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Full and Empty Readers: Ruth and the Hermeneutics of Virtue

Starling, David I. (2016) Full and Empty Readers: Ruth and the Hermeneutics of Virtue. Biblical Interpretation, 24 (1). pp. 17-26. ISSN 0927-2569

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In recent decades, a growing number of writers have argued for the claim that good interpretation requires not just skill but character; all else being equal, it is argued, virtuous people, whose interactions with the world are characterized by habits of attentiveness, charity, honesty, courage and humility, are most likely to understand and do justice to the texts they read. The book of Ruth offers a test case in the possibilities and limitations of virtue hermeneutics for biblical interpretation. Lurking just beneath the surface of the novella are a string of interpretive questions about how the commandments of the Torah are to be understood and applied, and about how the character of God is to shape the conduct of his people. Viewed from one angle, Boaz could be seen as the paradigm of the virtuous reader, a biblical parallel to Aristotle’s ‘magnanimous man’. But Boaz is not the only reader of God and God’s purposes within the book of Ruth. At least as important to the action are Naomi and Ruth; their interpretations of the words and actions of God and the readings that are generated by their interactions with Boaz offer a challenge to the sufficiency of ‘virtue’ as a category for biblical hermeneutics.What emerges is a hermeneutic of חֶסֶד that presupposes an expansive vision of the kindness of God, and flourishes within a social matrix radically different from the small circle of wealthy, freeborn, virtuous men imagined by Aristotle as necessary to safeguard the flourishing of good character.

Item Type: Published Articles
Repository Version: Published Version
Keywords: Readers
, Ruth, Hermeneutics, Virtue
Fields of Research: 22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2204 Religion and Religious Studies > 220401 Christian Studies (incl. Biblical Studies and Church History)
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970122 Expanding Knowledge in Philosophy and Religious Studies
Type of Activity: Pure Basic Research
Subjects: B - Biblical Studies, general
College/Association with University of Divinity: Morling College
Depositing User: Mr Mark Carey
Date Deposited: 24 Apr 2017 03:29
Last Modified: 23 Mar 2018 04:31
URI: http://repository.divinity.edu.au/id/eprint/2393

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