Along with other wisdom literature * of the Hebrew Bible (Proverbs and Job), Ecclesiastes offers observations based on human experience; but while Proverbs optimistically suggests that humans can use what they have learned to their advantage (see Prov 10.4 ), Ecclesiastes' repeated refrain “vanity of vanities” and its harsh rejection of wisdom's practical value lead some to hear it as a voice of despair. The book does, however, offer some moderately hopeful advice: Enjoyment of life and its pleasures is possible and appropriate, as long as it is informed by the inevitability of death.
The call to enjoyment explains the book's connection to the Jewish festival of Sukkot, a time of celebration, and thus its inclusion in the Jewish canon * within the “megilloth,” or festival scrolls. * The Jewish name for the book, Qoheleth, derives from 1.1 ; a noun derived from the Hebrew “qahal” (“assembly”), it may refer to the one who speaks to a gathering. The English “Ecclesiastes” comes from the Greek translation “ekklesiastes,” the one who speaks in the “ekklesia” (later used to designate the church), accounting for the traditional translation, “Preacher” (see note a). The NRSV offers “Teacher” as its modern equivalent.
Although the book begins with a reference to King Solomon and includes later references to “the king,” scholars tend to date the book much later than the monarchy. The style of its language bears out the suggestion of a late date: Words like “pesher” (“interpretation,” 8.1 ) and “᾽inyan” (“business,” 1.13 and elsewhere) are derived from Aramaic, * the common language of the ancient Near East from the seventh century through much of the Hellenistic * period. The literary motif * of Solomonic authorship, which may have helped the book be canonized, is also found in the Song of Solomon and in the Wisdom of Solomon (Apocrypha * ).