If you're reading this it's a good chance you are Christian and interested in what the Bible says about outward appearances. Specifically tattoos and whether Christians should be involved in getting, or giving, tattoos.
Most Christians are familiar with the following words from 1st Samuel 16:7 which say:
"...the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart."
And most Christians are familiar with the verse in the New Testament (Matthew 15:11) where Jesus Christ is quoted as saying:
"Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man."
Of course there are some Christians that believe having tattoos is in violation of 1st Thessalonians 5:22 which says:
"Abstain from all appearance of evil."
The assumption (made by anti-tattoo Christians) is that tattoos are "evil", or "wicked" in themselves. The fact is their assumption (about tattoos being "bad") is not based on the Bible, but rather their own personal biases. Those who disdain tattoos and think them morally bad, "evil", and/or "Sinful" are people who don't like tattoos anyway -regardless of what Bible verses they use to condemn them.
It is certainly understandable that people have different tastes in clothing and physical appearance in general. Yet when one seeks to use Holy Scripture to codify their personal biases and to justify their pharisee-like judgment of fellow Christians then they have opened the door to be judged themselves.
"Judge not, that ye be not judged." from Matthew 7 does not mean Christians are not to judge between good and bad, it is saying be careful how you judge and what you judge to be "bad". The very next 2 verses after that verse explain this fact very clearly:
"For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"
above ^ are two photos of the author, one from years back, just beginning to get tattoos (top), and (bottom) today
If you're reading this there is also a good chance that someone sent you this link because you are anti-tattoo, and base your anti-tattoo stance mostly on one very specific Bible verse:
Leviticus 19:28 (that's Twenty EIGHT)
The twenty eighth verse of Leviticus chapter 19 says (I am using the King James Version in this article being as that is the most commonly quoted translation used by the anti-tattoo Christian crowd):
"Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD."
....sadly, most that cite the above verse -in condemnation of tattoos- never get around to reading the verse right before it, verse 27, which says:
"Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar [shave] the corners of thy beard."
Ironically the anti-tattoo zealots seem to "shave" off, or mar, the words of the verse right before their favorite "anti-tattoo" verse. The anti-tattoo crowd that claim their objections to tattoos are Biblically based almost never dare bring attention to verse twenty SEVEN when quoting from chapter 19 of Leviticus.
Self-righteous Christians will smugly sling around Leviticus 19:twenty EIGHT when judging the outward appearances of those with tattoos. Yet, (almost) never do they also sling out twenty SEVEN in condemnation of men that don't have full beards. To be fair, there are indeed some Christians that not only condemn tattoos, but also clean-shaven, full-beardless, men. Those anti-tattoo, full-bearders, are at least attempting to be consistent when it comes to Leviticus chapter 19.
The point here, and of this whole article in general, is: "IF" getting tattoos, in general, is indeed a Biblically defined "Sin" (according to the interpretation by some people of Leviticus 19:28) then so is not having a FULL beard (according to in Leviticus 19:27).
I was Southern Baptist in my teenage years (13-18) and a very zealous one at that -I had joined the church and attended Bible study classes and services totally on my own -with my parents' permission of course, though they weren't members, nor attended, themselves. I include this about myself so you can understand that I have always had a strong desire to seek and worship my Creator and that no one "brainwashed me" to believe in God, or "made" me go to church.
When I was 18, and had moved to another area, I joined an independent "Holiness" congregation and remained a member (and was the pastor's assistant) for about 5 years -until I was around 24, when I moved again. Having a "Holiness" background, I am certainly familiar with the usage of Bible verses to build doctrine around that deal with how people should dress and appear.
the author (2010)
In my early adult years I had not yet gotten any tattoos, but it was not because I personally disdained them. I have always liked looking at tattoos on other people and never did I have any revulsion or bad feeling about them. I never thought they looked "nasty" nor did I see them as "mutilation" of the body. Back then when I read Leviticus 19:28, and Leviticus 21:5 I just assumed what I was being told by others about those verses -that getting tattoos would be a sin for me to do- was correct. I just assumed those two verses from the two different chapters in Leviticus were being cited, by the anti-tattoo Christians, in their proper context.
the author (2013)
It was not until I was close to 30 that I noticed something about Leviticus 19:28, and 21:5.
BOTH verses were in context of condemning particular pagan practices, very specific, and historical, pagan practices.
Before you say "tattooing is pagan", read Leviticus 19:27 AND 28 and read Leviticus 21:5, the WHOLE verse.
Both Leviticus 19:27 and Leviticus 21:5 condemn the practice of men SHAVING the sides of their faces as PAGAN!
"...neither shalt thou mar [shave] the corners of thy beard." -Leviticus 19:27
"They [the Levite priests] shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard..." -Leviticus 21:5
"The word for 'shave' or 'cut' is tah-kih-fu and means:
'to surround, compass' 'to go or come round, of time'.'To make or let go around' 'with men 'taking turns' at hosting banquets. In the sense of surround or encircle'. 'Hunting nets are cast, drawn around (Job 19:6) and Israelites are forbidden to shave or trim around the head (leaving a tuft of hair on top, emulating pagan cultists - Lev. 19:27)."
"The Hebrew word here for “corners” is the word “pe-ah” which means sides. The clear interpretation of the text is that God was referencing “side-burns”. The prohibition is against the men of Israel cutting off their sideburns and wearing a “goatee”. The reason for the prohibition is because the ancient men of Egypt wore goatees. It is important to remember how both the men and women of Egypt revered the he-goat."
Personally, I think it is more a "clear interpretation of the text" to say God was refrencing the whole side of the face, and not just the sideburns, but the cheek hair too. Yahweh was saying that afull beard, not just a goatee, had to be grown.
I am not so sure that the prohibition against goatees, of which the writer agrees was what was being prohibited, was due to the alleged revering of male goats by Egyptians.
As can be seen by ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and artifacts royalty, priests and gods were sometimes depicted with goatees.
BOTH verses of the two chapters, 19 and 21, also condemn cutting the head hair in a specific manner using the wordage of "round the corners of your heads" (Lev. 19:27), and "make baldness upon their head (Lev. 21:5)". Some Catholic monks and priests have been known to practice rounding the corners of their head hair and making baldness on their heads (see image below).
When I noticed that the same two verses used to condemn tattooing (Lev. 19:28 and 21:5), as an allegedly "pagan" practice, appear with wording addressing shaving part of one's facial hair I realized what was really being condemned. The context of the words in Leviticus 19:28 "Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you" finally became clear to me. Allow me to explain.
The words "for the dead" are showing the reader of the verse a very important clue. In ancient pagan, Canaanite, practices when someone died it was not uncommon to cut, or print (yes, tattoo) "markings" in mourning ritual. It also was not uncommon to cut one's hair and to give some of that hair in "offering" to, or for, the dead loved one. It also was a common practice among some pagan priests to shave the top of their heads and/or cut the hair in a manner that rings the head like one is wearing a crown or headband.
Many years back (in the late 1980's) I seen in a book (I do not remember it's name) an explanation of the facial hair style of ancient pagan fertility cult priests. The book said that certain ancient middle eastern fertility cults had priests that grew goatees, which, of course, means they SHAVED THE CORNERS (sides) of their beards! The book explained that the goatees where allowed to grow very long and then were kept in a split manner to resemble the pubic hair of a woman's vaginal area. The symbolism was important to the ancient Canaanite fertility cults which idolized female goddesses.
Below are a couple of images of men with beards split in the same manner as was illustrated in an illustration (drawing) presented in the book. The men in the below images, I am sure, wore their beards in that manner simple for looks and not out of worship of some fertility goddess. I have searched the internet looking to see if perhaps that writing, or anything similar to it, has ever been put into digital form and I have not been able to find it, or anything akin to it, if it has been. I also have searched on the net for confirmation, or refutation, of that article's claim and have found nothing, either way. I am convinced that the explaination has merit, considering the feminine goddess idolatry and fertility sex cults Canaan Land was rife with when the ancient Hebrew Israelites entered it. The idea, presented above in the quote I cite, that the goatees were about Egyptian paganism, is also logical. Perhaps it was due to both Egyptian and Canaanite pagan goatees that the Hebrew men were prohibited from having goatees for beards, and instead to were only to have full-face beards. There is, no doubt, that there is a logical, historical, explanation for why Yahweh God would prohibit the shaving of the sides, or checks, and thus creating a goatee. Today there is no reason to prohibit the shaving of the sides of the face or wearing a goatee or mustache because facial hair styles aren't seen as having any religious (idolaterous) significance in White Christian cultures.
When I began to re-visit the supposed verses that prohibit tattooing straight across the board I put 2 and 2 together, as they say. First, I noticed that only one verse in Leviticus, or the whole Bible for that matter, addresses tattooing. Leviticus 19:28 uses the specific wording: "print any marks" (the Septuagint says: "inscribe on yourselves any marks") -which is wording that is quite clear to be speaking directly about the practice of putting ink in the skin. In my early adult years I just assumed those words settled the issue of tattoos -that the Bible prohibited them, period. As a member of an independent Holiness congregation I just accepted what I was told about those words. Yet during that whole time I personally never seen tattoos as "evil" in themselves and I never believed, as many claimed, that it was "mutilating" or "disfiguring" of the body to get tattooed.
I, as a teenager in the 80's, had a pierced ear. Back then guys that had pierced ears and wore earrings, for the most part, only got one ear pierced. I pierced my own ear, with a sewing needle and some rubbing alcohol, and then shoved an earring in the hole. I was a Christian (a Baptist) then, when I did it (16), and I didn't feel like I was doing anything "Sinful". When I joined the Holiness church, later at age 18, I stopped wearing an earring, yet I still never felt it was wrong or Sinful for men or women to have pierced ears and wear earrings. I never seen any thing Sinful about men, or women, wearing necklaces, bracelets or rings for that matter, either.
Some claim that the act of piercing the ear lobe is an act of "mutilation" and a "Sin". Yet Deuteronomy 15:17 clearly shows GOD DON'T THINK IT'S A SIN TO PIERCE THE EAR CARTILAGE....
"Then thou shalt take an awl, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever. And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise." ...that is an ear piercing.
That, ladies and gentleman is "Body Modification", and so is male CIRCUMCISION for that matter.
Christians that misunderstand and misrepresent what the Holy Scripture say make the Bible look foolish to the unbeliever -as the above ^ sacrilegiously sarcastic meme I found on the internet demonstrates.
Many Holiness churches (like the one I attended), and other Christian sects, believe that it is a "Sin" for women or men to wear jewelry period, and more so earrings that require ear piercing. Yet, most other Christians, that think tattoos are "Sinful" don't oppose the wearing of jewelry by men and women. I also have found that the vast majority of Christians that condemn tattoos are not opposed to women wearing make-up (excluding sects like the Holiness and others that do). Their reasoning is usually a twisting combination of taking Leviticus 19:28 and 21:5 out of context and the bizarre "logic" that: "tattoos are permanent, but make-up can be removed".
While it is understandable that Bible verses can be innocently misunderstood, or ignorantly taken out of context, there is no excuse for making up bullshit as you go to justify your personal biases. It is abuse of the Holy Bible to twist it's Sacred Texts just to give your bias some Biblical basis. It is even more pathetic when one uses confusingly contradictory "reasoning" to shore up their made-up dogma. Matthew 5:19 speaks of the outwardly pious that know the Sacred Scriptures yet insist on ADDING their own twists to them to justify THEIR standards of "holiness".
The fact is putting anything ON or UNDER your skin is either a Biblical Sin or not. One being permanent and the other being temporary has absolutely no bearings on whether it is wrong or not. I pose the question to those that believe tattoos in general are Sin: Is it a Sin to write on your skin, for example, say a phone number on your hand??
If your answer to the above query is "No" and you say it is no because "it will wash off and isn't permanent" then my next question to you would be "Isn't that still a 'imprinting', or 'inscribing' a 'mark' upon yourself??"
If your answer to the second question is "No, because it is not permanent" I will be compelled to ask you "What gives YOU the "authority" to arbitrarily declare as to whether permanence makes a difference or not when it comes to 'printing' 'marks' on the body??"
My point being, either putting anything on your skin is Sin or is not a Sin, period. Take note that Lev. 19:28 in the King James Version says "upon" and the Septuagint says "on" so obviously, in the generic sense, it is speaking of something that changes the (outer) appearance of the skin. And make-up, whether women's make-up, stage make-up, face paint, and even camouflage paint, are indeed ways of modifying the appearance of the skin. It matters not the length of time any of that lasts. There are Christians that believe women wearing make-up is a Sin, and being like the evil "Jezebel" of the Bible. The Holiness church I was a member of taught that, but like tattoos, I personally had no problem with women wearing make-up and seen nothing wrong with it in itself. [I need to explain that I attended the Holiness church because I deeply loved the spiritual teachings taught there, in spite of the fact that I disagreed with some of the "superficial" doctrines]
Then there is the fact that most women that wear make-up re-apply it daily. So the lame argument that putting stuff on your skin that is not permanent is "okay", simply because it can be washed off, makes no logical, nor Biblical, sense whatsoever. I pose the question to those who use make-up what about PERMANENT MAKE-UP?? Would it be a Sin if you had your eyeliner, or whatever, applied IN your skin as opposed to just ON it??
Some will argue that the "marks" spoken of in Leviticus 19:28 are specifically speaking of marks made IN the flesh and not ON the flesh. At least in that point they are consistent for Strong's Concordance lists the word "marks" from Leviticus 19:28 as #7085 and defines it as "incision or gash". Technically speaking tattooing, in both ancient times and modern times, is done by piercing the skin with a needle and not by cutting or making gashes into the skin. But I am not arguing, as I have already said, Leviticus 19:28 is clearly speaking of some sort of tattooing (marking, inking) practice, and the prohibition of it. Again it reads:
"Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you" (Lev 19:28)
Clearly "printing" or "inscribing" by making "incision or gash" ("marks") is reference to putting ink into the skin. Many translations actually use the term "tattoo" or "tattoos" (see here). Again, I do not deny that Leviticus 19:28 is speaking of tattooing. I do, however deny that Leviticus 21:5 is speaking of tattooing and I only add this point because some who condemn tattooing used both Lev. 19:28 and Lev. 21:5. The reason thy couple those 2 verses in condemnation of tattooing is because both speak of "cuttings" (in the skin). Yet, only Leviticus 19:28 actually speaks of marking the flesh, or tattooing, or placing ink -and it is the only verse in the whole Bible that does. The "CUTTING" those 2 verses are addressing is a historically known, and very specific, pagan practice of taking a knife, a blade (not a needle and ink) and cutting one's self -to being blood. This heathen practice is demonstrated in 1st Kings 18:28 when pagan priests...
"cried aloud [to Baal] and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out..."
Clearly the above incident was not tattooing, or printing markings, or injecting ink, into their skin. Also note the words "after their manner". The "cuttings" prohibited in both Lev. 19:28 and 21:5 were pagan religious ritual cuttings. I have a friend, a well-meaning Christian, who had open-heart surgery. He once meekly told me he thought that the huge surgical scar up and down his upper chest was a Biblically prohibited "cutting" in the flesh and felt bad about it. I assured him his medical cut wasn't "Sinful" by simply pointing out to him the CONTEXT (type) of the cuttings of Lev. 19:28 and 21:5. It has always bothered me that someone, such as my friend, can be led to believe things are Sinful, and against God, that the Bible is not even speaking of.
I have established in this article that (only) Leviticus 19:28 is speaking about tattooing. I also have established that both Leviticus 19:27 and 28, as well as Leviticus 21:5, speak of cutting the flesh, the hair of the head, and the facial hair (on the sides of the face). Again from Leviticus:
Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar [shave] the corners of thy beard.
Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you (19:28)
They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh.
The point being Leviticus, in chapters 19 and 21, is clearly condemning a collection of specific pagan practices, not haircuts, facial hair styles, or tattoos, in general.
But, if YOU, as a Christian, insist on using Leviticus 19:28 to condemn tattooing in general then YOU are hereby called on to also condemn the practice of shaving the sides of one's face while allowing facial hair of the front of the face to grow.
If YOU condemn tattooing then you had better also condemn goatees and mustaches or you sir, or ma'am, are a HYPOCRITE.
Any Christian that dares to use Leviticus verses to condemn tattooing as "pagan" in itself had better also condemn the practice of men shaving the sides of their beards off! ...Else, they are condemned in their own pharisaical, double-minded hypocrisy! All Christians should know what the Bible says about the double-minded (see: James 1:8).
If you want to use the book of Leviticus to condemn any and all tattoos then you might as well be consistent -and like the those that practice Islam and Judaism- and call goatees, and mustaches, "Sin" as well.
I don't condemn tattooing, nor do I condemn having goatees, mustaches, soul-patches or any of the varied versions of facial hair styles that require the shaving of the hair of the sides of the face. I don't because I don't see where the Bible does.
Instead I see in Leviticus strict condemnation of Paganism in general. The ancient Israelites, that lived at the time of the writing of Leviticus, understood exactly what verses like Leviticus 19:28 and 21: 5 were addressing. So many times Bible verses, and their textual contexts, are not understood, or misunderstood, until the historical contexts of the period they were written in are understood.
Some people claim that goatees are evil for men to have because the pagan god "Pan" was depicted in art during ancient times with a goatee. They point out that the image of Pan was later used to depict Satan. It is obvious that ancient artwork of Pan was later used, or copied, to depict "Satan" in later artwork. I base this not on the facial hair, but of the over goat-like appearance both Pan and Satan are consistently depicted to both have -including horns.
"The first goatee may have been worn by Satan. The devil's image is based on Pan, the ancient Greek half-man, half-goat deity. When early Christians began abolishing pagan religions and their gods, they needed someone to play the heavy. They chose Pan, a lover of music, dancing and sex. His flute was replaced by a pitchfork and he was transformed from the god of woods and pastures to the ruler of hell."
The problem with that blanket assumption -that goatees are totally "of the devil"- is if one takes the time to look at the different artistic depictions of Pan in surviving ancient art he SOMETIMES had a goatee and other times a full beard (see images below). And other times Pan is depicted, in ancient art, as being clean-shaven. So attributing the wearing of goatees to being totally paganistic, or "Satanic", in themselves, really has no basis in historical, or Biblical, truth.
Yet still, Leviticus, in two different places (19:27 and 21:5), clearly condemns a beard that is missing the side (jaw/cheek) hair and sideburns. While there is only one verse speaking of tattooing, there are TWO verses speaking of goatees (and mustaches) and yet almost never do tattoo-haters, that are Christians, ever hate goatees and facial hair styles that involve shaving the sides of the face!!!
This article is written by me (Bro. Ryan) not to defend my own many tattoos and my personal appreciation for Skinart in general (for I don't believe they need defending). Instead I write this in hope that it will awaken, at least some, rabid anti-tattoo Christians to their blatant pharisaical hypocrisy.
As I have already said in this article I respect those zealous Christians that condemn BOTH tattoos AND goatees (based on their understanding of Leviticus) -for at least they are making an effort to be consistent.
Those Christians that deliberately cherry-pick certain words out of one verse and willfully ignore other words and verses to support their selfish, self-righteous, and self-centered agendas are hereby called out. You have been checked,
I challenge you to either condemn all facial hair styles on men except full beards -and at least be consistent- or, accept the Levitical prohibition of both tattooing and goatees in the historical context they were written in.
Biblical Christianity is opposed to paganism and idolatry, and no one argues against that fact. The New Testament teaches that materialism is idolatry and a form of paganism if you will. Such New Testament verses as 1st John 2:15-17 tell Christians not to love the world or the (material) things of the world. Jesus told us to seek first the Kingdom of God, and Righteous behavior, before all other things (see: Matthew 6:33). But no where in the New or Old Testaments does it say we are not to seek earthly possessions at all. Nor does the Bible say we are required to all dress and appear the same. The Scripture only speaks of modesty and gender appropriateness but it does not say we have to appear in the same exact manner. There are of course Christian sects (Amish and Mennonites, for example) that teach that the members of their congregations must all dress and appear the same to avoid the Sin of (false) Pride. I would guess that the "coat of many colors" Joseph wore (Genesis 37:3) would be "too flashy" or "worldly" in their opinions. Perhaps Jesus's unique seamless robe wouldn't be modest enough for them either (John 19:23).
Some anti-tattoo Christians try to claim that getting and having tattoos is "being like the world" or making yourself appear "worldly" and looking "like the Sinners". Funny thing though... their pseudo "logic" is never applied logically, or consistently. For the same people that claim having tattoos makes you look worldly, and is a worldly thing to do, will make a fuss about how men should wear ties or suits. Considering that the world, the WICKED World, is run by men in suits and ties, I will have to say such standards are based, not on the Bible, but, again, personal, carnal, and truly worldly, biases.
In closing, I would like to state that, as for my tattoos, you can rest assured that I did not get any in tribute, or service to, any Canaanite gods. And though I have many tattoos, I did not spend very much for them because most of mine were at reduced prices, in barter (trade -no money involved), or free, because I have friends that are professional tattoo artists. I have had Christians (some of whom also had some tattoos) tell me that maybe I had "too many". I always ask someone that says that to me "What do you mean by 'too many', what is the limit?" The phrase "too many" can be applied to anything someone has. What may be too many tools for you to own may not be enough to the professional mechanic or hobby wood worker. I am what is known in the tattoo sub-culture as a "tattoo collector" and that term means exactly what is sounds like: someone who collects tattoos. It is no different than someone who collects salt and pepper shakers, sports memorabilia, or photos of their grand children.
I have a genuine appreciate for Skinart, and have since a young kid. I also enjoy Rock & Roll and Heavy Metal music, and have since a young boy as well. As an adult I have had short hair on my head, long hair and I have shaved my head. Also as an adult I have had a full beard for a few years, goatees off and on, as well as been clean shaven. I got my other ear pierced (years ago), and now both are gauged, and I wear earrings. I prefer to wear all black, jeans and shirts, with work boots, and I won't wear suits or ties. I am sure something I have just said in this paragraph will actually be considered "Sin" by some Christians. I am also sure that this article will be half-ass read by some anti-tattoo fanatics, and what I have said and pointed out will be ignored or dismissed. Yet, the fact remains....anyone that dares to twist Leviticus 19:28 to condemn all tattooing had better also condemn goatees and mustaches as the verse before (27) does or that person is just a raving HYPOCRITE.