Sacred Traditions and the Arts Seminar Series

Qohelet: A New Reading and a New Seeing

Speakers: Menachem Fisch and Debra Band

This meeting of the Sacred Traditions & the Arts seminar marks the fruition of a close and rare collaboration between a philosopher and visual artist in dialogue with a biblical book: Qohelet (or Ecclesiastes).

In Qohelet: Searching for a Life Worth Living, philosopher Menachem Fisch and artist Debra Band together probe the biblical thinker’s inquiry into the value of life “under the sun.” In this first illuminated manuscript of this text, and the first philosophical analysis tracing the coherent path of Qohelet’s full argument, Fisch uncovers Qohelet’s twin concerns: life is short, and situated as we are far below the heavens, we can never be assured of comprehending our world, nor understanding divine will and intent. In her 60 immersive and discursive illuminated paintings of the entire text, each accompanied by explanatory commentary, Band incorporates Fisch’s understanding of the text, employing the grandest of palaces, the Alhambra, as a central metaphor for the beauty and impermanence of human life and accomplishments. She fills its halls with often surprising imagery, symbolism and related poetry creating a visual midrash that relates Qohelet not only to biblical text and Jewish lore but also reveals its reverberations across Western civilization.


Menachem Fisch will present a paper entitled Rationality Time-Bound: Qohelet’s Religious Philosophy.

Debra Band will follow this with a paper entitled Illuminating Qohelet: A Visual Allegory of Life’s Fleeting Palace.

Menachem Fisch is Joseph and Ceil Mazer Professor Emeritus of History and Philosophy of Science at Tel Aviv University, TAU co-director of the Frankfurt-tel Aviv Centre for Religious and Inter-religious Studies, and senior fellow of the Goethe University Frankfurt’s Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften. He is author of The View from Within: Normativity and the Limits of Self-Criticism (with Y.Benbaji) (Notre Dame, 2011), Creativity Undecided: Toward a History and Philosophy of Scientific Agency (Chicago, 2017), and Covenant of Confrontation: A study of Non-Submissive Religiosity in Rabbinic Literature (Hebrew) (Bar Ilan, 2019).

Debra Band draws upon her love of both the manuscripts arts and the Jewish textual tradition in her acclaimed illuminated manuscripts. She is the author and illuminator of The Song of Songs: The Honeybee in the Garden (JPS, 2005), I Will Wake the Dawn: Illuminated Pslams (with Arnold J. Band) (JPS, 2007), Arisel Arisel Deborah, Ruth and Hannah (with Arnold J. Band) (Honeybee in the Garden, 2012), and Kabbalat Shabbat: The Grand Unification (with Raymond P. Scheindlin) (Honeybee in the Garden, 2016), among other works. Her Paintings have been widely exhibited across the United States and Canada. She resides in Potomac Maryland, with her husband Michael Diamond, MD and menagerie.

After this there will be an opportunity for audience members to ask questions and contribute to the discussion. Refreshments will be provided.

About the seminar series:

The seminar on Sacred Traditions and the Arts is a joint venture between the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at King’s and The Courtauld. It seeks to place researchers in dialogue who are working on any aspect of the sacred and visual culture. It is open to all scholars and students who have an interest in exploring the intersections of religion and art regardless of period, geography or tradition.

Organised by Dr Caroline Levitt (The Courtauld) and Professor Ben Quash (King’s College London). 

This event has passed.

20 Feb 2024

6.00pm - 7.30pm

Free, booking essential

Anatomy Lecture Theatre, King's College London

This is an in person event at Anatomy Lecture Theatre, King’s College London, WC2R 2LS.