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Wisdom, anti-wisdom, and the ethical function of uncertainty: The book of Qoheleth / Ecclesiastes in the context of Biblical and Greek wisdom theory

Gutridge, Coralie Ann; (1998) Wisdom, anti-wisdom, and the ethical function of uncertainty: The book of Qoheleth / Ecclesiastes in the context of Biblical and Greek wisdom theory. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

In Qoheleth, the limitations of Man are emphasized more than his potential. The unpredictability of human experience and the rôle of Chance also have a high profile. Since this approach is not characteristic of the Bible overall, Qoheleth is sometimes regarded as i a non-pietist work, and ii a misfit in the Biblical canon. In the Greek wisdom tradition, however, this very emphasis on Chance is the hallmark of the pietist approach. The opposing, anthropocentric viewpoint is based on faith that Man’s calculating intelligence can plot a successful path to his selfchosen goals. Qoheleth, a Hellenistic wisdom book, and cast in this mould of Greek pietist wisdom, is therefore most naturally construed as a pietist work. Moreover, Qoheleth is integral to the Bible, which, like ancient Greek literature, reflects a tension between positive and negative evaluations of wisdom. In the Bible, this implies a need to clarify the dividing line between an acceptable, pietist wisdom and a destructive, antipietist ‘wisdom’ (anti-wisdom). Only Qoheleth directly addresses this need. The book asserts uncertainty as the dominant factor in human experience; and from this Solonic perspective, it assesses wisdom in relation to the key issue of mainstream Biblical piety. This issue is the choice before Man between accepting his subordinate status as creature, and on that basis cultivating God’s Presence, or alternatively isolating himself from the Divine Presence and following his own self-chosen goals. Qoheleth reveals, through its allusive imagery and evocative structure, that antiwisdom is focussed on egocentric goal-seeking; whereas real wisdom consists of receptive interaction with God, with one’s fellow-men and with the God-ordained unpredictability of external circumstances. True wisdom is the racecraft of obedience to God. Uncertainty is not an undesirable gap in human wisdom; it is essential to the course of the race.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Wisdom, anti-wisdom, and the ethical function of uncertainty: The book of Qoheleth / Ecclesiastes in the context of Biblical and Greek wisdom theory
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10097950
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