Ruth: History or Allegory?

Thursday, February 17, 2022

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Is this biblical book allegory, or is it history? Since the two major characters in the Book of Ruth seem to resemble and perhaps prefigure the Bride of Christ and Christ himself, a question arises as to whether the Book of Ruth can and should be approached allegorically. This allegorical (or typological) connection has occasionally been noticed in Church history (e.g. “The Prince of Preachers” Charles Spurgeon). And yet the Book of Ruth undeniably presents itself as a straightforward historical account. So which is it, allegory or history? 

May I humbly suggest it shows both a failure of imagination and faith to force such a choice? God is fully capable of taking an actual historical occurrence and arranging that the record thereof be useful as theological allegory. Of course He is. It shouldn’t surprise us in the least. The Book of Ruth can be both a straightforward historical account and a theological allegory, with discernable typological elements.

The interpretive question is just how far the allegory goes and what elements of the account should be accepted as typological. Determining the appropriate bounds of the allegory is not easy and is often debated. But it is worth a shot, just as the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, realized and attempted.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Here is a link to Spurgeon’s August 10, 1862 message entitled A Sermon for Gleaners: www.spurgeon.org/resource-libr…

3 thoughts on “Ruth: History or Allegory?

  1. There are many questions like this that arise regarding different parts of Scripture. I really like your straightforward response to the overall conversation: “…it shows both a failure of imagination and faith to force such a choice.” I’ll likely use a similar response when confronted with future conversations of this sort. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You should also roll your eyes when you make that response. The combination of the dismissive comment and the disdainful expression is a highly effective way to make friends and influence people.

      Like

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