Ecclesiastes by Dr. James G. Bollhagen is a welcome addition to the growing number of commentaries on Ecclesiastes. He earned his M.Div., S.T.M., and Ph.D. from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. He has also served as a professor of exegetical theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and is currently the pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in St. Cloud, Florida. This commentary is part of The Concordia Commentary Series: A Theological Exposition of Sacred Scripture. This series is designed to cover every canonical book of both testaments. With each biblical book, a commentator works with the book in its original language as well as text critical, theological, and practical issues. This series is written from a conservative, confessional, Lutheran standpoint (xii–xiii). The target audience for this series is pastors and teachers. In keeping with the intent of this series, Bollhagen’s commentary provides a valuable tool for seminary trained pastors and students who desire to study Ecclesiastes with a basis in the Hebrew text.
After a brief bibliography (xxiii–xxvi), his introduction covers the title of the book (1–2), its place in the Canon (2–4), history of interpretations (4–6), the Hebrew texts (6), its authorship (6–14), theology (14–27), and outline (27–28). The commentary per se is divided into three sections: Solomon’s quest for wisdom, 1:1–2:26 (31–124), pearls of wisdom, 3:1–12:8 (127–421), and postscript, 12:9–14 (424–40). This is followed by two indices: subjects (441–56) and passages (457–75).
As far as the commentary proper is concerned, each of the three major sections is preceded by an outline (29, 125–26, 422). Following the outline for the three divisions, the commentary is further subdivided into subsections. Each subsection is split into three parts: translation, textual notes, and commentary. Bollhagen’s translation is based on the Hebrew text. His textual notes deal with grammatical issues of the Hebrew text and text critical notes. The commentary for each part explains its message as well as integrating theological and practical items.
Though I, like other Qohelethine interpreters, may disagree with Bollhagen on how to treat some specific texts and issues, these minor differences, from my perspective, do not detract from the overall value of his commentary. Here are a few positive features. Since he is working with the Hebrew text along with grammatical explanations (phonology, syntax, etc.) and text critical notes, this type of work is always valuable. In addition, because Bollhagen is committed to the inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of the Hebrew text, this is foundational for Bible believing Christians. Further, this is a conservative commentary. For example, his positive discussion of Solomonic authorship is welcome. Again, this commentary has a needed theological and pastoral perspective. Finally, while recognizing that there is a polarized thought between negative aspects of life (such as death) and positive part (such as the enjoyment-of-life), he affirms that the overall message is to “increase wisdom and strengthen the faith of readers” (15).
As far as Hebrew exegesis and theology of Ecclesiastes are concerned, I highly recommend James Bollhagen’s Ecclesiastes.