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Body Marking in the Bible

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Question:   Hello,  I'm asking anyone who can help me with a search. I'm trying to find in the Bible where it talks about body markings, i.e., tattoos. I have friend who just had a tattoo put on to his arm.  And my sisters tell that having any tattoos on your body is going against God, And I wanted to find out for myself if this is true. Not that I don't believe my sisters. I'm just that way that I need to read it for myself. 

Response:  As it say at 1st Corinthians 10:23, "all things are possible, but not all things are beneficial". The Mosaic Law (Leviticus 19:28) does prohibit "cutting oneself for the dead" and "putting writing/drawing [made by] incision on yourselves [i.e., tattoos]". There are certainly many things in the Law of Moses by which we as Christians under grace are no longer bound (the dietary and festal ordinances, for example), but the context of Lev.19:28 is one of pagan idolatry, and the practices described there (vv.26-29) are clearly behaviors that were part and parcel of worshiping idols instead of the one true God. I am fairly sure that your friend is not involved in such practices, so what about tattoos without any idolatrous connection? What the Bible has to say about illicit drugs forms an interesting parallel: in antiquity (New and Old Testament times) non-medicinal drugs were almost exclusively used in witchcraft and pagan ritual (i.e., not for secular, recreational use as today), and it is in that context that the Bible condemns pharmakia (e.g., Gal.5:20). People sometimes try to make the argument that there is no biblical prohibition against drugs - but while that may be technically true, the Bible has plenty to say about sobriety (e.g., Eph.5:18), so that it is not a difficult conclusion to draw that doing drugs is certainly wrong in God's eyes. There are many behaviors that, while they may not be spelled out in the Bible specifically, are still not things that a Christian walking to please God would want to be involved in. There will be a time in the history of the world when many people will get a tattoo, one that true believers must at all costs avoid, the one with the number six hundred and sixty six (Rev.13:16-18). So while the Bible has nothing good to say about tattoos, there are certainly indications in it that permanently marking one's body is a bad idea for a Christian. I would not want to get one; I would not want my son or anyone I know to get one. None of us are perfect - we all make mistakes, we all have need of God's forgiveness for our sins. There are certainly worse things that we can do, that people do all the time, that are far more serious than getting a tattoo - and far less obvious to the eye. Still, like any action or behavior, what we do says a lot about us, about who we are, what we are really thinking, and what is important to us in life. For those who truly put Jesus Christ first in their lives, this attitude cannot help but bubble out for all to see (like the spring of sweet water: James 3:11-13); for those who are really little concerned with following and serving Him, this attitude too will bubble out (like the spring of bitter water). I would not want to judge a person's commitment to Christ on the basis of one act, but I would also not wish to have my good standards eroded by those who are not as committed to the Lord as I am. This is the constant challenge that faces all true Christians here in the devil's world: to live in the world (and minister to it as we have been given the gifts and resources to do so), but not to be overcome by it, rather to be transformed in it by careful attention to the Word of God (Rom.12:1-2;12:21). 

You might also want to have a look at these links:

Three Questions about Tattoos and Salvation.

Are Tattoos and Body-Piercing Legitimate for Christians?

Christianity and Culture:  Tattoos.

Christians and Body-Piercing.

The Christian Walk, the End, and Tattoos.

The Genesis Serpent, Using "it" to refer to the baby Jesus, and more on Tattoos.

Hope this is in someway helpful to you.

Yours in the love of Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill


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