Full and Empty Readers

Ruth and the Hermeneutics of Virtue

David Starling

In recent decades, a growing number of writers have argued for the claim that good interpretation requires not just skill but character; all else being equal, it is argued, virtuous people, whose interactions with the world are characterized by habits of attentiveness, charity, honesty, courage and humility, are most likely to understand and do justice to the texts they read. The book of Ruth offers a test case in the possibilities and limitations of virtue hermeneutics for biblical interpretation. Lurking just beneath the surface of the novella are a string of interpretive questions about how the commandments of the Torah are to be understood and applied, and about how the character of God is to shape the conduct of his people. Viewed from one angle, Boaz could be seen as the paradigm of the virtuous reader, a biblical parallel to Aristotle’s ‘magnanimous man’. But Boaz is not the only reader of God and God’s purposes within the book of Ruth. At least as important to the action are Naomi and Ruth; their interpretations of the words and actions of God and the readings that are generated by their interactions with Boaz offer a challenge to the sufficiency of ‘virtue’ as a category for biblical hermeneutics.What emerges is a hermeneutic of חֶסֶד that presupposes an expansive vision of the kindness of God, and flourishes within a social matrix radically different from the small circle of wealthy, freeborn, virtuous men imagined by Aristotle as necessary to safeguard the flourishing of good character.

David Starling


Amongst defenders of the Pauline authorship of 2 Cor 6:14-7:1, an impasse exists between those who read the ἄπιστοι of v. 14 as a reference to the Gentile pagans of the city and those who read it as a reference to the “false apostles” of chs. 10-13. In this article I suggest a possible resolution of that impasse, based on a re-examination of the content and function of holiness concepts within 2 Corinthians. The ἄπιστοι in view are indeed the Gentile pagans of Corinth, but the principal issue over which Paul is urging the Corinthians to separate from them is the pagan σοφία σαρκική that has distorted their assessments of Paul and his opponents.

“Life because of Righteousness”

The Spirit, the Church, and the Missio Dei in Romans

David Starling

This paper commences with an outline of the vision of the missio Dei that Paul offers to his readers in Rome, taking as a starting point the letter’s thesis statement in 1:16–17. The remainder of the paper traces the key pneumatological themes of the letter and orients them in relation to this overarching vision. The picture that emerges is one that highlights the close connectedness between the Spirit’s life-giving work and the saving righteousness manifested in Christ, proclaimed in the gospel, and at work within the church. Life without righteousness and righteousness without life are both, for Paul, equally unthinkable.

本文以保罗给他在罗马的读者提出的 missio Dei 异象的大纲为开始,用一章十六至十七节的论证作为起点,并在余下部分追溯此书信的关于圣灵论的课题,将其放在此书总括的异象之下。这样逐步出现的图画,即是赐生命的圣灵的工作与在耶稣基督里彰显的救赎的义之间紧密的联结,这救赎的义就是在福音里宣讲并在教会里运行工作的。对于保罗来说,没有义的生命和没有生命的义是同样不可思议的。

Este artículo comienza con un resumen de la visión de Missio Dei que Pablo ofrece a sus lectores en Roma, tomando como punto de partida la declaración de la tesis de Romanos 1: 16–17. El resto del artículo traza los temas pneumatológicos clave de la carta y los orienta en relación a esta visión global.

La imagen que surge es una que pone de relieve la estrecha conexión entre el trabajo vivificante del Espíritu y la justicia salvífica manifestada en Cristo, proclamada en el Evangelio, y activa en la iglesia. Una vida sin rectitud y una justicia sin vida son, para Pablo, igualmente inconcenbibles.

This article is in English.

Putting on the New Self

Costume and Character in Eph 4:22–24

David Starling


This article argues that the principal background against which the clothing metaphor in Eph 4:22, 24 would have been understood by the letter’s original hearers is that of the theater, within which changes of costume signalled changes of identity, character, or fate. After a brief survey of recent scholarly commentaries (which pay surprisingly little attention to the possibility of a theatrical background to the metaphor in these verses) it highlights instances of similar expressions within Greco-Roman theatrical contexts, both literal and metaphorical, discusses the relevant aspects of ancient dramatic theory and practice, and explores the implications of this reading for theological interpretation of Ephesians.