The ultimate measure of a person is not where that person stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where that person stands at times of challenge or controversy. (MLK Jr., adapted for gender inclusion)
Rev. Yolanda M. Norton is a Ph.D. candidate in Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel and Theology and Practice Fellow at Vanderbilt University. Her current research interests include womanist interpretation, narrative and literary criticism, and the Persian period. In particular, her work focuses on the books of Genesis and Ruth, and how each text treats foreign women, and considers the ways in which insider-outsider paradigms in Scripture influence constructions of identity and facilitate the vilification and/or oppression of women of color who encounter the biblical canon in the modern world.
Professor Norton has published chapters in I Found God in Me: Womanist Biblical Hermeneutics Reader and Global Perspectives in the Old Testament. She also has articles included in a pending publication in Liturgical Press’ new feminist commentary on the Psalms.
Prior to coming to SFTS, Norton was a Visiting Instructor at Moravian Theological Seminary and adjunct faculty at Wesley Theological Seminary. She is ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and has served in various ministerial capacities in the Washington, D.C. area and Nashville, TN.
She holds a Master of Divinity and Master of Theological Studies degree from Wesley Theological Seminary and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Syracuse University.
But Ruth said,
‘Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die—
there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!’ (Ruth 1:16-17) Ruth’s covenant, oath, vow, allegiance pledged to her mother-in-law, Naomi – each of them widowed.
As food for thought, Professor Norton has offered some questions to accompany Ruth’s vow to Naomi. There are also two book chapters (links below) as further resources (“Silenced Struggle for Survival: Finding Life in Death in the Book of Ruth” and “Ruth and Esther as Models for the Formation of God’s People: Engaging Liberationist Critiques”).
- What does it cost Ruth to make this vow?
- What is Naomi’s reaction to the vow, both in the moment and throughout the text? Does Naomi honor/respect Ruth’s sacrifice and/or allegiance?
- What risks does Ruth have to navigate to actualize this vow?
- Does Ruth gain anything in the text? If so, is it worth it?
- For whose sake does Ruth make this vow? Who benefits from this text?
Center for Innovation in Ministry
Rev. Floyd Tompkins
“Silenced Struggle for Survival: Finding Life in Death in the Book of Ruth” found in I Found God in Me: A Womanist Biblical Hermeneutics Reader
“Ruth and Esther as Models for the Formation of God’s People: Engaging Liberationist Critiques” found in Focusing Biblical Studies: The Crucial Nature of the Persian and Hellenistic Periods: Essays in Honor of Douglas A Knight