An Adjusted Symmetrical Structuring Of Ruth -- By: A. Boyd Luter

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 39:1 (Mar 1996)
Article: An Adjusted Symmetrical Structuring Of Ruth
Author: A. Boyd Luter


An Adjusted Symmetrical Structuring Of Ruth

A. Boyd Luter

Richard O. Rigsby*

Many recent significant studies of Ruth, emerging from quite diverse backgrounds, have referred to the book’s overarching literary structure as “symmetrical.” 1 There are some relatively minor differences in arriving at that general viewpoint, but the overall understandings are still strikingly similar. Thus it is possible that a point of consensus around a beautifully crafted symmetrical structure of Ruth is close at hand.

A foundational shaping influence of that perspective, if not its fountainhead, is a brief treatment by Stephen Bertman. 2 Recently Phyllis Trible, with (muted) acknowledgment to Bertman, has adopted virtually the same structural layout. 3

Though Trible does give some additional explanation for the book’s content seen through the grid of this inverted structure beyond the bare framework and rationale provided by Bertman, 4 it is still far from the kind of rigorous treatment needed to solidly support a clear exegetical-literary consensus on the structure of Ruth. 5 Toward that end the following study seeking to fine-tune the structural understanding of Ruth is offered.

In general, helpful aspects of existing studies have been retained, though more evidence is provided for their validity. Several notable adjustments in the overall structure have been made, though, and the exegetical and literary reasons for such changes will be argued.

* Boyd Luter is adjunct professor of Bible exposition at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Strawberry Point, Mill Valley, CA 94941–3197, and Richard Rigsby is professor of Old Testament and Semitics at Talbot School of Theology, 13800 Biola Avenue, La Mirada, CA 90639.

Chart 1: An Alternate Overall Chiastic Structure for Ruth

As to procedure, the initial section of this study will preview the alternative overall symmetrical structuring of Ruth, commenting only on noteworthy differences between the new viewpoint and the Bertman-Trible thesis. The next three sections will present the extensive mirroring effect of the layers of the overarching inverted structure of the narrative of Ruth (1:1–4:17) and the internal chiasms in the two inner pairs of corresponding scenes. Following that will be a brief dis...

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