Joanne's Reviews > The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules

The Gospel of Ruth by Carolyn Custis James
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's review
May 01, 2015

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bookshelves: devotional, non-fiction, book-club
Read in June, 2011

I've never paid much attention to the book of Ruth. Yeah, yeah, love story, David's grandfather, Jesus' great-great-something-grandfather, four pages, okay. Next? But we chose to read it in women's small group, so I got to spend some more time with it using this book as a guide.

James spends a *lot* of time on Ruth, unpacking cultural traditions of the day, and analyzing each character's motives and actions very very carefully. Her most interesting ideas are 1) seeing Naomi as a female Job figure, whose suffering is turned to joy; 2) the concept of hesed, which is sort of like grace in its sacrificial giving, and 3) the concept of ezer, which is woman as godly warrior, about which she does not say enough. I enjoyed having some of the history, though we never did figure out why Naomi was so poor if she owned land, and why Boaz or anyone needed to redeem it. And although James says that the threshing floor scene was not intended as a seduction, we think it was. As a group we also didn't agree with most of her over-interpretation of character's actions, especially Boaz's and Ruth's, and especially in the last chapter or two where James claims to know what they were thinking or how they were feeling, (e.g., "Boaz listens because he values what she thinks" (p. 206). Or when she simply overwrites, like, "Hesed spreads like wildfire, from the Bethlehem highway through the fields of Boaz and the threshing floor, past the city gates, and into the small veins of a newborn baby boy" (p. 193). I think James has read so many commentaries she has been diverted from the text.

But overall, I'm glad we read it.


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