Marco Rubio is wrong: The Bible has more questions than answers

Marco Rubio is wrong: The Bible has more questions than answers

In the latest “holier than thou” fight of the Republican primary campaign, Ted Cruz has fired campaign spokesman Rick Tyler. This was in the aftermath of something Tyler had tweeted which seemed to question the faith of Marco Rubio, as the Chicago Tribune reports (emphasis mine):

Tyler’s offense had not, initially, looked like the sort of mistake that could cost someone his job. The Daily Pennsylvanian, the student newspaper at the University of Pennsylvania, had published a 21-second video of Rubio walking past a Cruz staffer and Cruz’s father, Rafael. According to the paper, the muffled audio found Rubio joking that there were “not many answers” in the book the staffer was reading — the Bible.

The video went viral. Tyler tweeted it. Then, upon learning that the transcript was exactly wrong — that Rubio had said “all the answers” were in the Bible — Tyler wrote a late-night Facebook post apologizing to Rubio.

I’m not interested in the fight between Cruz and Rubio, or whether the tweet was just an excuse used by Cruz to shake up his campaign after losing South Carolina to Donald Trump – including coming in second among evangelical voters – as some have suggested.

Instead, let’s focus on what both sides agree the Florida Senator actually said. Marco Rubio, the purported moderate, establishment GOP candidate, believes that “all the answers” are in the Bible.

I disagree. And so should you.

More than a decade of teaching and studying Torah – including several years writing about it every week – has shown me that the Bible more often creates questions than it provides answers. I’m hardly a scholar, but I’ve learned enough to know that from a Jewish perspective that’s exactly the point. We’re supposed to struggle with the text to find meaning. The answers are almost never clear, and the ancient rabbis understood this.

Their disagreements across several centuries are recorded in the Talmud, a central source of wisdom in the post-Temple era. Famously, they even argued about how Chanukah candles should be lit.

Here are a few of the questions raised in just the first half of the first book of the Bible, Genesis.

(1) Creation
We’re told that on the first day God created light … “God called the night Day, and the darkness God called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, a first day.” But the sun and moon, “lights in the expanse of the sky to separate day from night” (Gen 1:14) weren’t created until the 4th day. How could there have been night and day on the first “day”, if the sun and moon weren’t created until the fourth “day”? What kind of light created on the first “day”?

(2) Noah
Noah is described as “a righteous man; he was blameless in his age.” (Genesis 6:9). Was Noah righteous, or just more righteous than those of his generation? We’re told “the earth became corrupt before God [and] was filled with violence.” (Genesis 6:11). The text makes a point of comparing Noah to others in this evil generation. Does this make Noah more or less righteous than someone living in a less corrupt period? Was he just more righteous than those around him, or is the text teaching us that it is more difficult to be blameless in an evil era than in a time less filled with corruption?

(3) The Binding of Isaac
Abraham is famously instructed to sacrifice his son, Isaac, often considered one of the tests of Abraham’s faith. Was Abraham actually ready to kill his son? Or did he know God would stop him? Why would someone who argued on behalf of the people of Sodom meekly go along with a command to kill his own son?

Those are a few of the questions in the first 22 chapters (of 50) in Genesis – first of the Five Books of Moses and just a small part of the Hebrew Bible.

Marco Rubio is wrong. The Torah and the Talmud, two of the most important texts from the “Judeo” part of the “Judeo-Christian” tradition that Rubio and others are keen to invoke, are more about questions than about answers.

Perhaps Rubio never heard the old joke about why Jews always answer a question with a question. The answer, of course, is “How should they answer?”

I’d rather have a President who asks questions, not one who thinks the Bible provides all the answers.

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