Book of Ecclesiastes Misinterpreted (by Me)

For years, one of the guiding principle in my life has been the Book of Ecclesiastes 11:1 (King James Version or KJV):

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.

I took the passage to be an encouragement to travel, to enjoy the world, to broaden my horizons.  It was a justification for my obsessive interest in exploring the globe.  By traveling, I hoped to find myself.

Utah Lake at Sunset

Boy, was my interpretation ever wrong.  According to Adam S. Miller, in his book Nothing New Under the Sun:  A Blunt Paraphrase of Ecclesiastes the above passage should be interpreted:

Make smart investments and cross your fingers for a good return.

If I had open-mindedly read the verses that follow 11:1, I would have come to a more accurate understanding.

So my first mistake was to take the verse out of context.  My second was to rely solely on the KJV translation.  According to Grant Hardy:

The King James Version is no longer a good translation, which is why almost no one uses it anymore.  It is inaccurate to the extent that it relies on late, corrupted Greek manuscripts, and it is inadequate in that it does not communicate the authors’ meaning in an intelligible way.

Another translation (New English Bible or NEB) of 11:1 reads:

Send your grain across the seas, and in time you will get a return.

This translation sounds more like Miller’s interpretation.

But to hell with everybody.  I like my original interpretation best.  Do I really have to justify my obsession with scripture?

This entry was posted in bible, existentialism, Travel and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Book of Ecclesiastes Misinterpreted (by Me)

  1. rogerdhansen says:

    According to Coffman’s biblical commentary: “For more than eighteen centuries, there was never any doubt about what was meant here [E 11:1]. Franz Delitzsch noted, during the 19th century, that, ‘Most interpreters regard this as an exhortation to charity’; and this writer is absolutely certain that the passage could not possibly mean anything else. Nothing could be any more stupid than the New English Bible rendition: ‘Send your grain across the seas, and in time you will get a return.'” There is a third possible interpretation of E 11:1. I don’t mind this one.

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