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Thursday, June 19, 2008

What the Bible says about tattoos: 1 Corinthians 8

What the Bible says about tattoos
Someone in my Sunday School class asked me about Christians being tattooed. I did some research on the matter. I didn't know that there is at least one verse that uses the word, "tattoos." It turns out that the answers given below are related to the Sunday School lesson for June 22, 2008, in our church.

Here are my thoughts on the subject, for whatever they may be worth.
Leviticus 19 includes the following: 27 You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard. 28 You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord. (all Bible quotes are ESV. The NIV also uses "tattoo.") Anything in the Bible should be taken seriously, of course. However, we can divide the commandments in the Old Testament (OT) into three types:
Cultural and Civic -- commandments for the OT Israelite culture, like commands on how to divide the land among the tribes.

Ceremonial -- commandments concerning the worship of the Israelites, like commands about feasts. Most of the OT commands are of this type.

Moral -- commandments for all cultures, at all times, like the commandment that husbands stay with their wives (Genesis 2:24, repeated by Jesus in Matthew 19:5). Moral commandments, though they may be stated first in the OT, are also found in the New Testament.

We can't always tell which type of command was meant. They are not identified as such in the Bible. The church generally does not hold that the first two types of commandments are binding on Christians. At the Jerusalem conference, the leaders wrote as follows, when Jews felt that gentile Christians must obey the ceremonial law: Acts 15:28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29a that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Even some of the prohibitions in Acts 15:28-9 are not taken as binding by most Christians anymore. 1 Corinthians 8:8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. The Acts 15 statement was about the ceremonial law. It does not undo God's moral laws.

So what about tattoos? The context seems to indicate clearly that Leviticus 19:28 is ceremonial or cultural, not a moral command. Not only is not a moral commandment, but it is probably speaking particularly of a situation involving death of a loved one, and, likely, refers to practices of the heathen neighbors of the Israelites. So why do some Christians speak out against tattoos, saying that the Bible is categorically against them? One reason may be that they don't distinguish between the three types of commandments in the OT. But, if that's true, I bet they don't preach against clipping off the edges of a beard. It is easy to confuse our own prejudices with what God commands. I can remember when that happened with not wearing wedding rings, not wearing a tie, not having your hair cut or wearing pants if you are a woman, not having a beard, or not having long hair if you are a man. Opposition to these ways of presenting oneself is and was cultural, not moral. In our own congregation, attitudes on these matters have changed, which is just as well, because they aren't based on moral commandments.

No one ever went to hell just for wearing a tattoo. People go to hell because they don't believe in Christ as Savior and honor Him as Lord. Nonetheless, there are some principles that would seem to apply about tattoos, and to other choices about how we present our bodies.
1) Why are you doing this? If a tattoo is meant as a statement of rebellion against God, or our parents, or is a display of personal pride, then we shouldn't get it.

2) What is it showing? "Four-letter words," insults, anti-God statements or pictures are some of the things that should be avoided, of course.

3) How much does it cost? We need to use the money that God has given us wisely. This does not mean that we can never spend money on fixing ourselves up, or on things that we enjoy, but we should be careful, and have the right priorities.

4) Is it immodest? Is the purpose to arouse lust in others, or is it likely to do so?

5) Does it put your health at risk? There are some risks involved in getting a tattoo. See Consumer Reports for more information.

6) How will it affect other people? We can't live solely for other people, but we need to be careful that we
don't drive others away from Christ, or weaken other Christians. Some groups (motorcyclers, some African-Americans, some military personnel) might be drawn to Christ by some tattoos, whereas other groups might not.

7) Has God given you a personal conviction against this (or for it)? If so, you'd better abide by that conviction. (1 Corinthians 8 speaks about some of these things.) However, we should be careful not to expect others to live according to our personal convictions.

8) Have I promised not to do this? There are certain vows that go with joining our church -- which has no prohibition on being tattoed -- or other bodies, and promises should be kept, unless there is a more important moral principle in play that wasn't anticipated when you made the promise.

9) What's my attitude? (In this case, toward those who disagree with my opinion about something external, or who may be affected by what I might do.) My attitude must be one of love. Here's part of Mark 12, on the most important commandments: 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34a And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

I have no plans to get a tattoo myself, but being tattooed isn't necessarily wrong for Christians. Some day, I may have a pastor, or a descendant, with a tattoo. I may have one or both of these already!

Thanks for reading. If anyone can use this, they are welcome to do so. This is my post for June 22, but I am posting it early.

*  *  *  *  *
Added August 6, 2011: E Stephen Burnett has a fine post on another subject, but which covers much of the same ground, that is, what about practices that may offend some Christians, and what about practices that aren't explicitly Christian?

Thanks for reading!

122 comments:

Keetha said...

I already have TWO descendants with tattoos. I'm not proud of it - - - - but it IS a fact.

Still love them.

Keep crying and praying in my pillow.

Not about the tattoos though.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Keetha! That was a quick response.

Keetha said...

I was just making my normal blog rounds and found your new post - - -

elbogz said...

Great post Martin. I think back to my youth days in the church being told that tattoos were the “mark of the beast”. Now it seems much of the youth in the church brandish the tattoos.

One thing that’s happening with a lot of employers is that the employee must cover up the tattoo during working hours, as part of workplace rules.

On the lighter side, there is a tattoo shop in Vegas that has a sign that reads “This is not like marriage, tattoos are forever”

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, elbogz.

Yes, unfortunately marriage often doesn't last very long, in our culture.

www.barnlightelectric.com said...

Enjoyed reading this post about the church and tattoos. Appreciate your biblical approach to the question!

Martin LaBar said...

June 23: Thanks, barnlight electric, whoever you may be!

Elise said...

Thank you so much for this. Yesterday my Uncle who is a Jehovah's witness condemned me for my tattoo and basically ambushed me with scripture telling me how its wrong and how stupid I was for getting it. I was feeling really low but this really helped me out in understanding more clearly what the Bible is actually saying. My tattoo is a sign of worship for me. Every time I see it, it reminds me how lucky I am to have the everlasting love of Jesus Christ in my heart. Thanks again

Martin LaBar said...

November 13, 2008: Thanks, Elise. I hoped it helped, and that your relationship with your uncle is not harmed.

AK said...

I really like this. I've been wanting a tattoo (and more later) for about 6 years now. I've analyzed it from every angle, thought of every situation, decided on strategic places, and had beautiful ideas come to me. My family is very anti-tattoo, but I've always loved them. I like that they are permanent symbols of something that can mean so much to a person. Unfortunately, many people get them because they are a fad or "cool" or whatnot. I'm not getting my tattoo for anyone but myself. They are to be reminders everyday of my Faith and my desire to live life to its fullest- not for me, never for me; but for others. Thank you for not condemning we who have tattoos.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, AK. Just be careful to pay attention to the principles listed above, and in your case, they would, it seems, involve the reaction of your family.

KIMBERLY said...

I recently had a small tattoo of a Jesus fish put on my back. Our worship leader and several others did also. I however put mine on my back where it would be seen by only my husband and MY LORD. It is a personal thing not a fad. The others all did their feet. I very much appreciated your stand on tats. Our pastors' view is the same.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for your comment, KIMBERLY.

God bless you, your husband, and your church.

Reannian said...

I am still thinking over getting a tattoo, although I have an appointment on the 24th, I'm still alittle uneasy about it. The tattoo says "Child of God" in chinese. I love it, and all it represtents, but my dad isn't for it. He says it's my choice since I'm of age(18) to make my own decisions. I understand that many people regret the decision to get a tattoo, but I want this so it can be a reminder to me, since in hard times I forget that God is there for me. Your post helped me alot. Thank you so much!

Martin LaBar said...

Glad it helped. Thanks for your comment.

Amy.M.Turechek-1 said...

Thank you for your time to post such a debating situation for people. i recently got a tattoo and it is located on my back for personal interest of my own. however, many people came to me saying that it was wrong and sinful and told me to read Lev. 19:28. i did and started to cry thinking how stupid i was and that i committed a sin, but as i was thinking and reading the Bible more, God looks at your soul, not just the body, and religious or not, tattoos these days are the not the same when the old testament was written. so, just wanted to say thanks for your thought and to say it has helped.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks so much for commenting, Amy M. Turecheck-1.

Sorry for the criticism you got, and glad that my blog helped you.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Martin LaBar said...

There were two anonymous comments, apparently in Chinese, in the last 24 hours. I have deleted them, as they seem to have had several links to commercial sites, suggesting strongly that they were spam comments, so I deleted them.

Anonymous said...

If you people have to ask yourself the question about "what bible says about tattoos..." then you already have big problem. This means you need someone to tell you what to do with your life and body to be Christian. Considering that tattoos used to be found only on mentally disturbed soldiers and professional China Town prostitutes one may wonder what this world would be without the Bible. Animals do right and logical things for millennia and this is how they stay natural, but humans need a book to be civilized. Anyway, start saving your money for laser treatment few years from now when that tattoo becomes sick looking ink spot - so the same people that told you to get it today will make even more money later on having you taking it off with scars and all. How stupid. This is frightening.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for your comment, Anonymous.

Some of us try to follow the Bible's teachings, whatever you may think of it (or us).

Yes, no doubt laser treatment will become more popular.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post. I just turned 18 in October and I've felt a sense of conviction on my heart on this topic. I've prayed for years about getting a tattoo. The tattoo that I want to get is a way of not only using my body to glorify God, but also a way to help lead others to Christ. My dad is somewhat ok with it but my mothers isn't quite sure. I've sought after my pastor's opinion and he's totally against it. I'm definitely going to continue to pray on this matter. Thanks again!!

Martin LaBar said...

Well, I'm glad this was helpful, Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

I think that verse means that you shouldn't pierce yourself to honor the dead, and not to tattoo any kind of idol/idolization.

For instance Tattooing "I am Jesus, I am the savior/prophet, God chose me" type things are bad.

I'm 14 and my mom's letting me get a tattoo in two years. I'm thinking a cross/crusifix or a Jesus Fish. I'm going to get a small one, I don't think its ruining your body/blasphemous.

Please correct me if I'm wrong on anything.

Martin LaBar said...

That sounds right to me, Anonymous, but it's not up to me to show you what to do.

Thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

cool!!!

generic viagra said...

Now it seems much of the youth in the church brandish the tattoos. For instance Tattooing "I am Jesus, I am the savior/prophet, God chose me"Thank you so much for this. Yesterday my mother who is a Jehovah's witness condemned me for my tattoo and basically ambushed me with scripture telling me how its wrong and how stupid I was for getting it.

Martin LaBar said...

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Jeff said...

Hi Martin,

I followed the link on Heath Mullikin's facebook post. Thanks for this article. It's nice to find another pastor with similar ideas on tattoos. I was told by a fellow Wesleyan youth pastor last summer that I was going to hell for mine, despite the fact that one is a crown of thorns with a Bible verse and the other is a Latin Trinity symbol laid over a cross.

Nice research. Nice thoughts.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Jeff.

I'm not a pastor.

That youth pastor has some problems, with Biblical interpretation, and perhaps with being judgmental. No one has ever gone to hell for wearing a tattoo. People go to hell because they don't believe in Christ as Lord and savior. (I guess it would be possible to go to hell for deliberately disobeying God's personal directive about such a thing, but the problem would be the disobedience, not the tattoo.)

Stephanie said...

I have wanted a tattoo since I was 14, but even then I was waiting to find something that would have meaning for me forever, because I knew it would be with me for life. When I was 19 I became a Christian and then I knew once I got one, it would be about my faith. What could mean more than that? But I still could not do it because I was afraid of the pain. Then in my 30's I had 5 major operations and was told I could not have children. I then realized that pain did not scare me anymore and I got a cross with a crown of thorns with flowers on it. I did it to thank God not only for my salvation but also for getting me through the hardest time of my life. It also reminds my of his love and to witness to people. It is on my ankle so can show it of or conceal it. I love it and it is one of the best decisions I have ever made!

Martin LaBar said...

Good for you!

Thanks for letting us know, Stephanie.

Kris said...

These principles seem sound for making decisions on many of the activities Christians engage in and not just getting tattoos. I really enjoyed this article. However I have a question. I was curious as to how you came up with the groups that may be "drawn to Christ" in point #6? I honestly find them to be offensive, specifically the naming of African Americans. It seems to imply that these groups as an example, moreso than others, have some overall affection for tattoes. "Some groups (motorcyclers, some African-Americans, some military personnel) might be drawn to Christ by some tattoos, whereas other groups might not." There seems to be a bias there and I just wanted to clarify why you named those groups. Thanks.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Kris.

Perhaps it is bias on my part. I watch quite a bit of basketball, including the NBA, and most of the best players are African-American, and such players often have a lot of tattoos. (LeBron James, for one.) Such people are, I suppose, role models. It is also true that I see more of basketball players' bodies than I see of most peoples'.

If I was offensive, I'm sorry.

Kris said...

Thank you for your honest response. That seems to be a bias and I think it has more to do with the generation and less to do with the race. I just wanted to clarify, again thank you for sharing this great article.

Martin LaBar said...

I hope so, Kris.

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

While I greatly appreciate your explanation and position on tattoos. As an African American woman and Air Force veteran, I was a bit disturbed by your comment that some motor cyclers, African Americans and military personnel could be drawn to Christ by some tattoos. Your comment seems to me to be very sterotypical. I certainly wouldn't condemn anyone white, black or any other race for having a tattoo, nor do I feel that I could be drawn to Christ by one. Do you realize that there are non-black NBA players that have tatoos; Chris Anderson (the birdman), Cherokee Parks, Jason Williams to name a few. Have you not seen the number of white men that are a part of groups I don't even care to mention in my comment that have tattoos as well(just google it)? Please, please think about how you say what you say, expecially when you are speaking as a believer of Christ.

Thanks,
Cyndi

Anonymous said...

I would have to agree with the last comment, we have to be careful as not to use issues to stereotype. I believe this has an opposite effect and can push people away from the Gospel versus bringing them to Christ. I am sure your intent was innocent but it is offensive to people of color which I am.

Martin LaBar said...

I am sorry if I have stereotyped anyone. I am no expert on the frequency of tattoos among racial groups, athletes, or any other subgroup. There are lots of white people with lots of tattoos.

The whole point of the original post was that, under most circumstances, there is nothing Biblically wrong with having tattoos. I'm sorry if this idea has been lost or side-tracked by my own mistakes.

I think that some tattoos, like some bumper stickers or Facebook posts, can draw people to Christ. Some can, on the other hand, do the opposite, even be blasphemous. Most of them don't do either. I didn't deal much with the content of the tattoos in the post, and don't intend to do so any more here.

Thanks again for reading and commenting.

Anonymous said...

Is the prohibition taking the tattoos valid in the New Covenant? I believe that it is valid and give you these verses.

2 Pe 1:
1 ¶ Simon Peter, a servant and legate of Jesus the Messiah,—to those who have obtained equally precious faith with us, through the righteousness of our lord and Redeemer, Jesus the Messiah;—
2 may grace and peace abound to you through the recognition of our lord Jesus the Messiah,
3 as the giver to us of all things that be of the power of god, unto life and the fear of god, through the recognition of him who hath called us unto his own glory and moral excellence:
4 wherein he hath given you very great and precious promises; that by them ye might become partakers of the nature of god, while ye flee from the corruptions of the lusts that are in the world.

The New Testament shows us that how we must serve and believe in God. God has given to us the Holy Spirit as the power and aid that we can understand what the Bible teaches.

If we could believe in God by taking the tattoo, in which is Bible verses or reads the Lord Jesus and so on, so this kind of command should be in the Bible. Tattooing was very common in the world where apostles lived. If the will of God would have been to make "Biblical" tattoos, so God would have said that you must make those kinds of tattoos. However, in the New Testament is not a command to make tattoos. For this reason, I don't believe that it is the will of God to take the tattoos.

The Bible teaches us that serving of God is not the outward issue, but inward. Believer testimony and faith must be the inward issue by the Holy Spirit accordance with the word of God. God said by the prophet Jeremiah that in the New Covenant, God puts His law to inwards parts and writes His law to the hearts of His people. Biblical faith must be written to inner man to his heart and not outwardly to his skin.

Ro 10:10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

The Bible doesn't teach serving God by the tattoos, so tattooing is against the will of God.

The whole article is here: http://koti.phnet.fi/petripaavola/Bibleandtattoos.html

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you, Anonymous.

You are correct about this: "The Bible teaches us that serving of God is not the outward issue, but inward."

If I understand what you are saying, your argument is that there is no command that we should have tattoos, so we shouldn't do it. True, there is no such command. But that doesn't mean that it's wrong to have a tattoo. The Bible doesn't command that we wear glasses, socks, or belts, get knee replacements, or translate the Bible. But Christians can do all of these things without getting out of God's will, even glorify God in doing them, and the last one, translating the Bible, is God's will.

I do not believe that a Christian must wear a tattoo -- I don't. I do believe that some Christians can wear tattoos without being out of God's will for them, and even glorify God through doing so.

Anonymous said...

We are a Christian family. Me, my wife and my 18 almost 19 year old son. He got his 1st and only (according to him) Tattoo yesterday! We had much discussion before hand and his Mom went with him to get it. He knows I'm not into tattoos personally, but he still asked my honest opinion of HIM getting one. I said "It's not the worst thing you could do, it's not the best thing you could do. But at this point in your life it is your decision and thanks for asking my opinion. I'd rather you not get one but I will support your decision. He gotit. He is a basketballer on full ride scholarship to college. The tattoo he got is a scripture over praying hands, with a basketball on the fingertips. The scripture is Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. It's beautiful, and I believe it's the first scriptures he has really buried in his heart on his own. He could have done a lot worse. Thank you for this opportunity to express. Lindsey

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you for expressing.

It sounds like your son is glorifying God through a tattoo. Splendid!

Anonymous said...

I have six tattoos and I am terrified to tell my parents(I'm 24 about to be 25). My boyfriend has two as well and I don't want them to judge him. My boyfriend and I are saved Christians and do our very best to live in God's word, even though we are not perfect. I do not believe tattoos are wrong, but my parents are very conservative Southern Christians. My dad did not become saved until I was in 3rd grade and ever since I feel he lives an extreme Christian lifestyle to make up for his wrong doings. I want to be able to live my own life but without making them to angry. The older I get and become more of my own person the harder it gets. Any advice anyone?

Martin LaBar said...

Sometimes parents are harder on you than anyone else is.

The best argument that tattoos are acceptable is to live a loving Christian life, and honor your parents. In this case, if the subject comes up, maybe this would be the right thing to say: "Dad, I know this bothers you, and I'm sorry, but it's too late to do anything about it. I love you."

My guess is that there are some older male leaders, whom your father respects, in your father's church who got tattoed when they were in the military, or for some other reason, when they were about your age, or younger. That's true in my conservative Southern church.

God help you. I hope someone else chimes in.

Hayes Concepts said...

Exceptional and comprehensive research Doc! Confirms my stance on this dividing issue.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Hayes Concepts. No one but God has all the answers on this subject, certainly not me.

Anonymous said...

I am a Roman Catholic by raising, and a simple believer in God. I have little faith in the church as an establishment and what it has turned into, and believe more towards the lines of to worship God, live your life doing as Jesus would do. I have tattoos, all with sentimental meaning or biblical meaning. I do not use drugs, I do not drink, I donate materialistic things, my time, and my effort to charity every chance I get, and require the same of my children who are of adult age, but I have since they were young.
After reading your post and commentary from others, I was reminded by something my late mother had said "it's a true shame when people forget to live by the bible and start hitting people with it instead, I think they may have more to answer to God about than the one they are hitting."
It was refreshing to read your opinion on tattoos, and more so to read that you have an understanding of the time and circumstances in which the bible was written. My biggest "nail on Chalkboard" in life today are "christians" that use that they are christian as a get out of jail free card. "I'm a christian, I would never lie to you, you must have misunderstood me". or the ever growing favorite of mine "Jesus already died for my sins, so if I did something wrong, I shouldn't have to explain myself or apologize because he has already forgiven me, and if you were Christian you would too."(this is used often by the youth in a near by non-denominational church, including my step children). I thank you for such an enlightened non-judgmental post on the subject, and wish you many years of blessed life.
I feel that an un-wavering belief in God,Jesus,and the holy spirit and living a life as such is the only "identifying mark" that should matter, and I believe that if more people lived as such, our children would all have much better lives in the future.
God bless you.
K

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, K/anonymous.

"Jesus already died for my sins, so if I did something wrong, I shouldn't have to explain myself or apologize because he has already forgiven me, and if you were Christian you would too." Wow! That's dangerous, for sure.

As Paul said: Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 May it never be! We who died to sin, how could we live in it any longer? (World English Bible, public domain)

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

We are living in a day where "Christians" are making and looking for excuses to be just like the culture. We hear of "My liberty in Christ" to do this and that; liberty to pierce lips and nose and tongue-liberty to get tattoos-liberty to drink-liberty to dress seductively-liberty, liberty, liberty! Grace, grace and more grace to do as I please!
It is absolutely sickening!
That sadder part is that we have Pastors preaching about all this liberty.
What about the liberty to live free from sin and from offending others? We don't hear about that.

We are not to follow the culture-that is the principle that we are to follow-not how close can I get to being just like everybody else around me and still claim to be a Christian!
I wonder why it is that the great praying men of God in scripture and in history speak nothing of theri "liberty" to do as they please, but rather of hoew they gaveup their rights to please Christ?
Did great men of God such as George Whitfield, the Wesleys, E.M Bounds, David Brainerd, George Mueller, etc., speak of their liberties? No, no, no, rather they gave up their liberties to please Christ.
Let's not seek to see how much we can look like the world, but ratehr be in the world and yet not of it.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Anonymous.

There is certainly grave danger in trying to live like "the world," and to look for excuses to follow it, not Christ. But there is also grave danger in trying to claim that certain things that we don't like are wrong when there's no Biblical justification for it. I would suppose, for example, that Bounds, Brainerd, Mueller, etc., dressed and ornamented themselves differently than most people do today, and pretty well conformed to the culture of their time in their appearance. Jesus may have had longer hair than some of us would wear today (we don't know, but that's usually the way he's pictured). Fashions do change, and it's not always sinful to change with them. You and I are wearing different kinds of fabric than the Wesleys did. I have a cheap wristwatch and a wedding band, neither of which, I guess, David Brainerd did, and certainly Christ didn't. Does that make me a sinner? I don't think so.

We do need to avoid immodesty of all kinds, and spending more on ornamentation than we should, of course.

Thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

So the question is still seeming unanswered.Is it Bibically right or wrong to have a tattoo?

Martin LaBar said...

The Bible doesn't give a definite "do this," or "don't do this," rule, that applies to all, for a lot of things, for example whether to get married or not. These things which are not specified for everyone the same include whether or not you should have a tattoo.

There are, however, many principles which may be deduced from the Bible. Some of these have to do with tattoos. I have referred to these principles in the list of questions in the post. The application of those principles may be different for different people, or for different tattoos.

Thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

Hello my name is Jarred,
I Just figure I give you a tip and advice that is helpful. I was almost on the verge of getting a tattoo today because a friend of mine happen to call and tell me that he would do mine for free. I already have tattoos that covers my entire chess arms and also have on my leg.I made my tattoos when I was living my corrupted life in sin. However, I also want to confess to making a tattoo while walking with God also. Im sharing from expierince my brothers and sisters. I made a tattoo on the right side of my chess so I could cover up an ex Gf name. I knew what the scripture said but I completely ignored it. Looking back now, soon as I decided to make the tattoo I found myself back in jail and almost facing my normal sentence that I was facing 10 years. My life went from good to worse. However, God is merciful and disciplines us because he loves us. Today, I devote myself to what all the scriptures in the bible say not just some. If you have a feeling of Guilt that feeeling comes from the Holy spirit just obey God. He loves you all. I love you also, do not be decieved. Because temptation will come throughout our whole lives but does who indure temptation will recieve the crown of righteousness. I know you guys will have the taught well if God forgives then why not I make one and then ask for forgiveness. Change that taught because God wants what is best for you and he promises it to all. So please take this to heart and think about it. Remember that there is no condemnation in christ Jesus. I want to encourage others not to fall in the trap that might hinder your walk with God. especially if you know that you are getting closer to him. He says that those who seek him they will find him. I encourage you out of my love to seek him and not others opinions. Becuase people can be decievers and lure you away from the truth. it says to stay away from people who do that. read second timothy 3 verse 2. Keep asking the lord and if you feel guilt follow what the spirit says. I tell myself today that my tattoos wont make me a better person so what is the sense of getting it. I can make use of that time spending it with my family instead of spending time doing something for myself. As soon as we get rid of our selfish thinking God will start to work in our lives. I am a living testimony to this my brothers and sisters. I have the complete Joy of the lord in my life. This joy cannot compare to anything else in the world. The joy of the lord is my strength. Neamiah 8 verse 10. I love you my brothers and just sit and observe whats going on in our world so the lord can give you a better understanding. Please dont take this wrong I do not wish to offend no one but to speak the living truth through expierience. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 corinthians 5:17 God loves you just the way you are. If you are going through something he still loves you Just keep trusting in him to guide you and stop trying to take control ourselves. much love and God bless

Martin LaBar said...

That's quite a testimony, Jarred. Thanks.

We definitely need to pay attention to guidance from the Holy Spirit. It won't necessarily be the same for all of us, except on major issues.

Anonymous said...

I've always been a little double minded on the subject but your explaination cleared up my thinking. Cultural, moral and ceremonial- This explaination could apply to many other situations as well. I appreciate your carefully researched and well balanced presentation of the subject. Thanks!

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Anonymous.

Since I wrote this, I have learned that some thinkers reject the distinction between moral and ceremonial law. I think it's valid, at least if by moral is meant law that is affirmed by Christ or the writers of the New Testament. (Sexual morality would be an example of such a law. The dietary laws aren't affirmed in the NT, so they'd be ceremonial.)

Anonymous said...

I don't want to start a debate here because I don't want to distract from the subject at hand. However as a Christian I must address opinions when presented as truth.
RE: your last comment, the true distinction between moral and ceremonial laws has nothing to do with whether it was captured by both old testament and new testament writers. The ceremonial laws were simply a shadow (example/antitype) of Christ's coming and when He did they were no longer necessary (Col. 2:14 - 16). All the other "Levitical" laws were simply to teach us how to live better moral, civil and healthy lives. All the punishments that were stated were taken away by Christ (Jn. 8:7). That's why we don't stone people any more. If it helps, think of them as guidelines but simply put, the OT/NT line is not as cut and dry as some Christians think. We must first analyze the purpose of God's commandments before we suggest that it has been done away with. God would not do away with dietary ,quarantine or other health related laws. The laws are to protect us not hinder us. After all, once the so called OT/NT separation took place humans did not stop being human and animals did not stop being animals. God knows what we should and shouldn't put in/on our bodies, however the choice is yours not because God did away with any law but because God gave us each free will. You can obey appetite or the Word of God, the choice is yours. Read Isaiah 66:17, which is prophesying about the end times and clearly makes a bold statement about who will be destroyed. Also read Malachi 3:1 - 6. God, after speaking of the coming "messenger" says that he does not change.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Anonymous.

God does not change, true. See also James 1:17, I believe it is.

However, God's requirements have changed. No animal sacrifices are required of Christians, to state the most important one. His requirements of the Gentile Christians seem to have been much less elaborate than those of the Jews. See the passage from Acts 17, which I quoted in the original post.

Thanks.

Jonathan Santiago said...

Great insight from Acts. And your point number 9 about attitude is a great one. It's easy for us to develop an attitude of rebellion and not of love. I just finished my own study on tattoos.

http://www.quickenme.com/can-christians-get-tattoos-according-to-the-bible/

I like how you defined OT Laws into three distinct categories. I came up with something similar but yours is a bit easier to follow. If I decide to use the words you used I will be sure to reference your page. Thanks for this insight.

Martin LaBar said...

I looked at your thorough study, and recommend it to any additional readers of this post.

Thanks for your comment.

There's no need to reference me for the three types of law. The idea isn't original with me, and if it's valid (which it may not be) it speaks for itself.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Labar,

I know I'm a little late reading & responding to this, however I just wanted to add my two cents. I have gotten two tattoos (both religious), but not until I was in my 30's. (I was afraid of what my parents, Phil & Martha Faye, would think, while they weren't wild about the idea, they didn't completely oppose!)

I would strongly encourage anyone who is considering a tattoo to give it plenty, plenty, plenty of thought & prayer, especially teenagers about to be of age to tattoo. You need to consider a tattoo permanent because laser treatment is expensive, can be extremely painful (more so than the tattoo originally), and not necessarily a perfect removal.

I will say that I did make a personal decision not to use any of the names of the Lord, because they are holy, and I didn't feel comfortable using them. I did use the title "the Lord", as I have Psalms 27:1 -"The Lord is my Light and my Salvation."

Thanks for your insight!
Heather Baily Cooper

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for your comment, and your wisdom, Heather!

It's never too late to comment on a blog post of mine. (Or at least it won't be as long as I can afford and use web access.)

Joe N. said...

Martin, I was doing some research on tattoos and Google brought me across your page. My Sunday School will be discussing it tomorrow.

I read the discussion of the ceremonial / moral law distinction with some interest. You see, if you follow Lev 19:28 to the next verse (29) you will find the prohibition to prostituting one's daughter. After that (v. 30) is another command to keep the sabbath and to reverence the santuary of the Lord (more on that one in a bit). Clearly, those laws still stand... even under grace. And the prohibition against tattooing in v. 28 has no qualifer attached to it as the prohibition on flesh-cutting did (for the dead).

While it's understandable that we are no longer bound to the ceremonial law of redemention (animal sacrifice for sins), it seems entirely reasonable that we are bound to the laws that identify us as separate from pagans cultures/religions or the "world" (Be in the world, but not OF the world - Paraphrased Romans 12:2 or look at James 4:4). I don't believe I could pimp my daughter into prostitution today with the approval of any Christian based on the argument that we're not bound to Old Testament law and this passage is dealing with "ceremonial laws" (the prohibition isn't repeated in the New Testament). The prohibition on killing one's infant children in the Old Testament was given only in the Old Testament and was specifically given to keep the Israelites from engaging in a diabolical pagan practice. Would anyone even think to make the same argument today that you used for tattoos to permit the killing of infants? After all, it was a "ceremonial" prohibition the same that flesh-cutting was and that you packaged tattooing into. I believe logic says this argument is not valid.

But another argument is made that today's tattoos are "art" or are an expression of worship (religious tattooing). The Christian body, as the temple of the Holy Spirit, is no place for a Christian's "art" to be hung on it. I think it's a safe bet that Christians would not approach their pastor to adorn the walls of their physical meeting place with the "art" they put on their body. can you imagine a butterfly (very popular with the ladies) adorning the pulpit? Or a fire-breathing dragon with blood dripping from its talons (I've seen more than a few men with this or similar themes) as the mural behind the choir? I doubt it highly. In fact, most Christians with tattos wear clothing that covers them while in church (at least, in the more traditional churches. I have yet to see any such art even in modern liberal churches however)

So what about religious tattoos? Surely that must please God? No, because God says obedience is better than good intentions. To disobey with good intentions is still disobedience and is sin. Look at the example of King Saul and Samuel's response to his disobedience. 1 Samual 15:22 - "And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams."

Cont. on next post...

Joe N. said...

So what of "Christian liberty"? 1 Corinthians 6:12 - "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any." And 1 Corinthians 10:23 - "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not."

Does having a tattoo edify the body of Christ? Clearly it causes strife and divisions (this thread is proof of that). Is that "expedient" or in other words "good" for the body of Christ? We are not called to strife, but peace. Colossians 3:15 - "And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful."

We're called to refrain from using our Christian liberty to engage in anything that might detract from the message of Christ... even if the action or activity is, in itself, without fault. That's an exceptionally high bar for Christians concerning any activity.

Given the weight of scripture concerning marks on the body and God's multiple instructions (in both the New and Old Testament) about the holiness and proper treatment of his Sanctuary and of our bodies as his Tabernacle, I'm not sure I can agree that God is approving or even merely apathetic in the area of tattoos.

Joe N. said...

I read back over my comments and I realize I took a very direct tone, perhaps a bit more than I intended. If it comes across argumentative, I apologize.

I believe we will all stand to account someday before God for what we choose to do in light of his Word. I don't believe God has "grey areas" such as we Christians tend to get caught up in.

Before I sign off, I'd like to leave two scriptures from the New Testament that reaffirm the relevance of the Old Testament for Christians under grace:

Romans 15:4 - "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope."

1 Corinthians 10:6, 11 (really the whole first part is applicable for this purpose) - (v. 6) "Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted." (v. 11) "Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come."

I should note all references are KJV. Thanks for reading if you got this far :)

Martin LaBar said...

I read this far, Joe N.

Thanks for your comments.

I would still argue that Leviticus 19 is a mixture of laws that were affirmed by the New Testament, and those that weren't.

I agree that pimping one's daughter (or anyone else's) remains sinful. Jesus reinforced the commandment against adultery in Matthew 5.

But I've never heard a sermon, against wearing mixed fabrics, based on verse 19b. And verses 23-25 seem clearly to have applied only during the time of the first occupation under Joshua. So Christians aren't bound by these, unless possibly by personal conviction. But verse 18b is reinforced by the New Testament, so still applies. (I'm using KJV here, too.)

I could go on, but will stop there.

Joe N. said...

Martin, I agree that Lev 19 contains some laws that Christians are still under... and some that we are not. The question is how can we, as Christians, tell which ones are which? I would suggest that if the New Testament contains principles that reaffirm the basis from which the OT law was made, then the OT should be respected.

The New Testament reaffirms the sanctity of the body of each individual believer as the physical sanctuary of the Holy Spirit. It says we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God and sacrifices are always to be without spot or blemish (both internally and externally). This language directly correlates to the how OT sacrifices were prepared and selected.

We are called to not be conformed to the world, and the particular OT laws we're considered were given specifically to bar activities that were part of pagan worship and practices (and still are in many cultures around the world today).

I don't read anything in the NT concerning mixed-fibre clothing or even dress standards, except a call for modesty. I don't read anything in the NT concerning specific hair care (corresponding to Lev 19:22) but there is considerable instruction against giving place to idol worship and identification with pagan or "worldly" practices which might detract from the ministry of God.

I guess, when it comes down to it, I'm curious to know if you dismiss Lev 19's relevance to Christians today, then what is your criteria for choosing what is and what is not currently applicable from OT law? If you have already explained, I'm sorry, I might've missed it but I don't think I've seen an explanation yet.

On a side note, to me, Lev 19:28 is really not the hang-up at all. I believe the stronger argument against it is actually made in the New Testament with regard to Christian liberty not being used as an occasion to the flesh and for things that identify with the world. The New Testament stressed the holiness of our bodies as vessels of righteousness and temples of God that gives the most food for thought on the issue.

Martin LaBar said...

I don't dismiss Leviticus 19. I don't think most of it is binding on Christians. All of it, as God's word, needs to be taken seriously, as you have done.

How can we tell which are which? By reading the Bible, praying, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit and other believers. But we won't always come to the same conclusions.

The New Testament church, as I am sure you know, eventually came to the conclusion that most of the OT rules were not binding. My own belief is that the prohibition against tattoos in the OT was one such rule.

There have been, and will continue to be, differences of opinion as to which are, and which aren't. Believing, as you do, that tattoos are a violation of the NT command to be the temple of the Holy Spirit, you should not have yourself tattooed. I am not convinced of this myself, however. I don't (I hope) condemn you for your belief, and I hope you don't condemn me for mine.

Romans 14 seems to be pretty clear that there were differences in the NT church, on other things, including, apparently, eating food offered to idols, and observance of the Jewish sabbath, and that love and tolerance for those who disagree on such matters is the rule. Tattoos aren't mentioned, but I would think wearing them, or not, would fall under the same sort of guidelines. I would suppose that there was prayer, seeking guidance, and consultation about these things, too, but complete agreement was not reached.

(This is not to say that Christians shouldn't agree on anything! We should agree on the necessity and importance of Christ's sacrifice and resurrection, for one thing. I would say that we should agree on the entire Apostles' creed.)

Thanks again for writing.

Me said...

Now that's just stupid; it's just some ink in the skin and not a big deal at all.

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you, me.

It is a big deal to some people, clearly, whether or not it should be.

Heather said...

I like the gentle way you approach this topic, although I feel there are too many health forums on the subject to ever find a tattoo to be a good idea. I'm not heavy enough to donate blood, but with a tattoo I couldn't donate for a year. Simply because I wanted something someone who could've used my blood won't get it. I also don't feel my body is...mine. It's on loan from our creator. I am more on the side of those who decide to keep their tattoos personal and hidden.

I don't think Tattoos are a good idea, but I can't judge those who think it's not a sin OR that it is a sin either. I realize that God will one day forgive us for our sins, but I think those pastors who say it's a sin are having a stand on something. In this world today most pastors just try to please and say it's between you and God. We need to stand for something, and in doing so NOT budge simply because it's more popular nowadays than it used to be.

Tattoos will be on your body for a while, and most people still look at them negatively. Especially employers who ask people to hide them. Our bodies are beautiful just the way they are, and I will stand by that.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Heather.

I tried to be gentle.

Yes, our bodies are beautiful as they are, although people in the Old Testament did use beauty treatments (Esther) and jewelry (Rebekah) to adorn or enhance female beauty.

As you say, we do need to stand for something (or against some things), but I'm not sure that standing against tattoos is the best place to draw those lines.

atlibertytosay said...

Thank you for this perspective Dr. LaBar ... I recently tackled the topic as well ...

http://www.atlibertytosay.com/2012/02/god-only-likes-tattoos-of-butterflies.html

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, atlibertytosay.

You handled it well, I think, and brought out at least one possibly relevant scripture that I hadn't thought of.

Anonymous said...

I really liked this article a lot. I went through a lot of contemplation before getting my tattoo. I wanted something that glorified God, a permanent reminder to others and myself that I am God's daughter. Not only that, but the meaning of the tattoo was strong for me in that it made me want to be a better person for God. I had heard so many arguments about whether tattoos were wrong or right and it really discouraged me.
After seeing so many incredible people in the world, doing more than I ever could to spread the word for God, who were COVERED in tattoos that honored him I was inspired. I spent a year of my life communicating with God to discover whether or not it was the right decision.
I got the tattoo with my parents approval (after hours of discussing with my tattoo-hating father he was very proud of my reasonings, and finds it beautiful). It has been such a great way to start conversations with others about the Lord, and I hope that it can ultimately help lead some people in his direction.
Overall, I think there is a lot to consider before getting a tattoo. But i do not believe they are BAD. Each person has their own relationship with God and should decide what is right or wrong from that.
This was a great article. Enjoyed reading it very much.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Anonymous, whoever you are.

I agree with you, except that I would say that tattoos aren't necessarily bad. Like most anything, they can be done for the wrong motive, or when you can't really afford it, etc.

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hello this is a great article, right to the point and very helpful for young teens who Love the Lord but want to know what's really behind having one, the only thing I would say is in you're article be careful how you categorize people with them like african americans you mentioned in this article because tattoos are worn by other races than bikers and african americans.

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you, anonymous.

I was simply giving examples, and not meaning to categorize people.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for what was correctly described as a gentle article, it is also simple and straightforward. I went in search of this topic after my grandfather sentenced me to hell after finding out about my tattoo. I told him simply that if committing what he thinks is a sin is what brings me to hell, than he can't believe salvation brings us heaven too, since one would be based on faith and the other works, I also threw in that his faith should be spread by showing Gods everlasting unconditional love, not by throwing his convictions on others. That pretty much ended the conversation but I wanted to be better versed for the future considering there are sure to be more people in my future that share the same views as my grandfather. I personally believe in the three categories you described, and believe tattoos are ok if done for the right reasons. I feel beautiful with my tattoo, and since I put thought and meaning behind it feel as if I wear my heart on my sleeve everyday. Ive found it has made me even more approachable to non Christians, as many have dealt with the conviction slinging Christians and therefore have been scared away, it has opened lines of communication that otherwise would have been avoided or shut off.

Anonymous said...

Nice! I like that last comment. I have two tattoos and one is dedicated to my Lord. It will not keep me from Heaven but I know that being judgmental and saying it will keep people from Heaven is a dangerous thing for anyone to say. Someday when those of us who once in our former bodies had tattoos ENTER heaven they will be humbled. Our relationship with Jesus decides our eternity...not our skin (which we won't have anyway)!!!

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Anonymous the first.

I hope that you and your grandfather both retain a loving attitude toward each other.

Yes, Anonymous the second. Being judgmental is not ours, although the Bible says that we shall be known by our fruits.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your fast response! My grandfather and I will stay on good terms always, everyone has such different beliefs I would be completely alone if I damaged any relationship with conflicting views! I'm of the strong belief people will believe what they want, and will find any eviden e that supports it, I'm included in that as is everyone else and for that reason choose to show my faith by acceptance, love, and a productive lifestyle. Amazingly since I've adopted this way of thinking I have brought a lot of people to Christ because they saw what I was doing worked for me. Before I had belonged to a church that though handing out bible pamphlets and praying over everyone was the way to go, since leaving that church my life, faith, and ministry actually exist!!

Martin LaBar said...

You are welcome, Anonymous.

God bless you.

Anonymous said...

Joe N. wrote, "... [The Bible] says we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God and sacrifices are always to be without spot or blemish (both internally and externally)."

While I am personally conflicted on the "right" or "wrong" decision, I have to say that this threw me. For such a strong viewpoint, this weakened the entire position for me. Which of us is INTERNALLY without spot or blemish? Were this even a feasibility, Christ's own sacrifice would have been unneccessary.

That said, I especially appreciate your perspective in this matter, and want to thank you for your list of questions to look inside the self with and ask before making such an unchanging choice. I have wanted a tattoo for all the 35 years I can recall, yet I remain conflicted. I suspect only if and until that passes, I will remain without.

However, should I ever make the call to get one, I pray most of all that my brothers and sisters in Christ will not turn me away, either me from their hearts or mine from theirs. Yet more than that, I pray that God will not revoke my invitation to love Him and join Him, and that he has not already done so for the family I have who has already made their irreversible choice.

I refuse to believe that a tattoo holds so great a consequence with an all-forgiving, unconditionally loving God, and the true detriment to our eternity is only in our failing faith, disbelieving hearts, and rejecting spirits towards He, His Son, and His offer and sacrifice in Christ to be our Savior, despite our sin...both INTERNALLY & EXTERNALLY.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for your support, Anonymous. God bless you.

Anonymous said...

Revelation 19:16. The Lord returns with marks on his robe and THIGH saying "King of Kings and Lord of Lords."

Martin LaBar said...

Hmmm. Christ with a tattoo? Possibly.

Thanks, Anonymous.

MichaelB said...

I enjoyed this a lot and wanted to thank you for being as unbiased as possible. I respect that.

I just wanted to say that i have a tattoo and plan on getting more and for those of you thinking about getting one please Please PLEASE be prayerful about it.
I understand a dolphin might look cute but isn't honoring God in any way. I use my tattoo now and the ones i plan to have in the future as a way to openly talk about God. Believe it or not they are a great way to get non christians asking questions about faith, love, and most importantly... God.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Michael B.

Anonymous said...

I have a nephew who has a portrasit of the devil on his shoulder, and his wife thinks it is fine. I think the issue is whether we are to copy the world, or try to live sanctified and set apart.

I was intrigued by your statement, "No one ever went to Hell gor getting a tattoo".
I am curious how you discover who has and has not gone to Hell.
Where did you get this information?

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you, anonymous.

As I understand it, people are condemned because of unbelief. Hebrews 3:19, and other passages, indicate that. It is true that unbelief may lead to disobedience, which could, I suppose, include having a tattoo, if God doesn't want a particular person to have one, or doesn't want a particular tattoo.

Maria said...

I thank God I got to read this although I've already decided on having a tattoo in the next few days. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and spiritual conviction. :)

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for your comment, Maria. I appreciate the feedback.

Anonymous said...

Dear all who care,

If you truly think about it our money can be better used than plastering our bodies with ink. Do you think Jesus would've got a tattoo? Personally, no. I believe Christ would find many reasons why he should not get one. Now I may be wrong, but the Bible isn't about acting like Christians, it's about acting like Christ. I never saw once that He had tattoos nor piercings, then why should I think it ok to them? If my heart is focused on Christ then I'd want to be like Christ, not like what seems to be Christian. If we are truly are seeking what God wants on the subject of anything, we should simply stop and see how Christ lived His life. Pray about it, yes. But still, I, not once, saw that Christ endorsed tattooing. Not to sound conceited, but this argument is rather silly. Look at what Christ did and act on, not on what other Christians have done.

Martin LaBar said...

I understand and sympathize with your comment, anonymous. We need to be careful as to wanting to adorn ourselves overmuch, because doing so may be an expression of pride.

However, we know very little about what Jesus wore. He probably didn't wear, or have, jewelry, because He described Himself as poor. We do know that He didn't wear glasses, or underwear with an elastic band around the waist, because they hadn't been invented yet, but I don't think that's a valid argument as to why I shouldn't, so even if Jesus wasn't tattooed, that's not a slam-dunk argument that 21st century people shouldn't be.

krisjamel said...

Hello,
Actually Mr. LaBar I think your initial argument sums up the argument with far more sense and sensibility than this most recent rebuttle you made. The things you named are a modern day convenience and for some a necessity, well that is except for jewelry of course. By the way, we know that Jesus did not wear jewelry because it was commanded by His Father (Exodus 33:5, 1 Timothy 2:9-10, 1 Peter 3:3-5). He being poor did not matter for if he were rich He would not purchase something so worthless and intended to bring attention to himself. We are to put on Godliness not jewelry, fancy garb and tattoos. Which leads me to my point; I believe our annonymous contributor was simply trying to say that we should use the "What would Jesus do?" measure rather than "What did Jesus do?". However her argument still holds merit because tatoos were available in His day and He could have chosen to get one. Can any Bible student look at the Character displayed by Jesus Christ and say that he would approve of us decorating our bodies with ink? After so many instances throughout the Bible where we are instructed to be not like the world how can you justify seeking something that comes from the world. Mr. LaBar, I have a request; correct those who read your blog and feel justified in their decision to get a tattoo with the equal amount of logic and correction you used to correct those who speak against it. These people need to study their Bible for these answers with prayer and supplication. You have established a very resonable argument in your original posting regarding tattoos, however I believe that your argument can apply to most of what we do in this world. If the Bible say do or don't do it, we should study the Bible for these answers, not seek comfort in what other like-minded souls have to say about it. I have read too many people that thank you for your post as it has verified some sort of inclination they've already had or helped them make their decision. However your blog should lead them back to the Bible and to prayer not to a decision. Thank you for your time.

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you for your post, krisjamel.

I'm going to stick mostly to jewelry in this comment. I wear a wedding ring, for what it's worth.

I note the passages you cite, on jewelry. It is possible that the first one was a special case, applying to the Hebrews at that time. I'm not sure. They still had the ornaments in Exodus 35. Whether they put them back on between 33 and 35, I don't know.

1 Timothy 2 mentions only women, which indicates pretty strongly that it is a commandment applying to that culture, not a moral commandment.

1 Peter 3 seems to be more about having inner beauty than about not having jewelry.

Jeremiah 2:32 indicates that maidens and brides, at least, wore jewelry, and the verse does not condemn the practice.

In other words, I don't think there's a rock-solid biblical case against wearing jewelry.

I don't think that we can be sure that Jesus didn't have one or more tattoos, or that He did. As far as I know, the Bible is silent on the subject, so we should be careful about making dogmatic statements, either way.

The Bible is not silent on pride, however, or on being ornamented by a humble, Christ-like spirit. There's a rock solid case for both of these. I believe that there are people who can, and do, have tattoos without pride, and with a humble, Christ-like spirit. There are, of course, those who have tattoos out of pride, or in mimicry of people who shouldn't be mimicked, and without a Christ-like spirit.

Thanks again for your comment.

krisjamel said...

Hello Again Mr. LaBar,
The Bible explains itself in almost all areas including why God told the Israelites not to make markings on their bodies and why Paul and Peter wanted Christians to emphasize Christ-like character over outward adornment. It's very simple, he chose us to be peculiar and standout in the world (Ex. 19:6, 1 Peter 2:9. Not by words or even individual actions but our lifestyles. There are principles involved with understanding the Bible and Christian living that go far beyond simple cultural references or whether it was commanded. Paul spoke to women because at the time men in general did not adorn themselves in such a way, however in modern society men adorn themselves in the same manner as women and even to more of an extreme. God continues to deal with us in his infinite wisdom and longsuffering because he knows us, however He has shown us in the Bible that He will only be patient but for so long. Jeremiah 2:32 mentions jewelry, however everytime something is mentioned in the Bible, whether it be right or wrong, it will not always be condemned. How often was it mentioned that the patriarchs had multiple wives and in turn how often was it condemned? Please understand, I'm not saying jewelry or tattoos are inherently wrong, nor am I by any means judging those who partake of either. I'm just stating what the Bible says and how our answers should come from our individual study of God's word through prayer. The Bible gives us moral principles as well as commandments. The Lord meets us where we are in an attempt to get us where we need to be. For instance, could the money spent on a tattoo be given as a freewill offering to help your local church pay bills or feed the hungry? Could the jewelry you wear tempt a recovering thief or make someone covet what you have? If the answer is yes to either question then the Bible is asking us, not commanding, "Why take the chance of ruining someone elses salvation over insignificant trinkets, body decoration, entertainment, etc.; even if it doesn't cause you to lose your own salvation?" Everyone is unique and therefore anything can be made into a salvivic issue and even further we can make anything an idol; including self. Romans 14:21 states, "It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak." This is clearly embodied above in your point #6. It seems that many of your readers miss your clear discernment of Biblical principle and I just pray that they are lead back to the Word. Thank you again for your always clear and respectful discourse.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for your comment, krisjamel.

You seem to be a lot surer about what went on in Bible times than I am, for example saying that men didn't wear jewelry in Paul's time. Maybe, maybe not. I don't think we know.

But I like this: "I'm just stating what the Bible says and how our answers should come from our individual study of God's word through prayer. The Bible gives us moral principles as well as commandments. The Lord meets us where we are in an attempt to get us where we need to be." I would add that we should also consult with mature Christians, and examine what, if anything, the church did, about important issues, not just depend on ourselves and our own interpretation of the Bible.

Jon said...

Great context of dividing scripture ! however I personally real that tattoos do fall under the moral code. If we look at the verses around Leviticus 19:18 and do a small amount of research this is evident.

Leviticus 19:26: - don't eat meat with blood,don't practice enchantments
Leviticus 19:27: Don't even cut your hair how the pagans cut theirs (round to represent a halo - or deity of a person)
Leviticus 19:28: Cutting - directly related with demons - (Mark 5- maniac)
In context we have three verse talking about pagan practices, demons and witchcraft. It is no coincidence tattoos are mentioned in these verses!

Martin LaBar said...

Perhaps, Jon.

But if so, doesn't this section require that men have a beard, as part of a moral code? (I've got one, and have had for decades, but not because of Leviticus 19:27.) I think it more likely that this is a commandment not to participate in pagan burial customs by getting a tattoo, and not a moral prohibition against tattoos in general. The statement about tattoos in Leviticus 19:28 doesn't seem to be reaffirmed in any way in the New Testament.

Thanks for your comment.

Jon said...

Leviticus 19:27: Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.

Thats a great thought. Like I said it dose require a small amount of research but I found several places that confirmed both the Egyptians and other pagans in the time of this command had a practice of cutting their beard and hair in a circular fashion to create a roundness. This symbolized the deity of the person and was often wore by kings, priest or Pharaohs (Egypt)

So we see God is commanding against 5(6 if you include tattoos) pagan rituals.

1 - Meat with blood
2 - Enchantments
3 - Observation of times
4 - Pagan haircut
5 - cutting of flesh for dead
6 -Tattoos

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Jon. I think so, and not commanding against tattoos in general.

Anonymous said...

James 4:12. Good arguments btw. Both sides have good points. These points are products of our OWN understanding enforced by what we have learned from our experiences, teachings from elders teachers, commentaries, blogs, and the Bible it self. These are opinionated views mashed up into one. It would be best if all of whatwe have shared here came directly from God to us. There would be no point of feeding ones mind with our beliefs and understanding if we have different positions reagrding the topic. We have been given free will, we know what is morally right and what is not. Let God be the judge for the purpose of our actions and not what it may seem to others

Anonymous said...

Cont... because this is not the sole judgment of what we do. Its all in God's hands.

Again, the arguments are both valid. It was great, really fascinating and it helped me broaden my understanding. Peace be with us.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for your comments, Anonymous.

Suefan said...


Jesus Christ said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly I tell you, until Heaven and Earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5: 17-19 NIV)

Jesus said “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them” (the Law and the Prophets), making clear that “abolish” means one thing and “fulfil” means another.

Suefan said...


Jesus Christ said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly I tell you, until Heaven and Earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5: 17-19 NIV)

Jesus said “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them” (the Law and the Prophets), making clear that “abolish” means one thing and “fulfil” means another.

Suefan said...


Jesus Christ said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly I tell you, until Heaven and Earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5: 17-19 NIV)

Jesus said “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them” (the Law and the Prophets), making clear that “abolish” means one thing and “fulfil” means another.

Suefan said...


Jesus Christ said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly I tell you, until Heaven and Earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5: 17-19 NIV)

Jesus said “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them” (the Law and the Prophets), making clear that “abolish” means one thing and “fulfil” means another.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Suefan. I'm not clear on how this applies, though.

Tim S said...

Thank you for your insight. In my opinion Leviticus 19:28 is telling us not to tattoo our bodies with statements saying we are the lord or god or some type of supreme being. It is my belief as the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 our bodies are temples and we should glorify god in our bodies and spirits. To me that means treat our bodies like a church. Any church you go into is decorated with pictures and banners honoring god, if our body is a temple/church then I think its OK to decorate it as long as its honoring god. All the tattoos I want are from my Christian beliefs. God is the only person who really knows our hearts therefore if a person claiming to be Christian turns away from someone because of a tattoo or appearances or lifestyle then they are not showing gods love which is what brings people out of the darkness into the light of salvation. Again this is my own personal interpretation of this topic. Thanks again.

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you for your comment, and your spirit, Tim S.

Anonymous said...

I think that tattoos look bad and set a bad example because they are controversial. Anyone who studies old testament law knows that many of the things there that are forbidden are obviously still forbidden today. Therefore Lev. 19:28 I believe still applies today. Several people also said when they see their tattoo it reminds them...we should not need to look at a tattoo on our body to be reminded to have a good relationship with God. And we shouldn't have to get a tattoo to show others we are Christians... That is crazy!! We are supposed to show God to others by the fruits that we bear, how we live our lives. I do not believe tattoos are a good thing for Christians to have and no one is ever going to give me a reason they got one that I feel is justified. However I would never mistreat or turn someone away from the church because of a tattoo or piercing.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Anonymous.

Many things from Old Testament Law are not required of Christians, and, apparently, have not been since the Jerusalem Conference in Acts 15.

I appreciate your last sentence.