Scrolls of Love: Reading Ruth and the Song of Songs

Scrolls of Love: Reading Ruth and the Song of Songs

Scrolls of Love: Reading Ruth and the Song of Songs

Scrolls of Love: Reading Ruth and the Song of Songs

Synopsis

How do Catholic intellectuals draw on faith in their work? And how does their work as scholars influence their lives as people of faith?For more than a generation, the University of Dayton has invited a prominent Catholic intellectual to present the annual Marianist Award Lecture on the general theme of the encounter of faith and profession. Over the years, the lectures have become central to the Catholic conversation about church, culture, and society. In this book, ten leading figures explore the connections in their own lives between the private realms of faith and their public calling as teachers, scholars, and intellectuals. This last decade of Marianist Lectures brings together theologians and philosophers, historians, anthropologists, academic scholars, and lay intellectuals and critics. Here are Avery Cardinal Dulles, S. J., on the tensions between faith and theology in his career; Jill Ker Conway on the spiritual dimensions of memory and personal narrative; Mary Ann Glendon on the roots of human rights in Catholic social teaching; Mary Douglas on the fruitful dialogue between religion and anthropology in her own life; Peter Steinfels on what it really means to be a ôliberal Catholicö; and Margaret OBrien Steinfels on the complicated history of women in today's church. From Charles Taylor and David Tracy on the fractured relationship between Catholicism and modernity to Gustavo Guti'rrez on the enduring call of the poor and Marcia Colish on the historic links between the church and intellectual freedom, these essays track a decade of provocative, illuminating, and essential thought.

Excerpt

Scrolls of Love is a book of unions. Edited by a Christian and a Jew who are united by a shared passion for the Bible and a common literary hermeneutic, Scrolls of Love joins two biblical scrolls (megillot) and gathers around them a diverse community of interpreters. It brings together the book of Ruth and the Song of Songs, two seemingly disparate texts of the Hebrew Bible, and reads them through a diversity of methodological and theological perspectives. Respectful of traditional biblical scholarship, the collection of essays moves beyond it; alert to contemporary trends, the volume returns venerable interpretive tradition to center stage. Moreover, Scrolls of Love expands the notion of commentary, adding visual art and literary interpretation to textual hermeneutics.

In juxtaposing these two very different biblical books, we find in them a common theme: love. In Ruth, love is tender, filial, loyal; between Ruth and Naomi, it is almost sisterly. But even when love manifests itself sexually, as between Ruth and Boaz, it is marked by gentleness and lovingkindness (ḥesed). By contrast, love in the Song of Songs is physical, erotic, at times frantic, and densely metaphoric in its expression. It is a sexual love that is entirely mutual, that emboldens both lover and beloved. Ruth is a model of agape, the Song of eros, and yet both make declarations of love that are unparalleled elsewhere in the Bible. The reader is moved by Ruth's promise to cleave to Naomi until death and by the female lover's assertion in the Song that she belongs to her beloved and her beloved belongs to her.

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