Ecclesiastes 3:11

Discussion in '2004 Archive' started by russell55, Oct 28, 2004.

  1. russell55

    russell55
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    The question is about the word translated world here in the KJV:
    In the NKJV, it's translated like this:
    YLT:
    Here's the NET:
    All very different translations of whatever the Hebrew word is, from "world" to "eternity" to "knowledge" to "ignorance", and I'm wondering if anyone here knows enough about this to understand why the translations might be so different.
     
  2. Dr. Bob

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    The world is "olam" and means "forever, everlasting, ever more, perpetual"

    Derived from "alam" (hide) and Ugaritic "lm" (eternity)

    In the Bible, it is used 300+ times to speak of the indeterminate distant future. It is translated in the LXX with "aionon" (eternity).

    20 or so instances speak of the indeterminate distant past, of events long ago. In post-biblical times, "olam" could even refer to events of the past as in world, creation, etc. This was not common Hebrew useage until 1000 CE.

    God is called El-olam, "Eternal God".

    [gleaned from Theological Wordbook of the OT]
     
  3. russell55

    russell55
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    Interesting. Strange that it's translated so differently.

    Thanks.
     
  4. manchester

    manchester
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    Dr. Bob, what is the correct translation then? Is the NKJV the right one?

    "He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in their hearts, but man cannot discover the work God has done from beginning to end." (HCSB)
     
  5. Dr. Bob

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    I would opt for "eternity in their hearts" as the best option in today's English to reflect the most ancient Hebrew thought.

    The "world" (ancient to future) would have loosely fit in 1611, but certainly would not today.
     
  6. Ziggy

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    It is probably unfair to discuss the NET Bible rendering without including their (VERY lengthy) explanatory footnote (although for the life of me, I cannot follow any reasoning beyond taking `OLAM as "eternity" or "world", and certainly not their choice of "ignorance":

    =====================
    Heb "darkness"; perhaps "eternity" or "the future." The meaning of the noun ('olam) is debated. It may mean: (1) "ignorance"; (2) time reference: (a) "eternity" or (b) "the future"; or (3) "knowledge" (less likely). The arguments for these options may be summarized: (1) Most suggest that [this] is the defectively written form of "duration; eternity" (e.g., Eccl 1:4; 2:16; 3:14; 9:6; 12:5); see BDB 762. Within this school of interpretation, there are several varieties: (a) BDB 762 suggests that here it denotes "age [i.e., duration] of the world," which is attested in postbiblical Hebrew. The term "eternity" = "world" (M. Jastrow, Dictionary, 1084) is used in this sense in postbiblical Hebrew, mostly in reference to the Messianic age, or the world to come (e.g., Targum Genesis 9:16; Targum Onqelos Exodus 21:6; Targum Psalms 61:7). For example, "the world shall last six thousand years, and after one thousand years it shall be laid waste" (b. Rosh HaShanah 31a) and "the world to come" (b. Sotah 10b). The LXX and the Vulgate took the term in this sense. This approach was also adopted by several English translations: "the world" (KJV, Douay, ASV margin). (b) HALOT 799 and THAT 2:242 suggest that the term refers to an indefinite, unending future: "eternity future" or "enduring state referring to past and future" (see also BDB 762. In this sense, the noun functions as a metonymy of association: "a sense of eternity," but not in a philosophical sense (see J. Barr, Biblical Words for Time [SBT 1/33], 117, n. 4). This approach is supported by three factors: (i) the recurrence of "eternity" in 3:14, (ii) the temporal qualification of the statement in the parallel clause ("from beginning to end"), and (iii) by the ordinary meaning of the noun as "eternity" (HALOT 798-799). The point would be that God has endowed man with an awareness of the extra-temporal significance of himself and his accomplishments (D. R. Glenn, "Ecclesiastes," BKCOT, 984). This is the most frequent approach among English versions: "the timeless" (NAB), "eternity" (RSV, MLB, ASV, NASB, NIV, NJPS), "a sense of time past and time future" (NEB), and "a sense of past and future" (NRSV). (3) Other scholars suggest that [the term] simply refers to the indefinite future: "the future," that is, things to come (e.g., HALOT 799; BDB 762; THAT 2:241). The plural 'olamim, "things to come" was used in this sense in Eccl 1:10 (e.g., 1 Kgs 8:13 = 2 Chr 6:2; Pss 61:5; 77:8; 145:13; Dan 9:24; cf. HALOT 799). The point would simply be that God has not only ordained all the events that will take place in man's life (3:1-8), but also preoccupies man with the desire to discover what will happen in the future in terms of the orchestration or timing of these events in his life (3:9-11). This fits well with the description of God's orchestration of human events in their most appropriate time (3:1-10) and the ignorance of man concerning his future (3:11b). Elsewhere, Qoheleth emphasizes that man cannot learn what the future holds in store for him (e.g., 8:7, 17). This approach is only rarely adopted: "the future" (NJPS margin). (2) The second view is that [the term] is not defectively written ("eternity") but the segholate noun II 'elem that means "dark" (literal) or "ignorance; obscurity; secrecy" (figurative). The related noun ta'alumah means "hidden thing; secret," and the related verb 'alam means "to hide; to conceal" (BDB 761; HALOT 834-35). This is related to the Ugaritic noun "dark" and the Akkadian verb "to be black; to be dark" (see HALOT 834-35). In postbiblical Hebrew the root means (i) "secret" and (ii) "forgetfulness" (M. Jastrow, Dictionary, 1084). Thus the verse would mean that God has "obscured" man's knowledge so that he cannot discover certain features of God's program. This approach is adopted by Moffatt which uses the word "mystery." Similarly, the term may mean "forgetfulness," that is, God has plagued man with "forgetfulness" so that he cannot understand what God has done from the beginning to the end (e.g., Eccl 1:11). (3) The third view (Delitzsch) is to relate [the term] to a cognate Arabic root meaning "knowledge." The point would be that God has endowed man with "knowledge," but not enough for man to discover God's eternal plan. This approach is only rarely adopted: "knowledge" (YLT).
     
  7. russell55

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    Ha! It was those confusing NET translational notes that caused me to ask the question in the first place.

    I read them and thought, "Huh?"
     

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