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series: Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms

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"[Bartholomew] has succeeded in drawing together the best of previous scholarship and then added his own unique insights that break much new ground for future research. The commentary demonstrates Bartholomew's wide reading, careful research, literary sensitivity, and intellectual and cultural awareness."--Daniel J. Estes, Bulletin for Biblical Research
In this addition to the Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms series, Craig Bartholomew, coauthor of the well-received Drama of Scripture and a leading voice in the call for a renewal of theological biblical interpretation, combines a careful exegetical reading of the book of Ecclesiastes with keen theological insights. Along with helpful translation and commentary, Ecclesiastes considers the theological implications of the text and its literary, historical, and grammatical dimensions. Footnotes deal with many of the technical matters, allowing readers of varying levels of interest and training to read and profit from the commentary and to engage the biblical text at an appropriate level. All serious students of the Bible will find here an accessible commentary that will serve as an excellent resource for their study.

The Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms series is tailored to the distinctives of poetry and Wisdom literature. Features include

The final volume planned for the series is Job by Tremper Longman III.


"Bartholomew's commentary is an extraordinary achievement, in many ways a unique contribution to the vast literature on this enigmatic biblical book. It combines an intimate knowledge of the biblical text and the secondary literature on it with a passionate commitment to reading the text as Scripture, that is, the living voice of God to believers today. In addition, Bartholomew brings to his commentary a wide knowledge of the history of interpretation and of the hermeneutical issues involved in the appropriation of Ecclesiastes for today. Beyond these excellences, however, he also brings a prophetic awareness of the cultural and religious challenges facing the worldwide church today, and he is not afraid to make direct connections from the biblical text to the personal and global crises of our times. Rarely has the Preacher been made so preachable."--Al Wolters, professor of religion and theology, Redeemer University College

"It is a rare commentary that is both readable and learned. Even rarer is one that immerses readers in the deep questions of life. Bartholomew's new book helps us to think our way through Ecclesiastes and its mazes. More than that, it confronts us anew with the mystery and responsibility of human existence before the face of God."--Raymond C. Van Leeuwen, professor of biblical studies, Eastern University

"Elegant and clear in presentation, with masterful control of the history of interpretation, Bartholomew has made a significant contribution to Ecclesiastes studies. He handles all the critical issues with care and insight and has given us a readable and penetrating portrayal of this enigmatic witness. A new standard."--Christopher R. Seitz, professor of biblical interpretation, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto

"Bartholomew provides an exegetically accurate, theologically sensitive, and culturally relevant reading of the enigmatic Qohelet. For Bartholomew, Ecclesiastes is neither a dusty museum piece confined to ancient history nor an alien treatise limited to a past religious era. Instead, by combining the best historical, linguistic, literary, canonical, theological, and hermeneutical perspectives on this text, Bartholomew treats Ecclesiastes as a dynamic text that speaks powerfully into the (post)modern context of church and culture."--Mark J. Boda, professor of Old Testament, McMaster Divinity College, McMaster University

"Bartholomew has made a major breakthrough in providing an integrated, holistic reading that recognizes the tensions within the book but regards them as intentional. The author provides a dialogue between two opposing poles--a confessional one of Israelite wisdom whose starting point is God and an autonomous one based on Greek thought with a human starting point. The book lets both positions forcefully contradict each other throughout so that the weight of each can be felt and evaluated. Bartholomew writes creatively and passionately with full awareness of every major and minor work written on Ecclesiastes and has an excellent grasp of contemporary theological and philosophical currents. Calling it a welcome addition to the commentaries on Ecclesiastes would be to understate the significance of Bartholomew's work. I think it is a landmark!"--Stephen Dempster, Stuart E. Murray Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Atlantic Baptist University

The Author

  1. Craig G. Bartholomew

    Craig G. Bartholomew

    Craig G. Bartholomew (PhD, University of Bristol) is director of the Kirby Laing Centre for Public Theology in Cambridge, England. He was formerly senior research fellow at the University of Gloucestershire and the H. Evan Runner Professor of...

    Continue reading about Craig G. Bartholomew


"This critical commentary was written for scholars, students, and those engaged in biblical ministry. . . . The approach, which is both literary and theological, includes a great deal of intertextual comparison. . . . The intended readership will not be disappointed with this study."--Dianne Bergant, CSA, The Bible Today

"[The 'Theological Implications'] reflections take up current social issues such as ecology, world hunger, and war, often indicating ethical sophistication. . . . The commentary proper . . . draws on a wide range of scholarship, liberal and conservative. . . . An extensive bibliography is provided, as is an index of subjects and authors."--James L. Crenshaw, Religious Studies Review

"Bartholomew reads Ecclesiastes as a Christian who has been deeply moved by Qoheleth's struggles and conclusions and who hopes that his commentary will help modern readers to benefit greatly from the 'Preacher's' message as well. This practical and contemporary orientation is evident throughout the commentary. . . . Bartholomew's comments teem with current cultural references. . . . Bartholomew's work is exemplary in its presentation of theological and practical reflections that naturally flow out of the exegesis rather than seemingly being tacked on to it. At the same time, there is a sufficient treatment of linguistic, syntactical, and text-critical matters, as well as constant engagement with leading alternative interpretations. . . . His unique contributions are his literary sensitivity . . . and his hermeneutical sophistication. . . . Regardless of how much a reader has already engaged the enigmatic world and musings of Qoheleth and the considerable secondary literature that seeks to understand them, there is much that is helpful and provocative to be found in Craig Bartholomew's commentary."--Richard Schultz, Review of Biblical Literature

"This fine commentary on Ecclesiastes is by a philosopher who is also a theologian and a well-published expert on wisdom literature. . . . In addition to philological and exegetical elucidation . . . the commentator also offers philosophical perspectives and interpretations, and he occasionally ventures into politics. . . . A commentary that informs, educates, and delights by its wisdom."--International Review of Biblical Studies

"Bartholomew provides discussion for most of the major interpretive cruxes in Ecclesiastes. His detailed treatments of the cruxes furnish readers with well-crafted arguments leading to the author's ultimate conclusion. . . . The lengthy introduction, careful interpretive treatment of most cruxes, adherence to the Masoretic Text instead of suggesting numerous emendations, moderately heavy discussions of theological implications, and healthy bibliography all commend this volume to students, teachers, and preachers alike."--William D. Barrick, Master's Seminary Journal

"Bartholomew's writing style is elegant, and he keeps the reader's interest. This commentary is worth the buy just for its wonderful history of interpretation. . . . Bartholomew is also in command of the massive secondary literature on Qohelet. . . . This book is worthy of purchase certainly by Qohelet experts but also by general scholars and educated laypeople. Young scholars will find it especially helpful as an introduction to contemporary issues. It is eminently readable, original, interesting, and deep; and, again, the history of interpretation is remarkable."--Mark Sneed, Catholic Biblical Quarterly

"Many commentators try to fill the gap between the book's enjoy-life passages and the enigmatic passages 'by making one of the poles dominant' and thus viewing the book as either 'mainly skeptical or mainly positive.' Bartholomew rightly responds, however, by affirming that Qohelet is both 'skeptical and positive.'. . . This significant observation merits serious consideration."--Roy B. Zuck, Bibliotheca Sacra

"This magisterial commentary provides a wealth of insight into the structure and message of Ecclesiastes. . . . Each topical division is concluded with a comprehensive section on theological implications. . . . What I find so compelling about this commentary is the pursuit of understanding Ecclesiastes in relationship with traditional wisdom and law."--August H. Kon, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"Craig Bartholomew's Ecclesiastes is the weightiest of the new commentaries on Ecclesiastes. It is more attuned to the scholarly discussions, breaks new ground, and is theological."--Ray Van Neste, Preaching

"This commentary proves to be extremely accessible. It satisfies the demands of this commentary series whose primary audience is clergy and seminary students. . . . Bartholomew's Christological emphasis provides a coherent examination and interpretive framework for the book. . . . Bartholomew's discussion on theodicy makes this commentary exceptionally valuable to pastors and students."--Eric J. Thomas, Stone-Campbell Journal

"A welcome foray into the often murky waters in which Qoholet swims. . . . Bartholomew filters the text through a contemporary theological lens. These discussions effectively place Ecclesiastes at the center of Christian faith, leaving little doubt that Bartholomew has long stood and reflected at the intersection of Ecclesiastes and the contemporary world. . . . Strengths in Bartholomew's book are numerous. He discusses comparisons with ancient Near Eastern and Greek contexts to offer illumination to Ecclesiastes' use of royal lists, treatment of death, and hedonism. He interacts well with intertextual issues, particularly in relation to Proverbs. He alludes to Ecclesiastes' intertextual connection to Genesis. . . . He also deals well with the interpretive fallacies. . . . Bartholomew's work will prove useful in both pastoral and academic contexts. Preachers will find a profusion of material for delivering relevancy to the contemporary world. Academics will find the content in the bibliography and the indices particularly useful as a springboard for further study. Ecclesiastes is well-written and will prove a valuable addition to both pastoral and academic libraries."--Rob Fleenor, Stone-Campbell Journal

"I have found this to be an excellent commentary and commend it to anyone wishing to investigate Ecclesiastes, especially for use in preaching and teaching."--James Limburg, Word & World

"The Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms [is] an excellent series on this dynamic and diverse section of the Hebrew Bible. [Bartholomew] has written a well researched and very readable volume that will make a good addition to one's theological library. He successfully wrote for his intended audience, which is clergy and seminary students; however, scholars as well as well-read laypersons will find this commentary useful. . . . He presents the views of prominent scholars, giving strengths and weaknesses of each. He also looks at internal and external evidence for the identity of an author. This is all done in a very readable format. . . . Pastors will find [the 'Theological Implications'] section[s] helpful for gaining golden theological nuggets for sermons. Also, throughout his commentary he brings meaning from Ecclesiastes into the 21st century. . . . This is a great commentary for the pastor, student, scholar, and informed layperson. Rarely does a commentary (or commentary series) successfully cater to such a wide audience, but this one does with a good balance for all."--Terry W. Eddinger, Review & Expositor

"[Bartholomew] has succeeded in drawing together the best of previous scholarship and then added his own unique insights that break much new ground for future research. The commentary demonstrates Bartholomew's wide reading, careful research, literary sensitivity, and intellectual and cultural awareness. . . . The primary intended audience for this series includes pastors and seminary students, and Bartholomew does an admirable job of communicating to them. However, his technical discussions pass scholarly muster, as he knowledgably engages with the voluminous exegetical literature on Ecclesiastes. In addition, the lucidity of his writing makes the commentary accessible to laypeople. . . . Bartholomew indeed has a rare gift in his ability to communicate effectively to such a range of audiences simultaneously. . . . In an age when academic specialization can too often result in scholarly literature that is arcane, Bartholomew has been countercultural as he discusses how the ancient wisdom of Ecclesiastes speaks to many of the pressing intellectual and theological issues in the contemporary world."--Daniel J. Estes, Bulletin for Biblical Research

"[Bartholomew] is superbly equipped to write a commentary on [the] difficult book [of Ecclesiastes]. . . . He is extremely thorough in his research, thinks deeply, and writes clearly. . . . The book has an inviting layout with clear headings and chapter and verse numbers printed in bold for easy reference. . . . A stimulating book whose approach to Ecclesiastes scholars will long debate."--Sidney Greidanus, Calvin Theological Journal

"The strength of Bartholomew's work is the careful exegetical work in the Interpretation sections. . . . The writing of the book is clear, the research is thorough, the scholarship is apparent, and the relevance is obvious. This volume would be a helpful resource for students, teachers, and preachers."--Deron J. Biles, Southwestern Journal of Theology

"A major commentary notable for its nuanced attention to philosophical and existential issues, ancient and contemporary."--J. Gerald Janzen, Christian Century