November 12, 2008

Bible Study

I don’t believe I’ve mentioned that I am a part of a weekly Bible study in Mthatha. The members span at least five nationalities, both African and European, can speak several languages among them, and represent several denominations. It’s a central feature of my weekly routine and I’ve come to enjoy the time spent studying the following week’s lectionary readings.

I mention this because we were reading from the end of the book of Ruth not too long ago and thinking about the marriage of Boaz and Ruth. I commented that it was one of the stories in the Bible that we could append a “and they all lived happily ever after” to and began to muse about how the story would look in a contemporary context, given that no one would be marrying their dead husband’s brother.

Actually… not so much. It turns out that in the cultural backgrounds represented by the other group members, it was not uncommon in the very recent past for a woman to marry her brother-in-law. In fact, at least three group members could cite instances where they personally knew someone who had done that.

As I’ve written before, one of the gifts of living here is that you don’t have to see the Bible as metaphor all the time. The lifestyle characteristics in the Bible are sometimes not that far distant to life here.