Ambrose on Ruth and the prohibition on marrying Moabites

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
Years ago, I recall seeing it argued that Ruth was not really a Moabite but a backslidden Israelite and so her marriage to Boaz was not an example of an Israelite marrying an "alien". Thomas Aquinas quotes Ambrose to the contrary (I am not sure what the source of the quotation is. Perhaps it is Ambrose's Commentary on Luke, but the edition of Catena Aurea in Mattheum that I am reading usually gives the reference to that source):

AMBROSE. But how did Ruth who was an alien marry a man that was a Jew? and wherefore in Christ’s genealogy did his Evangelist so much as mention a union, which in the eye of the law was bastard? Thus the Saviour’s birth of a parentage not admitted by the law appears to us monstrous, until we attend to that declaration of the Apostle, The law was not given for the righteous, but for the unrighteous (1 Tim 1:9).

For this woman who was an alien, a Moabitess, a nation with whom the Mosaic law forbad all intermarriage, and shut them totally out of the Church, how did she enter into the Church, unless that she were holy and unstained in her life above the law? Therefore she was exempt from this restriction of the law, and deserved to be numbered in the Lord’s lineage, chosen from the kindred of her mind, not of her body. To us she is a great example, for that in her was prefigured the entrance into the Lord’s Church of all of us who are gathered out of the Gentiles.

Quoted in Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea in Mattheum: The Golden Chain on Matthew (1263), C1, L3.

Has anyone here seen the original source? I would like to track it down for a future blog post.

P.S. The source is the Commentary on Luke because the parallel Latin text says Super Luc.
 
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Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
It seems to me that if any Israelite man was at fault for marrying a Moabite, it would be Mahlon and Chilion. Once Ruth's first marriage had already taken place, and also in light of her decision to stick with her Israelite family and with the true God, Boaz now had good reason to think of her as someone deserving of coverage "under God's wings."

Ruth's faith is impressive, but my takeaway from her inclusion in Jesus' genealogy is not so much that she deserved it due to her holiness but that God's grace extends even to unlikely people.
 

arapahoepark

Puritan Board Graduate
It seems to me that if any Israelite man was at fault for marrying a Moabite, it would be Mahlon and Chilion. Once Ruth's first marriage had already taken place, and also in light of her decision to stick with her Israelite family and with the true God, Boaz now had good reason to think of her as someone deserving of coverage "under God's wings."

Ruth's faith is impressive, but my takeaway from her inclusion in Jesus' genealogy is not so much that she deserved it due to her holiness but that God's grace extends even to unlikely people.
Her faith is her 'holiness' unlike the godless Moabites so to speak.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Has anyone here seen the original source? I would like to track it down for a future blog post.
I have both Aquinas' Catena Aurea and an English translation of Ambrose's commentary on Luke. Aquinas does indeed cite Ambrose's commentary on Luke. Below I will provide you with a fuller context of the citation that Aquinas offers, and the Latin text as it appears in Migne as well...

Ambrose (c. 339-97) commenting on Luke 3: So if we know that Tamar is mentioned among the generations of the Lord because of the mystery, we must think that undoubtedly Ruth, too, is not omitted for a similar reason, she of whom the Holy Apostle seems to have been aware, when through the Spirit he foretold that the calling of the alien nations should be celebrated through the Gospel, saying that, “The law is not made for the just, but for the unjust” [1 St. Timothy 1:9]. For how did Ruth, being of foreign birth, marry a Jew [cf. Ruth 1:4]? And for what reason did the Evangelist think that mention should be made in the Generation of Christ of this union, which was prohibited by the content of the Law [cf. Deuteronomy 7:3]? Then was the Saviour not descended from a lawful generation? This seems shameful, unless ye turn back to the Apostolic saying, that the Law is not made for the just, but for the unjust. For as she is foreign and a Moabite, particularly since the Law of Moses prohibited such marriages and excluded the Moabites from the Church [cf. Exodus 34:15-16]⸺for thus it is written, “The Moabites shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord unto the third and fourth generation, and even for ever” [Deuteronomy 23:3; cf. Nehemias 13:1]⸺, how did she enter the Church, unless that she became holy and unblemished in integrity above the Law? For if the Law was made for the unjust and for sinners, surely Ruth, who excelled the definition of the Law, entered into the Church, became an Israelite, and deserved to be numbered among the forefathers of the Lord’s family, chosen for kinship of mind, not of body, and is a great example to us, because she prefigured all of us who are gathered from the nations to enter into the House of the Lord. So let us emulate her, so that, because by her conduct, she deserved this privilege of attaining kinship, as the history teaches, we too, favoured by our merits, through the choice of our conduct, may be elected for the Church. Saint Ambrose of Milan, Exposition of the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke, trans. Theodosia Tomkinson (Etna: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1998), Book III, §30, pp. 97-98.
Latin text: Si igitur Thamar cognovimus propter mysterium inter Dominicas generationes esse descriptam: Ruth quoque sine dubio pari ratione minime praetermissam aestimare debemus: de qua sensisse videtur Apostolus sanctus, cum alienigenarum vocationem gentium spiritu praevideret per Evangelium esse celebrandum, dicens quod Lex non sit justis posita, sed injustis. Quomodo enim Ruth, cum esset alienigena, Judaeo nupsit? Et qua ratione in Christi generatione ejus putavit evangelista copulae commemorationem esse faciendam, quae Legis serie vetabatur? Non ergo ex legitima Salvator generatione manavit? Videtur esse deforme, nisi ad Apostolicam sententiam revertaris, quia lex non est justis posita, sed injustis. Haec enim cum sit alinigena et Moabitis (praesertim cum lex Moysi prohiberet has nuptias, Moabitasque excluderet ab Ecclesia; sic enim scriptum est: Moabitae non introibunt in Ecclesiam Domini usque ad tertiam et quartam generationem, et usque in saeculum) quomodo intravit in Ecclesiam, nisi quia sancta et immaculata moribus supra legem facta est? Si enim Lex impiis et peccatoribus posita est, utique Ruth, quae definitionem Legis excessit, et intravit in Ecclesiam, et facta est Israelitis, et meruit inter majores Dominici generis computari, propter cognationem mentis electa non corporis, magnum nobis exemplum est, quia in illa nostrum omnium qui collecti ex gentibus sumus, ingrediendi in Ecclesiam Domini figura praecessit. Hanc igitur aemulemur; ut quia haec moribus hanc praerogativam meruit adsciscendae societatis suae, sicut historia docet: nos quoque propter morum electionem in Ecclesiam Domini, meritis suffragantibus, allegemur. Expositio Evangelii secundum Lucam, 3.30, PL 15:1601-1602.
 
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alexandermsmith

Puritan Board Junior
It seems to me that if any Israelite man was at fault for marrying a Moabite, it would be Mahlon and Chilion. Once Ruth's first marriage had already taken place, and also in light of her decision to stick with her Israelite family and with the true God, Boaz now had good reason to think of her as someone deserving of coverage "under God's wings."

Ruth's faith is impressive, but my takeaway from her inclusion in Jesus' genealogy is not so much that she deserved it due to her holiness but that God's grace extends even to unlikely people.

We should go further back to the error of Elimelech taking his family away from Judah to an alien land, a decision which showed a lack of faith. The Lord can turn our poor choices to our improvement, but we have no promise of such a kindness and therefore we should not test Him in that way. I agree that by the time Boaz meets Ruth she has already become a part of Naomi's family and has chosen the people of God over her own people. But it is a particular case and shouldn't be used as an example for our behaviour.
 
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