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Ecclesiastes is one of those books that trouble our interpretive abilities to the point of frustration and exhaustion. Most of our time is spent on trying to reconcile the teachings of Qohelet with the rest of wisdom literature within the Old Testament. One interpretive strategy taken to overcome this difficulty is to allow for a frame narrator who gives his/her two cents at the beginning and ending of the book so that Qohelet looks like some honest but unsaved Joe who just can’t see beyond what happens ‘under the sun’ – Trempor Longman III is a representative of this view. Anoher view is to deny a frame narrator all together and admit to theologies within the Old Testament.

Intwined in this hermeneutical question are more important matters: first the way we answer it will relate to how we understand the difficulty in finding wisdom as Qoholet understands it in 7:23-24; and secondly who this book will speak to most effectively. Lets look over the verse,

ESV Ecclesiastes 7:23-25 23 All this I have tested by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise,” but it was far from me. 24 That which has been is far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out?

Consider Trempor Longman’s comments on these verses who as noted above believes in a frame narrator. “There it is seen that wisdom is indeed hard to find, indeed impossible for unaided humans. However, wisdom can be found if one finds God. Qoheleth’s frustration does not lead him to recognize and express such a sublime truth. Qoheleth remains a confused wise man. ” Longman gives an answer for all the readers of Ecclesiastes who want to know that they can find wisdom but only if God is the one who leads them to it, this reading is a paraphrase of the text with a jab at Qoheleth at the end, a soft jab.

But what if we were reading it from the perspective that there was no frame narrator? I think Qoheleth would speak to those who though being wise still realize that finding wisdom is a “qmoß[‘ qmoï[‘w‘, ‘deep, very deep’ matter. And it may lead us into a definition of wisdom that is inclusive to a continuous search for her.

The way I see it there is room to embrace both styles of reading the book, but each style will give you a different interpretive ride. Think of it in terms of ridding a bicycle as a young child, do you remember how different the ride was once those training wheels were off. In my mind a frame narrator hypothesis is a way of reading the book with training wheels still on, but take them off and your about to enter the world of ‘wicked jumps and stuff’! Now both rides are enjoyable and suitable for different styles of riding but each definitely has its intended end…can you tell where my favoritism lies?

What do you think, does the frame narrator hypothesis make that much a difference? If so how would a none frame narrator view read 7:23-24?