Confession: Even though I have an English degree, I’ve always found interpreting literature to be full of crap. Don’t get me wrong, I love it and I’m good at it. But as long as you can make a vaguely solid argument, you can make claims that literature means pretty much anything.
For example, I could argue that “see Spot run” is about the Plague. Sure, at first glance it looks like a line from a children’s book about a dog, but I assure you, it’s much darker than that. “Spot” is a metaphor for the lesions that accompany the bubonic plague, and when we “see spot run” we are actually seeing the Plague’s rapid spread.
Obviously that’s an exaggeration, but hey, can anyone name a book that does get its meaning stretched thin via questionable interpretation? That’s right, the Bible! And it still gets taken seriously. When you interpret literature, one of the things you have to consider is the author’s motivation and intent. So let’s do that.
Leviticus 19:37 says not to trim the hair on the sides of your head or trim your beard.
The motivation: the author had a bald spot.
The intent: to make a comb over trendy.
Leviticus 19:19 says that you shouldn’t let your cows mate with other kinds of cows.
The moo-tivation: the author was super racist and wanted to make cows racist, too.
The intent: Cow segregation.
Leviticus 19:28 specifically reads, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.” I’m pretty sure the first part is actually a zombie apocalypse tip. The author is all “hey guys, maybe don’t make the zombies’ jobs any easier” which I would argue is pretty sensible advice. The first part sounds like the action is being done by oneself to oneself, so that should carry over to the second part. And I totally agree. Can you imagine how physically awkward it would be to tattoo a tramp stamp on yourself? The entire quote would more accurately read, “Hey guys, don’t make the zombies’ jobs any easier and for the love of Me, quit trying to tattoo yourselves. I am the LORD when it comes to tattoos and I can do a way better job than you peasants.”
The motivation: God’s tattoo shop isn’t doing great.
The intent: to boost sales.
Bible interpretation: nailed it!