woensdag 6 februari 2013

Review of: André LaCocque, Ruth (trans. K. C. Hanson; A Continental Commentary), Fortress Press, 2004; in: Interpretation

André LaCocque, Ruth (trans. K. C. Hanson; A Continental Commentary), Fortress Press, 2004

Review in: Interpretation 2006 60: 222
Review door: Katharine Doob Sakenfeld
Gevonden op: http://int.sagepub.com/content/60/2/222.2.full.pdf+html

Ruth: A Continental Commentary
by André LaCocque
Fortress, Minneapolis, 2004. 187 pp. $28.00 (cloth). ISBN 0-8006-9515-1.

LACOCQUE ARGUES THAT the book of Ruth functions as a commentary on the Torah, a commentary prepared in the post-exilic era to subvert the narrowly nationalist policies of those holding the perspective represented by Ezra. As commentary on Torah, the story is about more than "a simple dispute between different schools" (p. 26), and this is LaCocque's central emphasis. The author of Ruth wants to advocate for the spirit of the law, rather than its literal meaning, and to present Ruth the Moabite as the catalyst for moving the community toward such a perspective. At every point the story is about hesed ("love," in LaCocque's translation) as the meaning of the Torah; thus he consistently presents the characters as concerned for the welfare of others. Readings against this perspective by other commentators who see selfishness or other petty possibilities underlying the characters' actions are treated dismissively.

Translated from French by K. C. Hanson, this version of LaCocque's commentary interacts extensively with English language scholarship on the book of Ruth, as well as with traditional rabbinic literature. LaCocque believes that the book of Ruth was authored by a woman; he argued his case in a previous work and it is simply presumed here. Although I doubt that the gender of a biblical author can be determined with certainty, LaCocque's views of the book itself do not appear to depend upon or require his female author.

His sustained reasoning for the post-exilic placement of the book is attractive, although inevitably it depends upon many assumptions about the dating of other Old Testament texts. Imagining the subversiveness of the author of Ruth as comparable to the subversiveness of Second Isaiah before and of Jesus later on provides a broad canonical horizion.

The commentary contains many excellent insights (and as with any commentary, many debatable interpretive proposals). Yet it is not easy reading, and the challenge goes beyond the assumption of facility with Hebrew characteristic of this commentary series. Arguments are exceedingly compactly written and treatments of details often seem to jump from one topic to another so that the larger picture becomes hazy. Readers interested in advanced study of the book of Ruth will benefit from placing this volume alongside other studies.


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