I’ve been reading up on Ecclesiastes for the series I’m currently preaching. Michael Fox spends the first chapter of his book—A Time to Tear Down and a Time to Build Up: A Rereading of Ecclesiastes—explaining how interpreters have used various exegetical techniques to explain away the difficult and thorny issues the Qohelet raises in Ecclesiastes. The following paragraph is from the conclusion of the first chapter:
All of these exegetical techniques have their place, but when overused they become a magic wand for making difficulties vanish, and intriguing complexities and subtle disruptions may disappear with them. Excessive exegetical ingenuity may succeed in making an author consistent at the price of making him incoherent — or insipid.
I suppose Fox’s view is part of what makes the whole post-modern attitude attractive: it’s time we simply let the author speak for himself. When we don’t understand the complexities of his thought, a humble admission of ignorance is far more wise than a flourish of interpretive ingenuity.
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