Annihilationism, Ecclesiastes 9:5, and the dead know nothing

by Matt Slick
10/11/2018
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Ecclesiastes 9:5, “For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten. Indeed their love, their hate and their zeal have already perished, and they will no longer have a share in all that is done under the sun."

Conditionalists often use Ecclesiastes 9:5 to demonstrate that the human soul is not conscious after death. The reason they do this is because if the soul is immortal, then annihilationism is not true. Therefore, they look for verses that they can interpret in a manner consistent with their conclusion.

Nevertheless, Ecclesiastes is speaking relative to the human perspective and how things are seen "under the sun," a phrase that is repeated throughout the book (Ecc. 1:3, 9, 14; 2:11, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22; 3:16; 4:1, 3, 7, 15; 5:13, 18; 6:1, 12; 8:9, 15, 17; 9:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 10:5 ). Solomon laments that the "fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same," (3:19), that they go to the same place (3:20) and that "the day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth," (7:1).1

Furthermore, the book of Ecclesiastes says that money is the answer to everything.

  • “Men prepare a meal for enjoyment, and wine makes life merry, and money is the answer to everything.,” (Ecclesiastes 10:19).

Obviously, the perspective of Ecclesiastes is not an eternal one. It is from a human-based, even humanistic based perspective.  The conditionalists should not use the book of Ecclesiastes in support of their view of the mortality of the soul.

Consider more verses from the book of Ecclesiastes that demonstrate its non-eternal perspective.  It is meant to show the vanity of man's works "under the sun."

  • "Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” 3 What advantage does man have in all his work which he does under the sun?" (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3).
  • “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God.,” (Ecclesiastes 2:24).
  • "For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity. 20 All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust. 21 Who knows that the breath of man ascends upward and the breath of the beast descends downward to the earth? 22 I have seen that nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities, for that is his lot. For who will bring him to see what will occur after him?" (Ecclesiastes 3:19-22).
  • Ecclesiastes 7:1, "A good name is better than a good ointment, And the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth," (Ecclesiastes 7:1).
  • “Men prepare a meal for enjoyment, and wine makes life merry, and money is the answer to everything.,” (Ecclesiastes 10:19).

 

 

 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.