Book Review: The Gospel According to Ruth

The Gospel According to Ruth

The Gospel According to Ruth by Iain D. Campbell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I decided to read this short book as part of my regular Bile study and took a chapter a day approach. The first thing to note is this is essentially a book of sermons and is all too evident all too often that this is material primarily to be listened to rather than read. If you can read it with a Scottish accent in your head you’ll probably imagine what it would have been like to hear it on the Isle of Lewis. Mostly this isn’t a problem but not every sermon (however good) makes for a good reading experience. You can hear the various appeals to the congregation or to the unconverted (who I suspect are unlikely to be reading this book).

It’s also perhaps the most unsympathetic reading of a response to a famine I’d ever encountered – which makes me suspect that Mr Campbell doesn’t really understand what a famine is actually like. Starvation and not just shortage is an horrific thing and in genuine famines there is not just shortage but starvation. Fleeing death is a very understandable reaction but not in this reading.
There are other places where 20th century Scottish Isles seems to inform the reading of the text more than ancient Israel but again I think that is mostly determined by the fact this is a series of sermons turned into a book.

The choice of the New King James translation also means that he avoids some of the harsher realities facing women. Ruth 2:22 speaks about the danger of assault Ruth might face in if she goes into the wrong field. This is utterly sanitized from the NKJV and instead Campbell uses it to wonder about Ruth’s inclination to sexual temptation. Much more could be said about that, but it was probably the low point of the exposition.

Having got past all that, Rev Campbell does do an admirable job of drawing the out the typology that abounds in the book of Ruth to point us consistently towards the greater Redeemer in Jesus Christ. It is frequently uplifting and enlightening – drawing out parallels and insights into the salvation worked through Christ of which the redemption of Ruth and the restoration of Naomi is but a shadow. For that I was very grateful.

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