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I can tell that from the Hebrew various English translations understand something different has been put into the heart of man. What I am interested in then is does the LXX support one of the English translations? I looked up a Greek-English LXX interlinear but it was still not exactly clear to me what the meaning in Greek is.

Here is the Greek:

11 σὺν τὰ πάντα ἐποίησεν καλὰ ἐν καιρῷ αὐτοῦ καί γε σὺν τὸν αἰῶνα ἔδωκεν ἐν καρδίᾳ αὐτῶν, ὅπως μὴ εὕρῃ ὁ ἄνθρωπος τὸ ποίημα, ὃ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεός, ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς καὶ μέχρι τέλους. (The Lexham Greek-English Interlinear Septuagint)

Here are a few divergent English translations:

Ecclesiastes 3:11

ESV

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

NET Bible

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

KJV

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

Does the LXX support 'eternity', 'world' or 'ignorance'? I understand the Greek word employed is 'age' so I sort of guess that somehow this indicates 'eternity' but really have no clue.

  • 2
    +1, but c’mon, you don’t want to ask what’s going on in the Hebrew? ;-) FYI, NETS Ecclesiast. – Susan Jun 25 '15 at 10:43
  • Maybe instead of asking if the LXX supports an English translation, ask if it agrees with one of the different understandings of the Hebrew text which you refer to. Then the answer could be applied to any language's translation? If there's reason to focus only on the LXX then I suppose that's your prerogative. – Joshua Jun 25 '15 at 16:52
  • ya this question arose because i have a few Hebrew explanation sources and even reliable sources went for different translation which made me curious about the LXX as an older translation which my Hebrew sources did not refer to. – Mike Jun 25 '15 at 23:53
  • The question about the Hebrew of this verse now exists: What did God put into the human heart according to the Hebrew text of Ecclesiastes 3:11? – Susan Jun 26 '15 at 13:43
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The LXX could be construed to support either 'eternity' or 'the world' but not 'ignorance'. The relevant bit:

καί γε σὺν τὸν αἰῶνα ἔδωκεν ἐν καρδίᾳ αὐτῶν (LXX, Rahlfs)
indeed, he granted eternity in their heart (NETS)
he has also set the whole world in their heart (Brenton)

Both make sense as renditions of:

גַּ֤ם אֶת־הָעֹלָם֙ נָתַ֣ן בְּלִבָּ֔ם

if the translator understood עֹלָם (ʿōlām) to be a defectively written form of עוֹלָם (ʿôlām). The difference between the two is that the normal mater lectionis ḥōlem-waw vowel is written as just ḥōlem, a common spelling variation in many words, although not elsewhere in ʿôlām as far as I’m aware. It’s an easy transition to make all the same,1 and ʿôlām is “stereotypically”2 translated at αἰών, as here.

As you pointed out, one meaning of αἰών is “age”.3 An excerpt from BDAG4 is instructive (bold original):

  1. a long period of time, without ref. to beginning or end
    a. of time gone by, the past, earliest times
    b. of time to come which, if it has no end, is also known as eternity
  2. a segment of time as a particular unit of history, age
    [...]
  3. the world as a spatial concept, the world
    [...]

The first definition supports the ESV (and NETS) translation while the third supports the KJV (and Brenton). In support of 'eternity', the remainder of that verse, sticking with the Greek text:

ὅπως μὴ εὕρῃ ὁ ἄνθρωπος ὃ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεός, ἀπ᾿ ἀρχῆς καὶ μέχρι τέλους. (LXX, Rahlfs)
so that they should not find the work that God has done from the beginning even to the end.(NETS)

Making sense of the whole verse is another matter, but one can see how the Greek translator might have understood this last part as a restatement of ὁ αἰών with the sense of 'eternity'.


1. Especially given that the full spelling of the same word is used in v. 14, 'whatever God does endures forever [ləʿôlām]'.

2. A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint, Second edition (Deutsche Biblgesellschaft, Stuttgart, 2003).

3. ʿôlām can also carry this sense. See BDB, עוֹלָם2.k. describing the usage in Ecc 3:11: “age (duration) of the world”.

4. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. (University of Chicago Press, 2000).

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