I. Authorship And Date

I. Authorship And Date

Jewish tradition credits Samuel with writing the Book of Ruth (Talmud, Bab. Bath. 14b). But if the references to David (4:17, 22) are original (see below), it seems unlikely that Samuel was responsible. The book contains no decisive evidence regarding authorship, so it is best to accept it as anonymous.

Ruth's date of composition is a moot issue. Dates have been suggested ranging from 950 b.c. to late in the postexilic period, even down to 250 b.c. The events themselves are dated to the period of the Judges (1:1), but the author was obviously conscious of David's significance. Myers has convincingly argued that this little idyll was transmitted orally for centuries in poetic form before it was finally written down as a narrative (referring to the book as “a narrative poem,” p. 42 and see also pp. 33-43). Although he feels the present edition was not written until the exilic or postexilic period (p. 64), there is just as much evidence for an earlier transition to a narrative format.

Some have argued for a late date because of the presence of Aramaisms and other internal linguistic evidence. But the identification of Aramaic forms in Ruth is far from certain. Moreover, scholars are becoming more convinced that the presence of Aramaisms, even where they can be demonstrated, is a precarious argument for a late date of composition. On the contrary, a careful analysis of Ruth's linguistic peculiarities yields evidence for a date earlier than the exilic period (cf. Campbell, 24-26). For more on these difficult issues, see the commentaries.