Bible Review 14:4, August 1998

Men are from Judah, Women are from Bethlehem

How a modern bestseller illuminates Book of Ruth

By Denise Dick Herr

I always believed that the world portrayed in the Bible was very different from the one that I inhabit in 20th-century western Canada, with my career, computer and cross-country skis. But recently my attitude has changed somewhat. After comparing the insights on cross-gender communication expressed in such popular books as John Gray’s Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus and Deborah Tannen’s You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation1 to the dialogues in the Book of Ruth, I have concluded that the differences between our world and the biblical world are not as great as I once thought.

Deborah Tannen, one of the leading chroniclers of the different communication styles of men and women, has noted that men tend to relate to the world as “individual[s] in an hierarchical social order in which…[they are] either one-up or one-down. In this world, conversations are negotiations in which people try to achieve and maintain the upper hand if they can, and protect themselves from others’ attempts to put them down and push them around. Life, then, is a contest, a struggle to preserve independence and avoid failure.”2

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