Arthur KeeferJan 31, 2023
Ecclesiastes and the Meaning of Life in the Ancient World
Cambridge University Press 2022
Is the search for meaning a luxury of the modern world or have human beings always struggled to find meaning in the human condition – in the face of suffering, injustice and the finality of life?
In Ecclesiastes and the Meaning of Life in the Ancient World (Cambridge UP, 2022), Arthur Keefer offers a timely assessment of Ecclesiastes and what it has to do with the meaning of life. Drawing on recent psychological research, he argues that this Hebrew Bible text associates the meaning of life with various types of suffering in life.
Keefer situates Ecclesiastes within its ancient intellectual world. Offering an analysis of contemporary texts from Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, he demonstrates that concerns about meaning and suffering were widespread in the greater Mediterranean world. Ecclesiastes, however, handled the matters of suffering and meaning in an unprecedented way and to an unprecedented degree. With its rigorous commitment to precise definitions of life's meaning, Keefer provides a comprehensive set of definitions for “the meaning of life” as well as a conclusive point of reference for interpreters of Ecclesiastes.
He also opens avenues for the interdisciplinary interpretation of texts from the ancient world.
Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The New Books Network’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She's on Twitter @embracingwisdom. She blogs here.