Sometimes we take exception. Sometimes we make one.

Letter to a Young Preacher


A Book Review of Schipper’s Commentary on Ruth

Ruth: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. By Jeremy Schipper. Anchor Yale Bible 7D. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2016, 221 pp., $65.00.
This is volume 7D in the Anchor Yale Bible Series whose general editor is John J. Collins. Jeremy Schipper is an associate professor of the Hebrew Bible at Temple University. This volume replaces an earlier commentary by Edward F. Campbell Jr. Though replacing Campbell, a great literary debt to the earlier author is acknowledged. Schipper also wrote Disability and Isaiah’s Suffering Servant.
This is a project with very high production values. With a respected imprint and impressive credentials at the authorial, editorial, and publisher levels, this volume is a worthy addition to the Anchor Yale Bible Series. The avid reader will appreciate the print (although a slightly larger type font would have been better), binding, and jacket aesthetics that always enhance the reading experience. With the deluge of digital media, I respect the effort to provide quality in print media represented in this book.
With more than fifteen pages of bibliography and significant indices, this work presents itself as a substantial contribution to the analysis, exegesis, and application of Ruth. Schipper includes an extensive introduction that examines the cultural backdrop of the story. This is marked by painstaking research. A new translation is offered that bears a distinct colloquial tone. Schipper offers this thesis of his commentary:
It concentrates on the nature of relationships in Ruth. Among other things, a focus on relationships foregrounds the negotiations throughout the book of ability, asymmetrical authority, blessings and their absence, divine activity, ethnicity, exogamy, gender, hesed, household structures, human desires, impover- ishments, labor, patriarchy, religious expression, responsibilities of the clan, sex- uality and status, among other topics. (p. 29)
Schipper writes, even when dealing with fairly technical matters, in a readable style. He presents his comments systematically and coherently. He also displays considerable fluency in Hebrew, deftly opening linguistic keys in the text, especially identifying figurative language. He concludes that all the conversations in Ruth are spoken as poetry. He highlights wordplay by uncovering alliteration, anagrams, assonance, puns, and rhymes:
To be clear, one cannot verify whether these literary effects reflect authorial intent or whether the author was even aware of them. Thus, I do not endorse Campbell’s claim that the literary crafting of the book reflects the fact that the author “was a genius.” Further, other scholars have noted many, if not all, of the literary efforts that I discuss. I only claim that my translation has benefited from the ingenious analyses of Ruth by many scholars before me, including Campbell. Nevertheless, there is at least hard evidence that the narrative style creates a number of these literary effects for the commentator to exploit. (p. 7)
This book includes much background material, and in doing so could be a valuable tool for connecting the reader to the time period of Ruth. However, there is no connection in the book to the master theme of all Scripture, which is Christ. Schipper has no listing in the index for “Christ,” “Jesus,” or even “Messiah.”
And while Schipper does not address the metanarrative of Christ in Ruth, he readily finds opportunity to discuss what he considers a significant error:

Instead of ahistorically assuming that all texts reflect on or two constant sexual identities, queer readings foreground how interpretive strategies may uncritically privilege certain relationships over others, be it Ruth and Naomi, Ruth and Boaz, or some other relationship. To be clear, noting the tendency toward heterosexual-normative interpretations of Ruth does not mean that mapping other under- standings of sexual desire onto the characters is any less presumptive. (pp. 37– 38)

Schipper does concede in his preface that he intends to offer no “definitive word on the book of Ruth that forecloses all other exegetical possibilities.” Rather, he says, “I aim to provide detailed discussions of the text in order to assist readers in asking whatever questions they may have about the book and its contents more precisely, including the many important questions that I have not anticipated” (p. xi).
From a larger perspective, it is apparent Schipper accepts the value of the ancient document that Ruth appears to be and acknowledges its presentation of the providence of God in some form or fashion. However, Schipper never discusses the inerrancy or infallibility of the text. He does not reject inerrancy; he never addresses the matter. He presents Ruth as a fascinating ancient Near Eastern document of uncertain composition as to date, authorship, or even genre. In that case, the value of this commentary is lessened by the fact that it presents Ruth as a short story of modest interest and importance, except as an opportunity to discuss current socio-economic or sexual ethics implicit in another text from antiquity.
David Pitman

And so we buried my brother …

And so we buried my brother today.
The wind calmed and the rain held back.
Small mercies.

The hour before, the church was filled
By family and friends undaunted by miles or years.
Small mercies.

And moments earlier my parents saw their son now dead
And in their frailty saw, sobbed and survived.
Small mercies.

Others told me he didn’t suffer long
That the accident was immediately fatal.
Small mercies.

Hear me! I bear no anger.
Sovereign mercies, grander, that secure our souls, now supply
Small mercies.

Small mercies. Thank you, Father for
Small mercies.
Small mercies.

And so we buried my brother today.

Four Words That Proved A City’s Willingness to Change!

Live Life! God's way

How should a city respond to gospel preaching? The response to Jonah’s five-word sermon (in Hebrew) to Niveneh is summarized in four words.

The Ninevites believed God.

God had sent them a message, a clear message, a message with a fixed timeline to respond. Now they had a choice to make? The clock was ticking.

The leader (king) of the city took the warning seriously. The entire resident population heeded the call and the impending judgment was averted.  Tragically Nahum (a later prophet) records a return to ‘their old ways’ and destruction comes upon them.

Throughout history God has been sending messages, calls to repentance, opportunities to be spared judgment. Read the pages of both Testaments and you will discover plenty of evidence for such an assertion.

Noah is commanded to build an ark, and after 120 years of serving as a ‘preacher of righteousness,’ his congregation amounts to just…

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Hide Thou Me

Live Life! God's way

‘Hide and seek’ is a favourite game to play for children. The challenge is always finding the ‘perfect place’ to hide, isn’t it? The longer you play the game in the same location the more challenging it becomes to find a hiding place!

The Bible uses the word ‘hide’ 76 times throughout its pages. Various individuals are seeking to find shelter in a variety of circumstances spanning centuries. At times this word is built into an urgent prayer where a suffering, struggling saint is desperate for relief.

Today’s hymn, penned by the infamous Fanny Crosby, is entitled ‘Hide Thou Me.’

In Thy cleft, O Rock of Ages, hide Thou me!
When the fitful tempest rages, hide Thou me!
Where no mortal arm can sever
From my heart Thy love forever,
Hide me, O Thou Rock of Ages, safe in Thee!

From the snare of sinful pleasure, hide Thou me!

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The Fault In Their (Social) Gospel

Just Thinking...for Myself


As I compose this commentary, there remain segments within the American evangelical church that continue to advance and propagate the principles and tenets of the “gospel” of social justice. Increasing numbers of evangelical churches, pastors, and ministries are buying into what I consider merely a new presentation of an old soteriology: salvation by social activism.

One such organization, Evangelicals For Social Action, describes itself as “a catalyzing agent for Christ’s shalom via projects focused on cultural renewal, holistic ministry, political reflection and action, social justice and reconciliation, and creation care. Rather than a typical “think” tank, ESA is a “do” tank whose purpose is to mobilize movements for constructive social change.” Conversely, The Evangelical Network lists as one of its missional objectives to “offer a safe place for LGBT people and the evangelical church community to dialogue.”

There are other examples, of course, but I highlight the aforementioned not…

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Dormant Servants?

Live Life! God's way

Have you ever responded to a ‘help wanted’ poster? Probably the largest campaign announcement for procuring help was introduced by Jesus Christ with the words, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few… Pray…’ (Matt. 9:35-38) In the following chapter, in Matthew’s gospel (ch. 10) those who prayed are sent out as harvest workers. Be careful what you pray. You just might be a part of God’s answer! God is not looking for dormant servants.

Today’s hymn reminds those who profess to be Christ followers that there is a place of service for them to fill. If the church is filled with those who have surrendered everything to Jesus Christ (Don’t we sing I Surrender All?), then there should be no shortage of workers. How can we refuse to serve Jesus Christ and His bride the church in the light of everything He has done for us?

Penned by…

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Speaking Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs

Live Life! God's way

“I can’t remember the last time we sang a hymn,” someone recently asserted. Another party to the conversation chirped in with the assertion, ‘That’s all we ever sing.’

For the month of August I want to revert to one of my passions–namely hymns. It’s time to sing!

Ephesians 5:18-21 includes speaking psalms, hymns and spiritual songs as evidence of the Spirit of God’s filling. We should be music-saturated saints and be ready with a ‘hymn in season’ to quote as a word of encouragement, exhortation or example. I think that will require some more memory work! Maybe, like those of the Jewish faith, we should tackle Psalms as a memory project–even better if we have the capacity to recite them in Hebrew!

What is a hymn?

hymn – (noun) =  a religious song or poem of praise to God or a god.

(verb) = praise or…

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The God of History

Live Life! God's way

God is the God of history. He was and is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He was and is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was and is my father’s God. He is the eternal God and yet in His amazing grace, He interacts with people in real time.

As Peter, in Acts 3, responds to the gathering crowd who have just witnessed the work of God in the healing of the crippled beggar, he declares the essential cause of the miracle. God.

What is Peter testifying?

The God of history is at work.

The God of the patriarchs–Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is at work.

This God, who exists in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit has continued the work He began in eternity past. This God, who has ‘pitched His tent with us’ is rightly called ‘Emmanuel’ – God with us.


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Are the Covenant Promises Definite? A Pædobaptist Discussion

Petty France

In the debates of credobaptism vs. pædobaptism in the seventeenth century, a great number of books and pamphlets were produced. These, in turn, have led to a corresponding quantity of secondary literature about the two sides of the debate. When looking at the sides as opposites, one of the features that can disappear from view is the diversity of each side.

It has been my experience (and this is a vague generality) that pædobaptists are often unaware or at least disinterested in the diversity of their own tradition. Baptists are equally liable to this deficiency, but in this post I want to present a pædobaptist speaking to pædobaptists in the context of the credo vs. pædo debates.

Joseph Whiston (d.1690), a Congregationalist (or Independent) minister of Lewes, Sussex wrote several works advocating pædobaptism and criticizing credobaptism. He interacted with Henry Danvers (not a Particular Baptist), Edward Hutchinson, Thomas Delaune, and…

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