What is it?
This book of the Bible is in the Jewish scripture aka the Christian Old Testament. It's genre is wisdom literature, it's purpose is to share insights into life. It's author traditionally has been King Solomon but that is almost certainly not the case.
Below are some examples of potential Epicurean themes.
- Enjoyment of Pleasures:
- Ecclesiastes 2:24-25: "There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? Clearly mention of God is not Epicurean in this verse due to God's being directly involved...Also it's generalized assessment of what is best for every person.
- Rejection of Excessive Labor for Material Gain:
- Ecclesiastes 5:10: "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity." - Unnatural and unnecessary desire?
- Emphasis on the Present Moment:
- Ecclesiastes 3:22: "So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?" This one is a bit of a reach "for that is his lot" seems a bit deterministic but I could see the rejoicing while working as freedom from pain = highest pleasure
- Acknowledgment of Life's Uncertainties:
- Ecclesiastes 9:11-12: "Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all. For man does not know his time."
Maybe there are more well known examples and clearly this has much more of a religious influence then an Epicurean.
Other books of the Bible
I often found it funny reading the Song of Songs when I was in a monastery, a book clearly about passionate sex between lovers being studied by men (and women) who have taking vows of celibacy.
Anyway here are some verses.
- Song of Solomon 1:2:
- "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine."
- Song of Solomon 1:13:
- "My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh resting between my breasts."
- Song of Solomon 4:5:
- "Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that graze among the lilies."
- Song of Solomon 4:16:
- "Awake, north wind, and come, south wind! Blow on my garden, that its fragrance may spread everywhere. Let my beloved come into his garden and taste its choice fruits."
- Song of Solomon 7:1-2:
- "How beautiful your sandaled feet, O prince’s daughter! Your graceful legs are like jewels, the work of an artist’s hands. Your navel is a rounded goblet that never lacks blended wine. Your waist is a mound of wheat encircled by lilies
Now the song of songs itself has no Epicurean influence on it as far as I know BUT why I share it is this.
Two of the three books in the old testament dedicated to Wisdom have such an emphasis on Pleasure* and indeed even in the other wisdom book Proverbs there is signs of this too...
Proverbs 27:9: "Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel."
*Even the wisest writers of a religious text knew that pleasure and wisdom go hand in hand...perhaps the Authors were hinting at the Epicurean truth, you can't have one without the other.
Overall I wrote this thread with this question in mind
Should we try to study Ecclesiastes from an Epicurean POV? Has it been done previously?