• In the previous post, I indicated that “the Preacher” is better designated as “Qohelet.” So I will call the main speaker of the text “Qohelet,” but it seems more convenient to call the title of the text Ecclesiastes for the sake of convenience.

A Grammatical Issue

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This featured phrase “vanity of vanities” (הבל הבלים habel habalim) that Qohelet repeatedly cries out is considered to be a Hebrew expression of the superlative, which is structured as “~ of ~.” But its exact wording is not typical. Normally, the superlative form is <singular noun + definite article + plural noun>. For example, <king + the kings> is translated as “king of kings,” meaning the highest king. (Note: Hebrew simply juxtaposes two nouns without a possessive preposition to form a possessive phrase.) By the same token, if the phrase “vanity of vanities” is the superlative, we would expect <vanity + the + vanities>, but the article is missed here. That is, this expression might not be superlative.

Continue reading “ECCLESIASTES TRANSLATION SERIES (2): Vanity of vanities”