Kathryn Pfister Darr
Karin M Saxegaard
This is another interesting and longer list of names
Robert D Holmstead
Jack M Sasson
K Lawson Younger
The first list comprises women biblical scholars who have written a commentary or monograph on the biblical book of Ruth. The second list comprises men who have written a commentary on Ruth - the number of monographs by men would lengthen the list considerably. And my point is? Well I have several points.
1. Around half of the women writing on Ruth write from within the Jewish tradition, and all of them, Jewish and Christian, take cognisance of feminist and womanist perspectives. Question: Can a man write an adequate commentary on a book in which women's experience is definitive and central in the story? Is gender irrelevant to how a person approaches a narrative text like Ruth?
2. The list of men commentators covers almost all the mainstream series of Old Testament Commentaries in English. The exceptions are Nielsen in the Old Testament Library, Farmer in the New Interpreter's Bible and Sakenfeld in Interpretation Commentary. Question: when editors commission scholars to write commentaries on biblical books, do they consider the advantages of having a woman write a commentary on a book so replete with women's experience in a patriarchal society?
3. Is gender relevant when choosing someone to write on a biblical text? Like Ruth, or Esther, or Song of Songs? What would a woman bring as scholar, and as woman, and therefore as woman scholar, to the approach and interpretation of any biblical text; but especially a text telling a complex narrative of women's life experience?
4. I have looked at the most recent commentaries and those forthcoming - they are still predominantly commissioned to men. James McKeown, Robert Chisholm, Lawson Younger and in a month's time Daniel Hawk in the Apollos series; these are all recent, and written by men and they are all appearing in series within the evangelical tradition.
5. Of those forthcoming there is Marjo Korpel in the highly academic HCOT series and Kandy Queen-Sutherland in the more accessible Smyth and Helwys volume. All else is commissioned to men.
I know - books like Ruth and Esther were most likely written by men, and reflect the social structures and mores of their time. But surely in trying to explore and expound the meaning of such texts for the original readers, and in seeking the contemporary appropriation of these texts as part of the Church's Bible, it would make sense to value and actively seek those whose own life experience gives access to the complexities and anomalies in a book such as Ruth? Or is that unreasonable, special pleading, patronising, or what?