Hey guys, welcome to my new my new website called 1160WMET.
Here we will discuss issues that may not always be clear when it comes to studying The Bible.
Today I have received a good question.
I decided to answer a question that came from a good friend this morning.
The question was: Is there Biblical scripture that talks to…”Tattooing ones body?”
The first thing to address is “Why?”
I find it rather interesting that your nephew’s interest in getting a tattoo seems to have been revealed after he returned from his Christian Youth Leadership camp adventure. I can only ponder that during his stay, he came into communication with someone (or several people) of faith that had tattoos. During such time he was told there is nothing wrong with having tattoos. Thus we have the situation as of now. But this is only how I can ponder such an urge to suddenly want a tattoo to occur, considering the timing of events.
I share they same concern as you do regarding tattoos. They are virtually permanent, taint the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, and leave scars if one has them surgically removed (and this they are still permanent). But as you made clear in your text, informing your nephew of this simply is not enough. So let us look at what Scripture has to say.
Surprisingly, there is only one instance in Scripture that directly speaks of tattoos. It is in Leviticus 19:28 “You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourself: I am the Lord.”
Reading this verse at face value would seem clear that this is to be prohibited and “nuff said.” But we should also dive into the culture of the Israelites of the time period. At this point, Moses had only recently rescued them from Egypt, where they were extremely accustomed to pagan rituals and worship practices. In fact, the Israelites were constantly tempted to fall back into pagan habits from when they were in Egypt. It was what they knew. So God instructed Moses in writing what are known as the Mosaic Laws to be obeyed in order to set the nation of Israel apart from all other nations of the known world.
The Mosaic Laws consisted of specific purposes in order that the Israelites reflected their status as God’s chosen people. Such laws were either ceremonial, judicial or moral in emphasis.
Moral Law are, as I believe, permanent. They are based on the holy nature of God, and include the Ten Commandments. They encompass regulations on justice, respect and sexual conduct. In other words, God placed restrictions so that we have the opportunity to embrace the absolute best quality of life in this limited and mortal existence. Moral law does not guide people to Christ, but reveals and convicts the absolute fallen state of all mankind in this life. Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of his life does not change the fact that man is evil and fallen short of the glory of God. Which is why I believe moral law is permanent and should be followed to the very best of our ability. In fact, Jesus said in Matthew 5:18 “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” This, I believe is in regard to moral law (hence the Ten Commandments, which were summed up in the Law of Christ). Christians are bound to moral law out of obedience. Paul supports my belief in Romans 6:15 “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!”
Ceremonial Law regard to things such as sacrificial offerings, clean and unclean foods, memorial festivals, Passover, clothing and grooming restrictions, circumcision, etc. It says in Colossians 2:16-17 “Therefore let no one pass judgement on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath, These are a shadow of things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” They were to be obeyed by the Jews to separate themselves as a culture from the rest of the world, and were also a revelation of the eventual coming of the Messiah. Since Jesus has come, Christians are not bound by ceremonial law. As also mentioned in Galatians 3:23-26 “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”
Judicial Law was all moral law separate from the Ten Commandments. As Christians, we do not abide to them because we are not of Jewish culture. But it is important to remember that all law is useful for instruction.
So the next question is “Is the Leviticus law regarding tattoos a ceremonial, moral or judicial law?”
Cutting and marking of the flesh was a common pagan rite of mourning the dead. It is argued by some people that it was not the cutting or marking of the flesh that was offensive to God, but the act of worship involved that was offensive. By this understanding, I believe we can omit the option of judicial law. But it leaves the question of ceremonial or moral. If God commanded the Israelites not to cut or tattoo their bodies because He did not want them to fall into the same ritualistic practices, then it would simply be a ceremonial law. Certainly so, since tattoos are not always viewed as a practice of worship today. But while that argument stands, I believe it goes deeper than that.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
I believe these verses of Scripture are a perfect reasoning as to not get a tattoo. But again, some people argue against it because in 1 Corinthians 6:13-18 speaks about sexual immorality and not about tattoos. But I believe they read into it far too much at face value. True, Paul is not directly discussing tattoos, but he is referring to things which were accepted by the world. In the same way, tattoos are accepted, and even encouraged at a worldly level. We should also take into consideration what John said in 1 John 2:15 “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” Since tattoos are a thing in the world, and taint the very temple of the Holy Spirit, this seems to be more than simply a ceremonial law. I believe, especially after weighing the evidence, that the Leviticus law listed above is a moral law, and therefore permanent.
In closing, while I love the phrase “I am loved,” your nephew should not feel the absolute need for a tattoo in order for him (or the rest of the world) to recognize and acknowledge that he is loved by God. Jesus said in John 13:35 “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Stay strong, brother. Even with all of this, it may not be enough to convince your nephew otherwise if he does not want to listen. Yet, at the same time it will be more than enough if he is willing to listen. I hope this helps. And the next time I am in Seattle I will definitely require the services of your Limousine company.