Introduction: Technology in Solomon’s Was More Advanced then Today?
I recently heard an individual suggest that technology during King Solomon’s era was more advanced than our current technology. This viewpoint was derived from Ecclesiastes 1:9, which posits, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” His interpretation implies that our technological advancements are not fundamentally new.
While I appreciate this person’s engagement with the Bible and their effort to interpret it independently, it’s important to address some misconceptions in their understanding.
The Contextual Tone of Ecclesiastes
The interpretation offered overlooks the essential context and tone of Ecclesiastes. This book presents a near complete disillusioned view of life “under the sun” — a metaphor for life without God.
While Ecclesiastes is part of the Bible, not every statement within it is meant to be taken as an absolute truth. Many passages reflect the author’s personal disillusionment rather than direct Christian doctrine. For instance, the book’s musings on life are not subtle in their hopelessness here:
Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath[c]; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.21 Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?
This gives us an inspired look behind the curtain to the author’s existential struggle. It does not actuate a theological assertion that we, like the author, should share his worldview of doubt
Christian Views on Progress and Discovery
In contrast to the Ecclesiastes’ perspective, Christianity views life with God as a journey of continuous discovery, hope, and progress. This reflects the infinite nature of God and the finite nature of man. A true theological understanding reflects both that there is always potential for innovation and newness in our world. As well, when one follows the path of God, they can be sure where their soul is headed.
Appreciating Ecclesiastes’ Wisdom
Don’t get me wrong here . . . Despite its sometimes pessimistic tone, Ecclesiastes contains significant wisdom. It offers insights into the skewed perception of life without God. As well, not all content in Ecclesiastes is incorrect; for example, the book recognizes the value of finding fulfillment in one’s work (Ecclesiastes 3:22). It presents a unique view, and a profound look at life as one find reason to bow their heads and kick the dirt. There is substantial amount of truth, mixed with the ensuing error, brought about in the perspective of life without God.
Reading Ecclesiastes Today
When approaching Ecclesiastes, it’s crucial to understand how to mine its wisdom. It is one of the most, if not the most important books of the Bible for a postmodern era. When our interpretive approach takes into account the mood and personality of the author, revelation will be seen in its depth and relevance, making it a profoundly instructive book for contemporary readers.