The Book of Kohelet - Tract or Collection of Sentences? In: Vetus Testamentum 24 (1974), pp. 221-230.
  33. Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet: Status and Perspektiven der Forschung Berlin / New York 1997, p. 12.
  34. Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet: Status and Perspektiven der Forschung Berlin / New York 1997, p. 14.
  35. ^ Gerhard von Rad: Wisdom in Israel. Gütersloher Verlagshaus Mohn, Gütersloh 1992, p. 292.
  36. a b Melanie Köhlmoos: Kohelet , Göttingen 2015, p. 33 f.
  37. ^ Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet: Status and Perspektiven der Forschung Berlin / New York 1997, p. 22 f.
  38. Norbert Lohfink: Kohelet , Würzburg 1980, 4th edition 1993, p. 10.
  39. Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet , Freiburg 2004, p. 60. Schwienhorst-Schönberger follows Christian Klein: Kohelet and the wisdom of Israel. A formal history study (BWANT 132), Stuttgart / Berlin / Cologne 1994.
  40. Jan Christian Gertz (Ed.): Basic information Old Testament. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 6th revised and expanded edition 2019, p. 471.
  41. Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet: Status and Perspektiven der Forschung Berlin / New York 1997, p. 16 f.
  42. Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet: Status and Perspektiven der Forschung Berlin / New York 1997, p. 16.
  43. James A. Loader: Polar Structures in the Book of Qohelet , Berlin / New York 1979, p. 133.
  44. Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet: Status and Perspektiven der Forschung Berlin / New York 1997, p. 29 f.
  45. Andreas Beriger et al. (Ed.): Hieronymus BIBLIA SACRA VULGATA Latin and German. Volume 3: Psalmi - Proverbia - Ecclesiastes - Canticum canticorum - Sapientia - Iesus Sirach . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / Boston 1918, p. 894 f.
  46. ^ Friedrich Kluge : Etymological Dictionary of the German Language , 21st unaltered edition, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1975, p. 161.
  47. Tilmann Zimmer: Between death and happiness in life: An investigation into the anthropology of Kohelets (= supplements to the journal for Old Testament science. Volume 286), Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1999, p. 28.
  48. ^ Tilmann Zimmer: Between death and happiness in life: An investigation into Kohelet's anthropology (= supplements to the journal for Old Testament science. Volume 286), Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1999, p. 27.
  49. Thomas Krüger: On the revision of the Zurich Bible (Old Testament): A “workshop report” from an exegetical point of view. In: Walter Groß (Ed.): Bible translation today. Historical developments and current challenges. Stuttgarter Symposion 2000. Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart 2001, pp. 301–327, here p. 317.
  50. Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet , Freiburg 2004, p. 43.
  51. Melanie Köhlmoos: Kohelet , Göttingen 2015, pp. 53–55.
  52. Melanie Köhlmoos: Kohelet , Göttingen 2015, p. 58 f.
  53. Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet , Freiburg 2004, p. 95.
  54. ^ Frank Lothar Hossfeld: The theological relevance of the book Kohelet . In: Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger (ed.) The book Kohelet: Studies on Structure, History, Reception and Theology , Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1997, pp. 377–389, here p. 385.
  55. Thomas Krüger: Kohelet (Prediger) , Neukirchen-Vluyn 2000, p. 14.
  56. Jan Christian Gertz (Ed.): Basic information Old Testament. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 6th revised and expanded edition 2019, p. 474.
  57. Melanie Köhlmoos: Kohelet , Göttingen 2015, p. 116.
  58. Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet , Freiburg 2004, p. 44 f.
  59. Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet , Freiburg 2004, p. 114.
  60. ^ Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet , Freiburg 2004, p. 115.
  61. Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet , Freiburg 2004, p. 116 f.
  62. Sukkah decoration. In: Jewish Museum. Retrieved March 12, 2019 .
  63. Melanie Köhlmoos: Kohelet , Göttingen 2018, pp. 18, 21 f.
  64. ^ Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet , Freiburg 2004, p. 120.
  65. Michael V. Fox: קהלת Ecclesiastes. The Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia 2004. ISBN 0-8276-0742-3 , pp. Xv.
  66. Hanna Liss : Tanach - Textbook of the Jewish Bible. Universitätsverlag Winter, Heidelberg 2005, p. 355.
  67. Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet , Freiburg 2004, p. 126.
  68. Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet , Freiburg 2004, p. 127.
  69. ^ Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Kohelet , Freiburg 2004, p. 128.
  70. Norbert Lohfink: Kohelet , Würzburg 1980, 4th edition 1993, p. 5.
  71. Thomas Krüger: Kohelet (Prediger) , Neukirchen-Vluyn 2000, p. 61.
  72. Eberhard Bons: The book Kohelet in a Jewish and Christian interpretation . In: Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger (Ed.): Das Buch Kohelet , Berlin / New York 1997, pp. 327–362, here p. 344 f.
  73. 18th Sunday in the annual cycle C. In: Schott. Beuron Archabbey, accessed March 12, 2019 .
  74. a b Detlef Dieckmann: Words of wise men are like spikes: a reception-oriented study on Koh 1–2 and the lexeme dbr in the book Kohelet , TVZ, Zurich 2012, p. 37 f.
  75. Detlef Dieckmann: Words of wise men are like spikes: a reception-oriented study on Koh 1–2 and on the lexeme dbr in the book Kohelet , TVZ, Zurich 2012, p. 39.
  76. Georg Büchmann: Winged words: Der Citatenschatz des Deutschen Volks , 3rd edition, Berlin 1866, p. 148 f.
This article was added to the list of articles worth reading on August 24, 2019 in this version .