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The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules

4.1  ·  Rating details ·  630 Ratings  ·  81 Reviews
Traditionally, the Book of Ruth is viewed as a beautiful love story between Ruth and Boaz. But if you dig deeper, you'll find startling revelations---that God makes much of broken lives, he calls men and women to serve him together, and he's counting on his daughters to build his kingdom.
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Published August 30th 2009 by Zondervan (first published February 1st 2008)
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Dalaina May
I am a missionary with a degree in intercultural studies and 20+ years of walking with the Lord, and this book literally took the legs out from beneath me as the author looked at the book of Ruth from a cultural standpoint (my favorite point she made was that Boaz must have been either married or a widower with sons to have the kind of standing in the community that he had. That changes things, doesn't it?).
Wow! Why haven't I heard this stuff before? I checked out the bibliography page, and thi
Janet Pittman
Sep 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Carolyn Custis James provides her perspective on the book of Ruth with insights beyond the typical Cinderella view of Boaz as the Handsome Prince or a Knight in Shining Armor who comes to the rescue of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi. I appreciated the author's view of the villagers in a patriarchal culture who link "Ruth to some of the brightest female luminaries in Israel's constellation." As a nation builder, Ruth portrays the important role of women's calling in His kingdom. Naomi, Ruth, a ...more
Mar 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is by far the best book study I have ever done. It's not a long book, but there is so much meat to pull from the bones of the story of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz that goes way beyond just a cursory reading. The author does a good job of awakening the reader to seeing the reality of a widow's life in ancient Israel, and the nuances of the law that Ruth's and her compatriots actions challenge.

I cannot recommend enough.
Dayna Dueck
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

One of her key points is that Naomi (and Ruth's) suffering is equivalent, or likely much worse, than Job's. And by imposing Western romantic ideas on this story, we largely miss the point. This is a story about God.

"In the aftermath of loss and grief, Naomi's questions came to me as I struggled to put God's hesed for our family alongside such a tragic outcome. Then I asked myself who I would rather hear from in my struggle with God? Someone whose life is picture perfect and doesn't have a scrat
Carolyn Custis James approaches many of the familiar themes of the book of Ruth from a new angle. I loved her exploration of Naomi's experiences and struggles with God. This book challenged me to think about this beautiful story from a different perspective--something I always appreciate from a Bible study.

Her feminist viewpoint seemed to drive her interpretation at times--many of the conclusions she drew did not seem to be supported by the text itself, but rather from conjecture drawn from his
May 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, reviewed
Carolyn Custis James has incredible things to say about the Book of Ruth. First she starts out by explaining that the hero of the story isn't Boaz, Naomi, or even Ruth. It is hesed- a Hebrew word for the incredible, self sacrificing love God has for his people. James says, "Whenever we study God's Word, our main quest is always to discover what He is telling us about himself." Through the Book of Ruth, she says, God is telling us of his ovewhelming love for women. Not only that, she says, but he ...more
Hannah Rasmussen
When I heard Carolyn Custis James speak about Ruth five years ago, she emphasized how Ruth, Naomi and Boaz show sacrificial covenant love and partner with God's work. She then asked us to evaluate our relationships with God and the opposite sex. Although I had been a committed Christian for years, it was during that reflection time that God first revealed what his grace really meant. So The Gospel of Ruth truly spoke the gospel to me! James constantly demonstrates that Ruth is no fairy tale roma ...more
Aug 05, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christian women
Recommended to Catbird by: Christy LaLonde
I loved her approach and study of the two principal characters of the Book of Ruth (Old Testament book of the Bible.); she addresses the sensitive topics of widowhood, infertility, poverty and social dependence unabashedly and with great insight. It was refreshing to read a take on Ruth that didn't smack of "Cinderella"; in fact, it was much more like Job.
However, Custis James' writing style didn't suit my taste. I felt that she spent too many words (chapters, even) telling me WHAT she was GOING
Oct 03, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was prepared to love this book. The idea of taking the story from the perspective of Ruth's mother-in-law Naomi was one that intrigued me. I was hoping to pre-read this and pass it on as a book for a group at our church.

The beginning showed much promise and had me hooked. Unfortunately I found the chapters which talked about the plight of widows and barren women to be wordy. Once the original thought was brought home it was repeated and repeated and repeated without much new insight, which cau
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I highly recommend this book to women and men interested in understanding the book of Ruth where the perspective is from the historical context & culture. This is not just a love story. The text spoke to me in a fresh way as I find myself in a difficult transition. Naomi is described as a female Job, and this book gives plenty of opportunity to wrestle with the question, is God good to women?
I will leave it at that. In addition the author's writing style is beautiful.
Diane Aldinger-samson
The author definitely makes you think outside the box. You are forced to look at Naomi and Ruth through different eyes. Not everyone would agree with how Carolyn James looks at these women but I loved how it was different, unique but not unbiblical. The book of Ruth was opened up for me and gave me some insight into my role as a woman. A great read and worth it.
Ruthanne Mullins
I know we've all been taught that the Book of Ruth is a story of love and loyalty. However, the author shows us through a different perspective, we can learn deeper even with those stories we think we know by heart. When it is said that the Word is alive, the author is a master at reminding us just how true that is.
Ariana Scott
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my absolute favorite books
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Scholarship and story with contemporary relevance and insights that heighten suspense and resolve riddles. An excellent book. Highly recommend it.
Sara Jane
Oct 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having studied Ruth under my friend, Carolyn, in 1997, and having just looked at Ruth again via Nancy Guthrie's study, The Son of David, I decided to revisit Carolyn's writing by listening to her book. I was not disappointed. God IS good for women (and men) and He is working out His plan of redemption through the courage, sacrifice, and belief of women of old and today.
Jenny Karraker
Mar 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book about the story of Ruth from the Old Testament. The author James brought out some very different ideas and conclusions about this well-loved story that seem to be well-researched and documented, looking at the story in its true context, not an American fairy tale with a happy ending. I hadn't realized that the story is told from the point of view of Naomi, whom James paints not as a whining woman, but as a female Job. I hadn't realized the full implications of their pr ...more
Jul 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christianity
In this book, author Carolyn James answered the question about whether God is good for women or not through the gospel of Ruth. She gave very engaging commentary about how God used Ruth and Naomi for his redemption purposes. This is a very entertaining book for both women and men, as men can learn a lot from Boaz's valor character. This is definitely a page-turner! It's also very insightful, because I really learned a lot about God's character, his heart for widows and the barren women, his powe ...more
Jul 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A friend and my pastor read this book and strongly urged me to read it. I agree with the reviewer that she spent a lot of time telling the reader what she was going to tell us. I already knew about the plight of barren women and widows in the Old Testament although she did add a few insights. It was interesting at first and soon became VERY LONG. My husband was out of town and it was too easy to identify with how lost and alone a widow is, even in this day and age.

I appreciated that she explain
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
Often, we think of Ruth as a nice romantic story with Boaz as the hero, Ruth as the heroine, and Naomi as the matchmaker. In The Gospel of Ruth, Carolyn Custis James shows that God is the hero and that this book is a powerful example of the Gospel. Though readers tend to think of Naomi as an old, complaining woman, Custis James compares her to Job. In fact, she says, Naomi lost even more than Job. Though she didn't have the material possessions that Job did, she lost not only all her possessions ...more
Catherine Gillespie
Jun 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: faith
In The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules, Carolyn Custis James studies the theology of the book of Ruth, drawing from the work of numerous Old Testament scholars, and finds more than a fairy tale love story. She finds instead a version of the ultimate love story of God for His people – even, or perhaps especially, for those who are outcasts, strangers, poor, and downtrodden. As in all of Scripture, the book of Ruth is about the good news of God’s plan for redemption – we can f ...more
Dorothy Littell
Dec 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Old Testament book of Ruth is often reduced to an sentimental love story in which Ruth, a helpless widow, shamelessly pursues a wealthy older man (who spares her a life of countless sorrows), and provides her mother in law with a grandson. End of story. On we go to the book of 1 Samuel.

To read Carolyn Custis James’ perspective, The Gospel of Ruth, is to have that shallow interpretation shattered. Wonderfully shattered. And then reconstructed from the ground up. You won’t recognize this versi
Jan 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here I was, reading the book of Ruth at face value and seeing it s a typical damsel in distress saved by a dashing man romantic comedy--until now. I'm so glad I was able to digest this book a chapter at a time and process each chapter with a group of ladies that helped me really dive into the questions I had and the meaning behind it all. The author took us a level deeper and helped us see the context, the stakes, the riskiness and above all the faith that Ruth (and Naomi) possessed. I also saw ...more
Debbie Yacenda
Jul 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Is God good for women?" James found a strong positive answer during her research of the book of Ruth. Many view it as a simple love story. She views it as a vital turning point in history. And she convinced me. Naomi's suffering due to the loss of her husband and sons was greater than anything Job suffered. He still had his wife (such as she was) and even more important he was still a man in a culture where men routinely prayed, "Thanks, God, for not making me a woman." Women only had value wit ...more
Mercedes Cordero
Some books are just not for you. This one was not for me. I found myself rolling my eyes quite a few times, and just desperate to get to the end. At first I thought that my problem with it was that I just could not relate, couldn't walk in Naomi's and Ruth's widowed shoes, but no. My real problem is that I don't like how much the book dwells on the tragic life of a widow and a barren woman. Yes, I get it; it was awful, they were ostracized, cast aside, thought to be of no value, had no rights or ...more
Michelle Wegner
Sep 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book on the Gospel of Ruth from the Bible. If I were naming a sub-title, I would call it, "Ruth: Not a Cinderella Story". In reading this book, I realized that so often we read it as a "happily ever after" story, with Ruth getting the guy and the baby in the end. I love how Carolyn Custis James so wonderfully describes the story of Ruth as a story of a fight for preservation, a fight for a family, a fight for the eternal souls of men and women. Ruth had the guts to do what was unthi ...more
Jun 24, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finished this book last week as a small group study for church. The book of Ruth is one of the shortest in the Bible, taking up 4 chapters in less than 2 pages. However, the author expands her analysis in 10 chapters. I felt that many chapters were a repeat of what was said in previous chapters so I became easily bored. I understand James' objective in emphasizing the role of women in God's kingdom as being unique and powerful but then she constantly compares Ruth to Job and Abraham, thus, con ...more
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books
This book put the book of Ruth in a whole new perspective for me. One of my favorite things about the book was showing how Ruth was courageous and broke all the rules that were in place for women culturally. The point that really brought it home was the fact that God loves, users, and protects women. Whatever you're going through, whether it's being single, a widow, or barren, God loves you and can use you. A relationship point that shook things up for me, is the fact that men and women need eac ...more
Mar 19, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading James' book "Half the Church", I was eager to get my hands on more of what she'd written. Sadly, this book didn't live up to the same standard as "Half the Church". "The Gospel of Ruth" is good. I agree with the theology. I'm not sure I learned much new, though. I admit, my prior instructions and personal reading of Ruth may have already covered the bases James was hitting. The writing was much weaker than in "Half the Church" (almost like a much-earlier work or an attempt prior to ...more
Jun 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A friend recommended this book to me and I'm glad I had the opportunity to read it. Written for average readers (as opposed to theologians or pastors), the author explores the book of Ruth in quite a new light. In the process she demonstrates that God uses those to whom society ascribes little or no value to accomplish his purposes in history. She also shows how the theme of God's hesed, a word that is difficult to define simple, resonates throughout the book. I felt like the author succeeds in ...more
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Carolyn Custis James (M.A. in Biblical Studies) is an evangelical thinker who loves God enough to break the rules--rules of cultural convention which attempt to domesticate the gospel message of the Bible.

Carolyn is president of WhitbyForum, a ministry dedicated to addressing the deeper needs which confront both women and men as they endeavor to extend God's kingdom together in a messy and compli
More about Carolyn Custis James...

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“Faith may want answers, but somehow it is able to survive without them.” 13 likes
“It doesn’t cause me to doubt God’s existence, but it does force me to admit there’s a lot about God I don’t understand.” 7 likes
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