Sunday, December 15, 2019

Ruth 4 And Christmas

The last chapter of Ruth should get more attention than it does during the Christmas season. Notice the references to Gentile inclusion, building the house of Israel, fame related to Bethlehem, a supernatural conception, and Davidic ancestry, for example. Much of what's in the passage is somewhat reminiscent of Christmas themes, and some of what's anticipated has been fulfilled more by Jesus than by David:

"'I have acquired Ruth the Moabitess [a Gentile]'…'May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built the house of Israel; and may you achieve wealth in Ephrathah and become famous in Bethlehem.'…So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife, and he went in to her. And the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. Then the women said to Naomi, 'Blessed is the Lord who has not left you without a redeemer'…to Boaz [was born], Obed, and to Obed was born Jesse, and to Jesse, David." (Ruth 4:10-11, 4:13-14, 4:21-22)

"The stories of Jesus's birth are the foundation of the world's most widely observed holiday. Christmas is celebrated by the world's two billion Christians, a number about twice that of the next largest religion, Islam. Moreover, because of the cultural and commercial importance of Christmas in Western culture and beyond, it is observed by many non-Christians as well. Indeed, no other religious holiday is so widely commemorated by people who are outside of the tradition that originated it....Since Matthew and Luke agree independently on those two points about Jesus - that he was descended from David's lineage and born in David's city [Bethlehem] - those must come from an earlier tradition than either of their Christmas stories. And, in fact, we find both of those points elsewhere in the New Testament." (Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, The First Christmas [New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007], vii, 130)

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