The subject of biblical literalism came up at last week’s Republican / You Tube debate:
Joseph: I am Joseph. I am from Dallas, Texas, and how you answer this question will tell us everything we need to know about you. Do you believe every word of this book? Specifically, this book that I am holding in my hand, do you believe this book?
In case you were wondering, the book in question was the Bible. Here’s what happened next:
Cooper: I think we’ve got a question. Mayor Giuliani?
Huckabee: Do I need to help you out, Mayor, on this one?
Giuliani: Wait a second, you’re the minister. You’re going to help me out on this one.
Huckabee: I’m trying to help you out.
Giuliani: OK. The reality is, I believe it, but I don’t believe it’s necessarily literally true in every single respect. I think there are parts of the Bible that are interpretive. I think there are parts of the Bible that are allegorical. I think there are parts of the Bible that are meant to be interpreted in a modern context.
So, yes, I believe it. I think it’s the great book ever written. I read it frequently. I read it very frequently when I’ve gone through the bigger crises in my life, and I find great wisdom in it, and it does define to a very large extent my faith. But I don’t believe every single thing in the literal sense of Jonah being in the belly of the whale, or, you know, there are some things in it that I think were put there as allegorical.
Cooper: Governor Romney?
Romney: I believe the Bible is the word of God, absolutely. And I try…
… I try to live by it as well as I can, but I miss in a lot of ways. But it’s a guide for my life and for hundreds of millions, billions of people around the world. I believe in the Bible.
Cooper: Does that mean you believe every word?
Romney: You know — yes, I believe it’s the word of God, the Bible is the word of God.
The Bible is the word of God. I mean, I might interpret the word differently than you interpret the word, but I read the Bible and I believe the Bible is the word of God. I don’t disagree with the Bible. I try to live by it.
Cooper: Governor Huckabee?
Huckabee: Sure. I believe the Bible is exactly what it is. It’s the word of revelation to us from God himself.
And the fact is that when people ask do we believe all of it, you either believe it or you don’t believe it. But in the greater sense, I think what the question tried to make us feel like was that, well, if you believe the part that says “Go and pluck out your eye,” well, none of us believe that we ought to go pluck out our eye. That obviously is allegorical.
But the Bible has some messages that nobody really can confuse and really not left up to interpretation. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
And as much as you’ve done it to the least of these brethren, you’ve done it unto me. Until we get those simple, real easy things right, I’m not sure we ought to spend a whole lot of time fighting over the other parts that are a little bit complicated.
And as the only person here on the stage with a theology degree, there are parts of it I don’t fully comprehend and understand, because the Bible is a revelation of an infinite god, and no finite person is ever going to fully understand it. If they do, their god is too small.
No comment, beyond the observation that I find it hard to believe that Giulliani spends even one solitary second reading the Bible.