The Dying Cosmos
Qoheleth’s Misanthropic Principle
Though not a creation account per se, Ecclesiastes 1:2-11 features a portrait of creation that is entirely unique in the biblical corpus. Qoheleth, the ostensible author of most of Ecclesiastes, describes creation in terms of wearying, ever-repeating cycles, from wind and water to life and death. Qoheleth’s world is devoid of anything “new,” a creation without pause and effect with human life beset by uninterrupted toil. The final chapter of Ecclesiastes, moreover, alludes to the eventual dissipation of creation. All is “vanity” (hebel); creation is a static, closed whole. Science, too, points to the ultimate dissolution of the universe, death by entropy. At the same time, science reveals that the cycles of nature Qoheleth so disparaged are in fact life-sustaining. Science both underscores and reorients Qoheleth’s “empirical” view of the world. Though creation seems pointless, it nevertheless provides sustaining moments of joy for human well-being.
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