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Conversations Bible Study: Ruth, Chapter 4

August 2, 8:50-10 a.m.

Conversations Bible studies are being led by Father Kevin Flynn on Zoom.  

This is the final session of our series on the book of Ruth. This week we discuss the last chapter of the book of Ruth, chapter 4.

If you want to participate, please contact Kevin Flynn (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and copy in Janice Sonnen (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) to receive a link to the meeting.  If you would like more information about this study series, please do not hesitate to contact Father Kevin.

All are welcome to join!

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Background information on the book of Ruth, from Father Kevin:

I encourage you to read the entire book, preferably in one go. It’s not long. Once you’ve read it through, go back and make your own titles for what you see as significant parts of the story. (Don’t worry about the official chapter divisions. Sometimes they can be helpful and sometimes they are misplaced.) How do you think the book is organized?

It's often illuminating to read more than one translation of a biblical text. The old adage traduttore, traditore  -- the translator is a traitor – applies to the Scriptures as to anything else. In the case of Ruth, whatever other translations you may read, I invite you to read the version from the Jewish Publication Society. We’re working with a relatively short story to which we’ll pay detailed attention. Being able to refer to a common text will be helpful.

The story of Ruth is a story of ordinary human life, yet the story unfolds against a background of the purposes and providence of God. There are no miracles, no angelic visitations, no sign of God’s action apart from the faithful behaviour of the people in the story. Ruth can therefore be a very helpful book for seeing our own lives in God’s light. Further, unlike most of the Scriptures, the main characters are women – particular examples of faithful living.

The opening line of Ruth sets the story in the period of the Judges and ends with mention of King David (1010-970 BCE). It must therefore have been composed from the time of David or later. Critical scholars have proposed dates ranging from 950-700 BCE to as late as roughly 430 BCE. Inasmuch as the date of Ruth’s composition is so uncertain, its authorship can hardly be determined.

In the Hebrew Bible, the book of Ruth is found in the third section of the canon, known as The Writings (Ketuvim). The book is read at the Feast of Weeks, roughly around the time of the Christian festival of Pentecost, because of its association with the harvest season. In the Christian tradition the location of the book follows the Greek and Latin manuscript traditions by placing the story after the book of Judges, as suggested by the opening verse of the story. Judges and Ruth certainly offer a study in contrasts. Judges features warfare, violence, and repeated disobedience by Israel. Ruth takes place in a peaceful village, with orderly public processes and a faithful foreigner.

As we read, look for themes of the peaceable community, examples of loyal living, and the way in which God, who has no speaking role, is present.

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