"All that you have done... has been fully told to me": the power of gossip and the story of Ruth

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Abstract

The literary qualities of the Book of Ruth are a focus of considerable scholarly attention. The aim of this article is to contribute to this research with particular reference to what Boaz says to Ruth, "All that you have done... has been fully told to me" (2:11), where what he has learned has clearly been in Ruth's favor. Boaz can only have gained such information through what we call gossip. I will first outline social-scientific research into gossip, which has already been fruitfully applied to various parts of the New Testament. Secondly, I will discuss informal networks among ancient Israelite women that feature in the way gossip functions in the narrative. Thirdly, I will apply these perspectives to the passages in the text that depend upon gossip's occurrence. This exercise will substantiate the dictum of anthropologist Robert Paine that "gossip is a catalyst of social process," by uncovering the remarkable extent to which character is developed, and the plot of the book propelled to its resolution, by gossip.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)645-666
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Biblical Literature
Volume137
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018

Keywords

  • Gossip
  • Jewish women
  • Bethlehem
  • Bible
  • Ruth
  • Boaz (Biblical figure)

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