Does tattooing desecrate the body? by Roy Davison



Does tattooing desecrate the body?

“How sad when people desecrate their beautiful God-given bodies with tattoos.”

One brother objected when I made the above statement because people he loves have tattoos. I also love people with tattoos, which is why their tattoos make me sad.

First, although I will explain why a Christian should not get a tattoo, I wish to emphasize that there are fine, dedicated Christians who have tattoos as indelible marks of their former life. A tattoo is a permanent mutilation of the body. Thus, as one new Christian said, “When I was baptized my sins were washed away, but my tattoos are still there.” Another Christian comforted him, “Don’t worry! They will be gone in the resurrection!” Christians with indecent tattoos hide them from view if possible, of course.

Israel was told, “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 18:28).

What does this mean and does it apply to a Christian? Christians serve God under the New Covenant, not under the law of Moses. Thus, as a law, this does not apply to a Christian. “Whatever things were written before were written for our learning” (Romans 15:4), however, thus we must still ask if there are truths we can learn from this passage. And, are there teachings in the New Covenant that indirectly condemn getting a tattoo?

Some claim that Leviticus 18:28 relates only to idol worship and does not apply to tattoos in general. The verse itself, however, does not limit the condemnation to idol worship.

“In Leviticus 19:28 we find two prohibitions of an unnatural disfigurement of the body: ‘Ye shall not make any cutting in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you.’ The latter (Hebrew: qa aqa, incision) refers to tattooing, and has no reference to idolatrous usages, but was intended to inculcate upon the Israelites a proper reverence for God’s creation” (Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Bible Dictionary, 1974 ed., p. 696).

“While ‘cuttings in the flesh’ have reference here to mourning customs [for the dead], the tattooing does not appear to pertain to such practice” (Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, 1975 ed., p. 1664).

Thus, from this passage we learn that God does not want us to mutilate our bodies.

The respect that we are to have for our bodies as Christians is raised to a higher level in the New Testament. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). The body of a Christian belongs to God! “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).

The body of a Christian is holy and ought not to be mutilated or subjected to needless harm.

Tattoos mutilate the body and make it vulnerable to infection. Each puncture of a tattoo needle involves a risk of acquiring blood-borne diseases.

Our skin provides protection against disease. A tattoo gun can puncture the skin up to 3000 times a minute. Each hole is about one millimeter deep and breaches the skin’s protective layer. A tattoo consists of thousands of puncture wounds into which insoluble ink has been injected.

“Tattooing poses health risks because the process exposes blood and body fluids. Because of this, a person who gets tattooed risks getting a disease or infection that is carried through blood. These blood-borne diseases include hepatitis B and C, tetanus, and HIV” (Bonnie B. Graves, Tattooing and body piercing, p. 40).

In 1991 Dr. Paul Fisher noticed among his patients an abnormally high amount of hepatitis C, a serious viral liver infection. By surveying 600 patients, he and Dr. Robert Haley discovered that the disease was being contracted through tattooing.

A Christian’s body belongs to God and ought not to be desecrated and subjected to needless risks by tattooing. Forgiveness is of course available to Christians who repent, but the mark will remain.
Roy Davison

The Scripture quotations in this article are from The New King James Version. ©1979, 1980, 1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.

Published in The Old Paths Archive