André LaCocque
Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004
+ bibliography and indices

At last, a commentary that is as satisfying as it is useful! Had LaCocque applied his acumen to the Epistle to the Romans, one might have said that his commentary would do for the 21st century what Barth’s did for his generation. The Introduction (32 pages) is worth the price by itself, LaCocque’s commentary and Conclusion make this an indispensable tool for any pastoral library. Published as part of the Continental Commenary series, LaCocque has produced a commentary that will remain the standard on the interpretation of Ruth for a long time to come.

What makes this a real commentary is that the author recognizes the real to bring together the two horizons, those of the text and that of the reader(s). Historical-critical research is placed into a cauldron with post modern studies, feminist readings and a dose of deconstruction, the end result is that this ancient Hebrew text speaks with authority today. For LaCocque “Ruth is a subversive document” as well “as a feminine book from beginning to end.” While Ruth may be classified as a ‘novella’, it is more than novelistic, it is a book which demonstrates the value of reinterpreting Torah in the light of ‘hesed.’ Ruth speaks to the problems of ‘foreigners’ (at a time when a recent poll showed a majority of church going Americans desiring to limit the rights of American Muslims). Ruth “consists in rediscovering that the essence of Torah is love.” “Ruth the Moabite, the deviant par excellence, reverses the norm. She turns things on their head: uth becomes the prototype of the Hasid (this is an Israelite moved by hesed). Suddenly, Deut. 23:3 is rewritten while neutralizing its dimension of self-sufficient exclusivism. The most important aspect of the First Testament is its constant rewriting.”

While LaCocque only hints at the similiarities between Jesus’ reading of Torah and that found in the book of Ruth, readers of will recognize this rewriting of Torah from Dr. Bartlett’s studies on Second Isaiah. It is precisely this rewriting of Torah under the continuing inspiration of Wisdom that effects so much of what is positive in the message of Torah. LaCocque’s Ruth is to be commended.