0

In Christian bibles the Book of Ruth is placed immediately after the Book of Judges, reflecting the time when the story takes place. In Jewish bibles it is located in the Writings (Ketuvah), among the famous "Five Scrolls" - Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther - and is important in the celebration of Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks).

What, if any, are the hermeneutical issues involved the placement of Ruth in the two major biblical canons? (Answers need not exclude historical and cultural factors.)


Note: I ask the question here rather than in se.Christianity because it deals with the Jewish canon equally with the Christian.

1
  • I don't think where to put a book in the canon is a hermeneutical question.
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 28, 2023 at 0:27

2 Answers 2

1

An article published in 1906 The Jewish Encyclopedia V10 pp Executive Committee of the Editorial Board., George A. Barton pp576-577 covers Ruth and its dating:

According to Bewer the Book of Ruth is later than H., i.e., it is post-exilic. This view of the date is for other reasons held by many scholars (e.g., Kuenen, "Historische Bücher des Alten Testaments," i., part 2, p. 195; Cornill, "Einleitung," p. 241; Nowack, l.c.; Bertholet, l.c.; and Kautzsch, "Literature of the Old Testament," p. 129). The days of the Judges are referred to as a time far past (i. 1), and even the law of Deut. xxv. 5 et seq. is referred to as a custom now obsolete (comp. Ruth iv.7); the language of the book contains several Aramaisms(e.g., , i. 4; , i. 13; and , iv. 7); the interest in the genealogy of David (iv. 20 et seq.) is thought to indicate a date when David had become the ideal of the nation; and the evident interest of the author in the marriage of an Israelite with a Moabitess—an interest in sharp contrast to the law of Deut. xxiii. 3 et seq. as well as the procedure of Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra ix., x., and Neh. xiii. 23 et seq.)—indicates that the author of Ruth was a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah and wrote the book to show that their opposition to foreign marriages was contrary to ancient and most honorable precedent.

Although Driver ("Introduction," p. 427) urges that the general beauty and purity of style of Ruth indicate a pre-exilic date, holding that the Davidic genealogy at the end is probably a later addition, the post-exilic origin of Ruth seems to be confirmed by its position among the "Ketubim," in the third part of the canon. The view which makes it a tract against the marriage policy of Ezra and Nehemiah seems most probable.

Seemingly then, the authorship of Ruth post-dates Moab by a considerable time. And its placement in the canon is based simply upon its story rather than its authorship date, or its poetic idyll.

5
  • This is interesting but based entirely on speculation without providing a scintilla of evidence.
    – Dottard
    Sep 26, 2023 at 21:29
  • I have not verified the references, of which there are many. But a respectable archive source, and as you say the whole article is interesting per se.
    – user59096
    Sep 26, 2023 at 21:41
  • + 1 ... Good info. about its probably post-exilic origin figuring into its placement in the Writings. It strikes me that Judges and Kings are included among the Prophets by Jewish authorities - Judges written by Samuel and Kings by Jeremiah - and it would be improper to think of Ruth that way if it is post-exilic. Sep 26, 2023 at 23:27
  • Almost everyone of the indicators listed in that article can be used as evidence for the exact opposite conclusion or flat out misunderstands the text (the old custom being referenced in the verses is how property was transferred--not levirate marriage). And on its surface it appears to be providing a justification and explanation for David's legitimacy as the King of Israel. This is very strange if the book was composed after the Davidic dynasty had ended. It was probably composed at the beginning of David's reign, perhaps while he was still competing with Saul's son for kingship. Oct 4, 2023 at 17:10
  • @DanFefferman According to the Talmud, Ruth was written by Samuel. It's inclusion in "Writings" as opposed to Prophets would be because it was not written using Prophecy. Oct 4, 2023 at 17:12
1

The OP has not defined his word, "belong", so I will take it in three senses:

  1. Chronology of Story

I have made the case here >> When did the story of Ruth take place? that the story of Ruth belongs to the time BEFORE the Hebrew monarchy, ie, during the time of the Judges.

  1. Time of Composition

The time of composition is completely unknown and the author is also unknown. Any attempt to determine such (and there have been many) are entirely speculative. All that can be said is that it must have been completed during or after the time of King David's reign.

  1. Position in the Canon

It is well-known that the position of a piece of writing in the Canon of books composing the OT has nothing to do with either its time of composition, it author or its story history. Therefore, nothing can be deduced from Ruth's position in either the Hebrew Bible, the LXX or the Latin Vulgate. To illustrate this, I list the various book orders in these ancient texts:

Hebrew canon (Biblical Hebraica):

  • Pentateuch
  • Joshua & Judges
  • Samuel & Kings
  • Isaiah
  • Jeremiah
  • Ezekiel
  • 12 Prophets
  • Psalms
  • Job
  • Proverbs
  • Ruth
  • Song of Songs
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Lamentations (of Jeremiah)
  • Esther
  • Daniel
  • Nehemiah
  • Chronicles

Septuagint (LXX) [Note: this order is not uniform but this is the most common.]

  • Pentateuch
  • Joshua & Judges
  • Ruth
  • Samuel & Kings
  • Chronicles
  • Esdras
  • Ezra & Nehemiah
  • Tobit, Judith
  • Esther
  • Maccabees
  • Psalms
  • Prayer of Manasseh
  • Job
  • Proverbs
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Song of Songs
  • Wisdom
  • Sirach
  • Psalms of Solomon
  • 12 prophets
  • Isaiah
  • Jeremiah
  • Baruch
  • Lamentations
  • Letter of Jeremiah
  • Ezekiel
  • Daniel

Latin Vulgate of Jerome

  • Pentateuch
  • Joshua & Judges
  • Ruth
  • Samuel and Kings
  • Chronicles
  • Ezras
  • Tobit
  • Judith
  • Job
  • Psalms
  • Proverbs
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Song of Songs
  • Wisdom
  • Isaiah
  • Jeremiah
  • Lamentations
  • Ezekial
  • Daniel
  • 12 Prophets
  • Maccabees

It is immediately clear that the order of books has little to do with its historical content nor the time of its composition, else the order would be the same. The Hebrew and LXX text-book orders were complied at a similar time in history (the Latin text was a little later than these two). Thus, the position of Ruth appears to matter very little.

English Bibles mostly follow the Vulgate order.

My personal preference is the position it has in in the LXX and Vulgate because it is history from the time of the Judges. The author and time of composition is unknown so attempting to place it order of composition is fraught. By contrast, the LXX and Vulgate have a simpler arrangement of:

  • Pentateuch
  • History
  • Poetry
  • Prophets
1
  • +1 I am tempted to go back and define "belong" but that might ruin a good answer. I actually meant "belong" in the sense of its placement in the collection or canon. Sep 26, 2023 at 23:21

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.