Sunday, April 22, 2012

Are All Tattoos Forbidden by the Bible?

Today's Reading:
  • Leviticus 19:1 - 20:21
  • Proverbs 10:17
Read Bible Passages Online

Leviticus 19:1 - 20:21
These two chapters in Leviticus rehashed many of the rules we've already seen, particularly the rules on sexual sins from the last reading in Leviticus.  There were a few new ones that I found interesting.  The first is Leviticus 19:27, which says you must not trim the hair on your temples or your beards.  This was perplexing to me at first, but my study bible suggests that this was to distinguish oneself from the Canaanites.  Therefore I would have to conclude that this probably is not valid for us anymore.

The thing that stuck out to me the most is verse 19:28.  The NLT version says that one should not mark themselves with tattoos.  The King James Version reads that you shall not print any marks upon yourself.

I have two tattoos, so this is quite alarming to me.  I consider my tattoos pretty and non-vulgar or offensive -- one has an angel in a garden with my two girls names on it, and the other has my favorite flower (fuchsia), some butterflies, and my son's name on it.  But now I have to wonder, did I royally screw up?

My study bible suggests that this verse might have to do with painting one's body, which is a pagan tradition.  Its placement is right after that verse about hair cutting (another distinguishing commandment, one that most would agree is no longer relevant) and the verse is directly preceding a verse that forbids witchcraft and fortune telling.  So it is sandwiched between two verses having to do with pagan practices.

I work with quite a few people who are Indian.  They have many pagan festivals and one of the traditions before many of them is that they paint themselves with elaborate henna designs.  If I had to guess right now, I would say that is the type of thing the Lord was commanding us to avoid.  We shouldn't paint marks on ourselves in celebration of festivals to other gods and/or idols.

On the other hand, I know that our bodies are a temple for the Lord and they should be fit for Him to live in.  A tattoo could be a violation against our own bodies.  I have yet to read those verses in the bible but I know they are there.  Also, I can't discount these laws simply because they are part of the Old Covenant.  I know I can discount those things which are unclean, or that makes a person unclean, but the Old Testament is also filled with many laws that few would argue are outdated --such as bestiality and incest being forbidden.  

So are tattoos like the two I have forbidden by the Lord?  The answer is I don't know yet.  I will have to pay attention to all references of the body and marks upon it as I go forward, and pray upon it as I do.  One thing is for certain, I cannot take back what I already have done.  I can only move forward from here and decide for myself before making any decision to get a new tattoo.  I can promise I won't take the situation lightly; I will not get another tattoo if I feel it is wrong after studying the bible.  If I read through the bible and decide that it's okay then a new tattoo will probably be in my future.  Regardless, it is no longer a decision that I can take without serious regard to what the bible speaks to me.

Proverbs 10:17
There is only one Proverb to read today, so I will quote it:
People who accept discipline are on the pathway to life, but those who ignore correction will go astray.
I couldn't agree with this statement more.  If we go our own ways with disregard to being corrected in our ways then we will wind up far from where we should be and be completely lost.  I am so thankful that I finally made it a priority in my life to study the Word so that the Lord can call me to correct the things in my life that are causing me to be separated from Him.  With His direction I can forge a new path for myself, one that aligns with His will.  I can aspire to live the life He wants me to live.  I have no doubt that my life on Earth will be more fulfilling, and the reward to it all is everlasting salvation.


michael heath said...

My struggle with those who are against tattoos and are quick to point to this verse is that 1) do we take the OT literally and if so which parts? The parts we like or the entire cannon of OT law and 2) as you pointed out is this type of tattooing the same as is prevalent in our modern culture.

Author said...

I completely agree! It is quite the dilemma - which parts of the OT must we keep, and which can we say no longer apply to us? Do we let our individual churches and doctrine decide those things for us? I'd much rather decide those things on my own through a thorough study of the bible, so that's precisely what I'm doing. I am still on the lookout for more scripture based on this topic, and I will surely write about it when I get there!