The name of this blog ‘olem’ is, probably rather pretentiously, is a transliteration of the Hebrew word עלם which is found in Ecclesiastes 3:11. There it should actually be transliterated olam, but in the Hebrew dictionary I was using transliterated the word as ‘olem’, so that’s what this blog is called…!
Ecclesiastes as a whole, and this verse in particular, are favourites of mine, not least because of their ambiguity and challenge. There are different ways of translating the verse, but on the whole I like the NIV translation: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
The word עלם, describing what God placed in the human heart has been translated in a number of different ways. In his commentary on Ecclesiastes (Anchor Bible commentary vol.24A 1997:163) Seow argues that there are no serious alternatives to it meaning ‘eternity’ – something that transcends time, particularly given that it is used in that way in verse 14 (NIV ‘forever’). In his book on Biblical Words for Time Barr (1969:123f) concludes that olam can refer to the ‘remotest time’ or to ‘perpetuity’ or ‘forever’, depending on the context.
A word referring to ‘that which transcends time’, ‘the remotest time past’ seems like a good description for this blog! It also suggests that “God has placed within us something which encourages us to look beyond life under the sun” as Doug Ingram says in his interesting Grove booklet. As a further link, this verse was also used to legitimate scientific enquiry, while it’s been suggested that Ecclesiastes uses the experimental method to reach its conclusions! So, this blog is about looking beyond what we can see, particularly about aspects of the past and the eternal, in theology, archaeology, and science more generally. I hope that you enjoy it!