Archive for June 2nd, 2012
Mrs. WC forwarded a Twitter message (WC doesn’t Tweet) to WC recently, with this photo and comment:
The comment: Tattoo of Leviticus 18:22 forbidding homosexuality: £200. Not knowing that Leviticus 19:28 forbids tattoos: Priceless.
WC isn’t surprised by ignorance, any more than he is surprised by bigotry. 35 years as a lawyer will teach you that much, at least. But what surprised WC was the vast amount of web space devoted to the heated debate over interpretation of Leviticus 19:28, the stridency of the arguments and the fundamental dishonesty of the biblical scholarship. A simple Google search turned up 267,000 hits.
Here’s the biblical scripture:
Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.
You might think that is pretty unambiguous: the Bible forbids tattoos. (WC notes in passing that the last phrase of the sentence is mostly unnecessary, but perhaps it’s a kind of Hebrew exclamation point.)
But the attempts to work their way around the Biblical prohibition are pretty astonishing. Some web sites claim that they are New Testament Christians (whatever that means), and Leviticus is so Old Testament. The difficulty with the argument, of course, is that the Bible’s only prohibition on homosexuality is in the Old Testament. If you abandon the Old Testament, you abandon your religious basis for being anti-gay, too.
Others try to stretch the interpretation of the verse; in some ways, it’s like Chief Justice John Roberts mugging case precedent in his supreme court opinions. WC doesn’t propose to involve himself in the debate, except to the extent of invoking the plain meaning rule. That rule of interpretation says that if a law has a plain meaning, a person interpreting the law is entitled to rely upon the plain meaning, not some stretched, distorted, limited, qualified or otherwise altered interpretation.
Still other Christianists try to excuse their tattoos by pointing to other provisions in the Bible they claim support tattooing. Revelations 19:11-16, for example. That leads to a whole different level of debates about whether those are references to tattoos or something else. But WC is unimpressed: if the Bible is actually contradicting itself, it’s a criticism of the Bible and its authenticity as the absolute word of God.
Anyone with a modicum of knowledge of ancient history – shucks, anyone who has ever played the playground game “Telephone” – knows that a message gets more distorted the more times it is relayed. The Bible has been copied and recopied, translated and re-translated, by persons of, shall we say, widely varying skills and aptitudes, each colored by the mores and standards of his time. The meaning of words changes over time; “buxom” originally meant “offering little resistance : flexible.” John Milton wrote in Paradise Lost, ”wing silently the buxom air. ” The meaning is a little different, now.
In the face of all this, to insist upon literal interpretation of any book, however “Good,” across millennia is nearly as absurd as window shopping for your biases and bigotries from the Old Testament. For WC’s money, you are a hypocrite either way.
Discuss among yourselves.