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Statement From the Council of Elders

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Statement From the Council of Elders

Dear Friend,

Thank you for your interest and question on tattoos.

Tattooing is directly mentioned in the Bible. “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:28 Leviticus 19:28You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you: I am the LORD.
American King James Version×
).

The original Hebrew words are “nathan qa’aqa” which as per the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia refer to “the procedure of making a mark or pattern on the skin by pricking it with a needle coated with pigment” (1988, Vol. 4, p. 739).

Many believe that this prohibition against tattoos in Leviticus 19:28 Leviticus 19:28You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you: I am the LORD.
American King James Version×
is only in the specific context of particular pagan practices—that the tattoos referred to are those that, like the cuttings, are for the dead (that is, as part of idolatrous mourning customs and attempts to induce the gods to help the dead in the afterlife). However the prohibition against tattooing in Leviticus 19:28 Leviticus 19:28You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you: I am the LORD.
American King James Version×
can stand independently from “cuttings of the flesh for the dead” by the specific wording of the verse.

The Unger’s Bible Dictionary supports the above by stating: “In Leviticus 19:28 Leviticus 19:28You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you: I am the LORD.
American King James Version×
we find two prohibitions of an unnatural disfigurement of the body: ‘You shall not make any cutting in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you.’ The latter (Heb. 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” (1974, p. 696, emphasis ours).

“God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27 Genesis 1:27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
American King James Version×
). The human body is God’s crowning design in the entire physical realm. Any attempted unnatural marring of the body shows disrespect to God and lack of reverence to His creation. Paul adds, “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 1 Corinthians 6:19What? know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own?
American King James Version×
)? So we are to “glorify God in your body and your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20 1 Corinthians 6:20For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
American King James Version×
).

We are to reflect God’s thinking and values, and strive to follow His instructions for us carefully and respectfully. “Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you’” (2 Corinthians 6:17 2 Corinthians 6:17Why come out from among them, and be you separate, said the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
American King James Version×
). That is the context of Leviticus 19, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2 Leviticus 19:2Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them, You shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.
American King James Version×
). A variety of actions which make one unholy are prohibited in this chapter, such as not revering one’s parents, breaking the Sabbath, idolatry, stealing or dealing falsely, prostituting your daughter, false weights, and making marks or patterns on the skin by pricking it with a needle coated with pigment (tattooing).

God’s clear intent with the above scriptures in mind is that our bodies should not be marked with tattoos.

If we can be of further help, please let us know.

Sincerely,

Personal Correspondence Department