Archive for the Ecclesiastes Category

The nature of Zombies, scripturally speaking

Posted in Ecclesiastes, NWT on 03/09/2011 by caspianrex

Ecclesiastes 9:5-6

5 For the living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all, neither do they anymore have wages, because the remembrance of them has been forgotten. 6 Also, their love and their hate and their jealousy have already perished, and they have no portion anymore to time indefinite in anything that has to be done under the sun.  (NWT)

Although it specifically mentions “the dead,” this brief passage may give us a bit of insight into the nature of the undead as well.  “The living are conscious that they will die…”  Of course, most people hope that they will not be the unlucky ones who end up undead, rather than dead.  But what can a person expect if he or she becomes one of the living dead?  This scripture addresses that subject, albeit somewhat obliquely.  “As for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all…”  We see this situation clearly modeled in the traditional zombie literature.  Unlike the myths about vampires, who seem to be conscious of a great deal, zombies do not display anything we would normally describe as consciousness.  The passage goes on to explain that the dead (and by extension, the undead) do not have wages, which makes sense.  “Their love and their hate and their jealousy have already perished,” which may sound good to some.  But, as zombie films have clearly shown, such an existence is bleak at best.

The NWT’s rendering is a bit confusing in the next line: “…they have no portion anymore to time indefinite…”  The NKJV reads a little more sensibly, “Nevermore will they have a share in anything…”  However, those wacky JWs may have stumbled onto something that touches zombie existence.  Time, of course, continues to march on after death.  Is it not curious that the NWT rendering discusses the dead’s share “to time indefinite”?  It seems somewhat odd to speak of the dead experiencing time in any way, and yet, unlike more traditional translations, the NWT’s version could possibly imply time continuing for the dead after death, but with the dead (spiritually dead or undead) having no ability to receive any enjoyment from the passage of time.  Admittedly this is a bit of a stretch, but one must admit, considering the wording of the NWT, it is at least plausible.  So, looking at the passage as a whole, we see a bleak existence for the zombie: he or she continues to experience time, in a sense, but without any of the conscious appreciation of the passage of time, or the emotional complexity that makes time have a personal impact, as it does for the living.  A living hell, in a very real sense.  (I suppose it depends on your definition of “real” in that sentence.)

Just a brief word about my own choice of Bible translations, as it relates to other posts here on the Zombie Bible Commentary.  The creator of the ZBC has favored the Lamsa translation of the Syriac Peshitta for his posts.  However, I have chosen the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, as it is at least as bizarre as the Lamsa (if not more so), and some of the clumsy or oddly worded translation choices seem to lend themselves quite well to “zombie-centric” interpretations.  At least, that has been my impression thus far.  It is also readily available online at www.watchtower.org.  You can hardly find a more heretical translation available in today’s Bible market!

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Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Posted in Ecclesiastes on 11/22/2010 by Zombie Luther

The Zombie Bible Commentary has returned!

TO everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the sun:  A time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;  A time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build up;  A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance;  A time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;  A time to lose and a time to seek; a time to tie up and a time to untie;  A time to rend and a time to sew; a time to keep silent and a time to speak; A time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Ecclesiastes is a tough book, it’s level 2 of the three level structure that is the philosophy of the Hebrew Bible.*  There are a number of lessons that the zombie enthusiast can draw from these verses.  Before we can get there we need to acknowledge the traditional understanding of them.  The traditional understanding is twofold: 1) that human life is subject to things over which we have no control and 2) that this rhythm of change teaches us that any state of human affairs cannot satisfy if extended ad infinitum.  It is fairly obvious that human satisfaction requires a certain amount of flux just as it is obvious that much of our life is out of our hands.

The zombie enthusiast can likewise draw a few lessons from this passage.  The first is that zombie-ism is out of the hands of human decision making.  As the Preacher might put it, there is “a time for the undead.”  The second is that this “time for the undead” is not permanent.  No state of human affairs is permanent.  There is time war and for peace, time for weeping and for laughing, etc.  So, even though the zombie apocalypse represents a break in the normal order of things, even this is not forever.

In addition to addressing the rise of the undead themselves, this passage also has an important message for the survivors.  If you look at the “Living Dead” series (and even some of the others), one of the largest dilemmas the survivor’s face is how to restore any sense of normality.  Though the survivors invariably fail to properly do this, the most compelling survivor stories have to do with failing to heed the Preacher.  In Dawn of the Dead, the survivors who find themselves dwelling in an empty mall eventually begin to recognize the hollow nature of their existence after a prolonged period of gorging themselves on the bounty of the mall.  This is most poignantly pointed out by the pregnant Francine.  Their lives were made meaningless by the cessation of all the rhythms of life in favor of an unending period of consumption.  Even more compelling is the ending of Land of the Dead after the zombies have breached the walls of Pittsburgh as well as the exclusive community of Fiddler’s Green.  With the despotic rule of Mr. Kaufman over we finally see what the next phase of (human and zombie) life may look like.  Mulligan (the populist rebel) leads the survivors to a new sheltered/existence, Riley takes his crew north and accepts the co-existence of zombies, and most interestingly of all, the zombies move on to begin a new phase of zombie existence/culture.  The conflict of human vs. zombie as we know it lasts only for “a time.”  The conflict between the human survivors lasts only for “a time.”  Efforts to survive the zombie apocalypse by the suspension of time focused on short-term impulses, ultimately fails.  These people either die or cease to lead fulfilling lives, or both.  To not only survive, but to actually live a real life, one needs to recognize the signs and seasons as they progress even when the undead rise… and after.

*In the simplest of constructs the first level is the wisdom of the ancestors/elders represented by such works as Proverbs.  Here the basics of ancient wisdom are taught: doing good reaps blessing, doing evil provokes curse, listen to the advice of your fathers, etc.  The second level is the comfortable and self-reflexive message of Ecclesiastes.  The third level of the Hebrew wisdom tradition is the highly difficult Job, which features a masterful theodicy.