Monday, February 25, 2019

Jerome Commentary on Ecclesiastes

Translated by Robin McGregor


2:1. Solomon says about this "Don't give me riches and poverty" and immediately writes underneath "lest I be full and a liar”, and lest I should ask, "who is looking at me”, for the devil strikes down in abundance righteous men.  In the apostles it is also written, "lest enraptured by his pride, he should fall into the judgement of the devil" that is 'into such a judgement, as the Devil himself falls ".  But having said this, spiritual joy, just as the other kinds, is claimed to be vanity, because we see it through a mirror and in mystery.  But when it has been seen for what it is, then it is called vanity for no reason, but rather truth. 

2:2.  Those men therefore, who are carried around on the 'breeze' of all doctrines, are unstable and fluctuate between interpretations.  Thus, those who guffaw with that laugh, which the Lord says must be muted in holy weeping, are seized by the delusion of time and its whirlwind, not understanding the disaster that their sins will cause, nor bewailing their former faults, but thinking that brief joys are going to be perpetual.  Then they exult in these, which are more worthy of lamentation than joy.  Heretics also believe this, who agree with false doctrines and promise themselves happiness and prosperity.

2:3.  I wanted to stimulate my life with enjoyment, and to lull my body, as if freed from all worries by wine, in the same way with desire; but my deep consideration and inborn reasoning, which God the creator mingled even into my sins, drew me away from the idea and led me back to seek wisdom and to spurn foolishness, so that I was able to see what was good, that men can do in the span of their lives.  But he has compared desire eloquently with intoxication.  Since he intoxicates and destroys the vitality of his spirit, which he was able to change into wisdom and obtains spiritual happiness, (as it is written in certain manuscripts), he is able to discern which things ought to be sought out in this life, and which avoided.

2:13   He says he had returned to seeking wisdom after pleasures and those desires he had condemned, in which he found more foolishness and stupidity than true and recognized knowledge.  For man, he said, is not able to know so clearly and truly the wisdom of his creator and of his king, as his creator knows it himself.  And so he says that those things that we know, we only think we have grasped and value more than know what is true.

2:14 Whoever attains complete wisdom and has deserved Christ to be his aim always raises his eyes to the heavens and will therefore never think about terrestrial matters.  When these things are considered in this way and there is such a distinction between a wise man and a fool, one being compared with day and the other with darkness, the former raises his eyes to heaven, the latter looks on the ground.  Suddenly this thought occurred to me, why both the wise man and the fool are constrained by a common mortality - why the same wounds, the same fate, the same death and equal troubles confine each one.

2:15/16 I have stated that the wise man and the fool, the righteous and wicked are destined to die by the same fate and all wicked things in this world will suffer a similar fate; what profit is there for me then, that I have sought wisdom and worked more than others?  On reconsidering the matter and applying myself to it diligently I saw that my opinion was unfounded.  For the wise and foolish will not have similar remembrance in the future when the end of the world comes; and they will be confined for no reason by equal death because the wise man will continue to the joys of heaven and the fool to his punishment.  The Septuagint translates the meaning of the Hebrew here more clearly, for it doesn't necessarily follow the Hebrew word order: "and to what purpose have I become wise?"  Then I said to myself copiously, (for the fool is he, who speaks too much), 'for this is also vanity, because there is no remembrance of the wise with the fool for ever, and so on.'  Since he tried to convince us that his prior thoughts were foolish, he bore witness that he had spoken foolishly, and that he had erred, and it was by doing this that he realized his folly.    

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