Is This Good News for Women? -- By: Jennifer J. Naselli
JBMW 13:2 (Winter 2008) p. 79
Is This Good News for Women?
Carolyn Custis James is the wife of Frank James, president of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. She is president of Whitby Forum, which is “dedicated to helping women go deeper in their relationship with God and serve him alongside their Christian brothers,” and she has also published When Life and Beliefs Collide: How Knowing God Makes a Difference (2001) and Lost Women of the Bible: Finding Strength and Significance through Their Stories (2006).
In The Gospel of Ruth, James carefully analyzes the Old Testament book of Ruth, asking the question, “Is God good for women?” She carefully works through the story, demonstrating God’s hand at work in the lives of Ruth and Naomi. The ten chapters follow the chronological structure of the book of Ruth, and each one also deals with a specific topic pertinent to women. For example, in chapter 2, “A Woman on Her Own,” she explains the widowhood of Ruth, Orpah, and Naomi and then deals with the topic of widowhood and loss both in their day and ours. Throughout the book, James examines the loss, grief, and response of both Ruth and Naomi in chapters on widowhood, barrenness, submission, love, self-sacrifice, and God’s sovereignty. By dealing with specific topics on issues affecting women, James seeks to illustrate through the backdrop of the book of Ruth that God is good for women in their specific walks of life.
The Gospel of Ruth has at least four strengths:
(1) Literary analysis: James superbly describes the book of Ruth’s setting, characters, and events. She makes the text come alive. She evidences diligent research, meditation, and analysis, and her character analysis is probing, deep, and insightful. She carefully develops each layer of her characters: their motives, hearts, and desires. She makes readers feel like they know Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz. James knows the story inside and out and explains it carefully. This is not your typical fluffy women’s book.
(2) Writing style: James writes in a crisp, engaging manner that propels readers to continue reading even though they may already know how the story ends.
(3) Cultural analysis: James skillfully explains cultural issues in Ruth’s day, helping readers to better understand the book’s historical context. For example, she explains the cultural stigma of widowhood and barrenness, the destitution that a widow would feel in ancient Israel, the Old Testament custom of “raising up a seed” for ...
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