Category: Ecclesiastes

Interpreting Ecclesiastes in Context

Rich book EcclIn last week’s post, I discussed how to respond to six words from Ecclesiastes 9:5, the Watchtower’s primary proof text for its teaching that the dead have no conscious existence until the resurrection: “… the dead know nothing at all…” (all quotes will be from the Watchtower’s own 2013 New World Translation)

My recommendation was to have them read the rest of verse 5 and all of verse 6 to see if the passage expresses God’s viewpoint or merely the perspective of a man who is looking on this life as all there is: “… the dead know nothing at all, nor do they have any more reward, because all memory of them is forgotten. Also, their love and their hate and their jealousy have already perished, and they no longer have any share in what is done under the sun.”

I also suggested that you look at Ecclesiastes 1:2 and ask the same question with regard to the book of Ecclesiastes as a whole: “‘The greatest futility!’ says the congregator, ‘The greatest futility! Everything is futile!’”

Sometimes Witnesses will persist in ignoring the context and insist that “the dead know nothing at all” is  truth revealed by God. If that happens, I recommend that you have them look at other passages in Ecclesiastes to see if they express Jehovah’s viewpoint. Here are several passages you can use for this purpose. Beware of overkill, though. Only use as many of them as necessary to make the point. Continue reading

Discussing Ecclesiastes 9:5 with Jehovah’s Witnesses

Rich Eccl 9_5When discussing what happens to a person after death, Jehovah’s Witnesses will refer you to Ecclesiastes 9:5: “the dead know nothing at all…” (Watchtower’s 2013 New World Translation). Some Witnesses have memorized an earlier version: “the dead… are conscious of nothing at all…” (NWT).

If you try to get them to focus on the context, they usually say, “But the Bible says right here…” and then repeat those words like a mantra. They consider that partial sentence to be the definitive declaration of the state of the dead—all other Bible passages are required to be interpreted to conform to it.

How can we get them to look at that verse in context? Continue reading