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Tattoos & Piercings

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It is not only young people who have tattoos and piercings nowadays. Even pension-age men and women get these awful decorations added to their bodies. The Bible says very little about them, but enough to get us thinking. Of course, those whose minds have been secularised by society, and who desire after sin, will not bother to think twice about it. So, this paper is short but serious counsel to all.

I find tattoos dowdy, no matter how colourful they might be. Some cover every inch of their bodies, and from a short distance they just look as if they are covered in dirt. Some extremists have tattoos plus body modifications, so their faces look like, say, a tiger, or even the human idea of what Satan looks like! These I find completely ugly and repulsive. I think the same about piercings, especially in young women, no matter where they are located. I just find them unattractive and ugly in a girl or woman who would otherwise be pretty and feminine. And some people cover their faces with these things! To me this is a gross distortion of what the human form should be like.

From 2007, The Beacon

I wrote the following very short piece in a 2007 Beacon (No 113): “Sadly, many Christians follow their unsaved neighbours in many things. We have all done this to some degree. What about tattoos or piercings, even for ear-rings and other items used to pierce the body (I mean those multiple rings that stud the ear lobe, those in the tongue and on other body parts!)? Look at Leviticus 19:28, where it speaks of cutting the body and using markings. They are condemned by God because they are heathen activities. Ear-rings worn in certain ears were once used by pirates, then, later, by homosexuals. Yet, many Christians, in their ignorance, wear them in the same ears. Now you know, what will you do about your piercings and tattoos. They might be fashionable, but are they right?”

Then, in a Bible study on Genesis 35, I made this note: “In my lifetime, as near as the 1960’s, only two kinds of people wore ear-rings… merchant sailors and, if worn in a particular ear, homosexuals. That was why, even then, no male I knew wore ear-rings, unless they belonged to either type of group. Sadly, rock groups started to wear them (possibly because many were also homosexual) and this began a trend amongst young people, along with equally pagan tattoos. Whatever the reason for wearing them, they are symbols of vanity and the willingness to follow the ways of the world.”

So, tattoos and piercings were associated with sexual perverts and those willing to adopt worldly ways. Another reference is in an article on self-harm, in which I said “We may even loosely add tattooing to this very odd condition, especially as it hurts, and many who do it cover their whole bodies with unsightly designs!” The above more-or-less covers the issue, so let us look at Leviticus 19:28.

“Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I [am] the LORD.” 

The text is amongst warnings about occultism and copying the heathen. It says “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.” Marks, whether using plant material like henna, or having permanent tattoos (which cut deeply into several layers of dermis) are prohibited. What about ‘cuttings’? These can range from slicing parts of the body, as with some kinds of body modifications, or piercing with metal things like scalpels, knives and needles. This is why I included a reference in the article on self-harm, damage such as slashing the wrists, or cutting them regularly in a more controlled manner, insufficient to kill. To me the biblical statement is very clear. It would be naive to think Leviticus rules no longer apply. We must read this book as it is written, for some parts remain with us today, while a few applied only to the Jews. The reference to the dead is secondary to the warning against cutting and tattoing.

Cuttings were commonplace in, say, ancient English tribes, as they are found today in African and other tribes. They are, then, heathen. Also proscribed are the shaving of the central parts of the head, as found in some types of monks today, and the rounding-off of beards as was done by heathen men (which applied to Jews only). The emphasis is on not copying the heathen, but to stand apart from them. Which is why Christians today must not have tattoos and piercings. What about simple ear-rings? I would not personally accept them as right, but that is up to the females involved (not males!), so long as they are not multiple. In the Bible they were also associated with prostitutes.

Cutting the flesh and piercing/tattooing with plant inks, was an heathen custom when dealing with the dead. They were done to appease the various gods. And this links to verse 19 where daughters are offered as sexual prostitutes to the gods. So, the whole ethos is warned against.

At a time when unattractive woman try to look like men, and lovely women cover their beauty, we should beware of copying what these unsaved persons do. Tattoos can often have more significant connotations than just fashion; for example, the wish to feel pain, or an unspoken hatred for their own bodies. Piercings I just find ugly anyway, but they also damage the body as designed by God and how bodies should be seen and experienced. Unwarranted plastic surgery is an equivalent practice.

Overall, I find these actions unacceptable, for they show a desire to follow the crowd of unbelievers, a desire to be fashionable rather than godly, and a desire to look ugly. Often, what begins as, say, a butterfly on the shoulder soon becomes an increasing number of other figures. When we look at the entire Bible and at what God wants us to be, tattoos and piercings simply do not enter the thinking of genuine believers and should not be an issue for them. Forget copying the heathen, and instead follow the Lord and his purity. There are issues that have little scripture to go on. This is one of those issues, but what we do have is sufficient. If you already have these damages to your body, done in ignorance, do not have any more.

© September 2016

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