Bible scholars as long ago as the 19th Century began to discover the different time periods of the writings, but they did not realize that the Bible did not reflect the changes in consciousness over time. The result was that the evolution of consciousness was hidden. More recently, Bible scholars undertook the work of separating the stories, putting them in an order that illuminated the changes in consciousness. This allowed us to recognize that the Hebrew Bible is a dynamic resource that shows us how we can see the evolution of spiritual consciousness through the writings and, by extension, in our own lives.
Using the work of these scholars, the late renowned Bible scholar, Richard Elliot Friedman, discovered a complete book, piece by piece, verse by verse, scattered through eleven early books of the Hebrew Bible. In fact, he recognized there was a complete hidden “novel” there. He called this new discovery the Hidden Book in the Bible, the World’s First Literary Masterpiece. Other smaller books of the Hebrew Bible also hold messages not initially recognized due to differences in the timeframes of the writings and the inability to read them chronologically.
One of the hidden books is the book of Ruth, a book set in a time centuries before the book was written. The stories in this book have been told again and again. The book contains at least two love stories: one is the love of a daughter for her mother-in-law, and another is of a man who came to love Ruth, herself. They are beautiful stories, told for centuries to adults and children. A special passage in the book contains verses that we have come to include in marriage vows. However, a more powerful story is hidden in this book that can now be told.
To understand this story, we have to look at the overall history of the people who lived at that time and wrote elements of the Hebrew Bible. These writings illustrate the people’s changing perception and understanding of their God. Beginning approximately 3,000 years ago and continuing for 800 years, The Hebrew Bible records their lives, their successes and their trials and tribulations. It records their separation into two nations, Israel and Judah, even though the people continued to be referred to as Israelites.
It tells the stories of larger and more powerful nations conquering them, one at a time. Israel was conquered by Assyria, and later, Judah was conquered by Babylonia. Some of the educated people, which included the priests, were carried into Babylonia. Persia then conquered Babylonia, and a benevolent emperor, Cyrus the Great, allowed a few of the people to return to their homeland, which was then a subject of Persia.
During the seventy years of captivity, the priests continued to educate and remind people of the laws of Moses. One priest in particular, Ezra, had come to believe that the reason they had been conquered was they had not adhered faithfully to the laws of Moses. Those Israelites who were left behind most likely knew very little, if any, of Moses’ laws because their religious teachers had been taken away.
One law in particular decreed that Israelite men were not to marry women who were foreigners, i.e., not Israelites. One of the first things Ezra did when he returned from captivity in Persia was to gather the men together and inform all men who had married foreigners to divorce them and disown the children of those wives. Although the book of Ezra says they all obeyed that edict, history shows that was not always the case.
The book of Ruth is an example of stories in the Hebrew Bible that show how humankind has evolved its perception of God and ourselves. Early writers told of the perception of a petty, violent, jealous god who claimed only one people as the chosen ones, which later evolved to belief in a loving God for all people. The clever writer did this by reminding the people that Ruth, a foreigner, became the grandmother of their most beloved king David.
* In his book Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution, Stephen McIntosh defines consciousness as the “sum total of all thoughts, ideas, etc., that make up the awareness of something within ourselves." Consciousness can evolve throughout the lives of people and groups of people.