Writing essays is a perculiar thing. I don’t think I’ve ever finished one and not been enthused about the subject matter. I can’t say the same about when I started them, however. My current nemesis is exactly such an experience. Old Testament has never been a subject I’ve been deeply excited about (at least not the content that we’ve been taught) but it’s, suprisingly, been my best in terms of marks (1st year A-, last year an A from AGS).

So I faced this year’s list of potential questions with next to no enthusiasm and finally plumped for “Write an essay on the theology of time and times in Old Testament wisdom’. Not great excitement, you would have thought, but it’s turned out to be very edifying.

You spend the first few days just wading through books in an effort to find out what the big issues are surrounding the subject (at least, what the academics reckon the big issues are). Quite quicly it’s become obvious that the debate centres around Ecclesiastes 3 and quite what Qoheleth means when he writes

Ecclesiastes 3:1 For everything there is an appointed time, and an appropriate time for every activity on earth:

2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot what was planted; 3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. 5 A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 A time to search, and a time to give something up as lost; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; 7 A time to rip, and a time to sew; a time to keep silent, and a time to speak. 8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

9 What benefit can a worker gain from his toil? 10 I have observed the burden that God has given to people to keep them occupied. 11 God has made everything fit beautifully in its appropriate time, but he has also placed ignorance in the human heart so that people cannot discover what God has ordained, from the beginning to the end of their lives. .

Whadd’ya reckon? I’ll let you know my position when submission deadline is past.

On the way I’ve passed by such interesting topics as the exact meaning of that little Hebrew word for “time”, whether time is circular or linear for Israel, and the old chestnut of determinism. I even found a group of scholars discussing whether v5, “A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones”, is actually a sexual euphamism. The mind boggles.

The point of all this is to remind myself that we don’t do essays for no reason. They stretch us. But more than that, they teach us that the things that we thought would bore us are actually of great value and enjoyment since they are the things of God.

As for me, my reading has led me to change a famous adage into

so much time, so little to do

For the intellectuals there is also Göthe’s Faust,

Zum Augenblick dürft’ ich sagen:
Verweile doch, du bist so schön!

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