[ skip to navigation ]
The House Church Network: Dedicated to Kingdom Expansion
Is There Really Nothing New Under the Sun?

The context of the question stems from a discussion I was having with an acquaintance over the literalness of the Bible. My conversationalist quoted Ecclesiastes 1.9 to me which reads, in part, "There is nothing new under the sun" and then asked where microwave ovens came from.

The conversation seemed to be, in the words of Ecclesiastes, "vanity," but it seemed all in good fun. That is until my companion insisted not only must we take this passage in the literal terms he shared, but in doing so we have to allow for a society that pre-existed on this earth that had once been so technologically advanced they had microwave ovens, cars, space ships, etc. A sort of Atlantis theory or something.

My concern in all this is in trying to take a work of literature, yea even the word of God, and make it fit a literal scheme. The writer of Ecclesiastes is crying out against the futility of life, not trying to remap history by implying the preexistence of another civilization far advanced to his own.

So what did Koheleth mean when he wrote, "There is nothing new under the sun" (Koheleth is the Hebrew title of the author of Ecclesiastes). A reading of the book as a whole answers the question without difficulty.

The book is written as a lament against the elevation of oneself, material wealth, and even wisdom and knowledge. "All is vanity," cries Koheleth. Everything on earth that is and was and will be shall pass away. The writer exclaims that human nature, philosophy, and truth have not really changed from the beginning. And even though Koheleth had apparently gathered wealth and knowledge and wisdom, even this was in vain for "the same fate awaits us all" (Eccl. 2.13 paraphrased), in other words, death. The conclusion Koheleth finally makes, he makes five times in this short book: there is nothing better to do than, "Eat, drink, and enjoy yourself."

The only optimistic word in the book, at least as far as the Judeo-Christian faith is concerned, is that Koheleth calls for everyone to revere God and to keep the commandments--and even then there are no promise of reward for those who do so (12.13). Everything else in the book is simply fatalistic.

To try and press this book into a literal mold where an advanced civilization once roamed this earth is to do violence to the intent of the writings; writings that are clearly a lament against the futility of life.

So where do microwave ovens come from? Mine came from Sears. And though somewhere in a galaxy far, far way there may be a civilization that's been cooking with microwave ovens for a thousand years or so, Koheleth with all his wisdom was unconcerned with their or anyone else's technology, but instead cried out with his woe over the futility of life.

Go to top of page