Q: Leviticus 19:28 prohibits wearing tattoos, yet there are many Christians who seem to have them including a pastor and several musicians I know. Why are they violating the Bible teaching?
“You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:28 — NASV
A: First of all, the context of the whole passage of Leviticus 19:26-31 has to do with pagan and cultic religious practices. The cuts and marking of the body was related to mourning, remembering, and worshipping the dead and false gods– reflecting the cultic practices of the false religions that in the area at the time.
The passage also prohibited a number of other cultic practices including: eating bloody meat, fortune telling, cultic hair cuts, cultic prostitution, and consulting psychics.
When someone gets a tattoo today, they are mostly decorating their body and not following some false religious practice or ceremony involving some false gods. They are not really violating this Bible passage unless they are specifically getting tattoos which are satanic symbols or symbols of false religions and false gods.
Secondly, the Mosaic Law presented in Leviticus does not all apply to Christians. While there are important principles behind all the regulations to consider, New testament believers are free to eat pork, shellfish, and most Christians now meet on Sunday rather than Saturday.
Are there any relevant New Testament Scriptures which may apply? Yes, I believe so. First of all, one good passage to consider is 1 Corinthians 6:19-20:
“… know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
Many Christians feel convicted by this scripture not to get tattoos, while other Christians maintain that they are glorifying God by getting crosses or Christian symbols tattooed on their body. So this scripture seems to cut both ways.
I believe that Romans 14:1-12 is relevant to the tattoo situation. Christians should be careful not to judge other brothers and sisters in this matter, while each one should maintain their own convictions and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in their own life. *Top