Ecclesiastes perhaps summarized the essence of his thought in this verse in chapter 3: “God made everything fitting in its time; but he also set eternity in our hearts, though we are not able to embrace the work of God from the beginning to the end” (3:11-14; 8:16-17). Humankind, created in the image of God, is to rule the universe. Nevertheless, humans are no more than servants made of clay upon whom God imposed the laborious task of always searching.
Ecclesiastes lived in the third century before Christ, when Greek culture began to influence the Jewish people. The dynamism of the Greek civilization came from its confidence in the unlimited resources of human thinking. Greek philosophers strove to explain all the mysteries of human destiny (and it is known that this aim is still the core of western humanism). Ecclesiastes denies this optimism: we are in a world where all is disconcerting. Let us try to sense the mystery of God and the weight of his silence; the human person is a limited mortal being. Let us not take appearance for the reality of wisdom. Be satisfied with fully living the present moment, trying to solve the problems within our reach. Know how to profit by the joys that God has in store for us today, and leave the rest to his goodness.
Religion has always tried to explain, to give a more reassuring view of existence. Ecclesiastes does not ask this service. At that time, pious people affirmed that here below God rewarded the good and punished the wicked. Ecclesiastes remains doubtful. Although accepting that the commandments of God show us a way, he respects the silence and apparent absence of God.
The author of this book in the third century before Christ did what many writers and poets do now; he signed his work with a pseudonym, or a made-up name. He presented his teaching as if it were the work of King Solomon, David’s son. It is well known that Solomon had the reputation of being well-versed in human wisdom. As he himself was a man charged with the instruction of the assembly of believers (that is what the word Ecclesiastes means) those who published his book have used both words: Ecclesiastes and Solomon.
The word Ecclesiastes is the translation of the Hebrew Qohelet and many prefer to use this word, avoiding confusion with Ecclesiasticus (Sirach); that is why we keep the abbreviation Qo when we mention this book.