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tattoos
Question from andrew white on 3/9/2006:

What is the churches teaching about body tattoos? Is there biblical references for the favourable/unfavourable practice of marking one's body?

Answer by Matthew Bunson on 3/10/2006:

You might consider consulting the moral theology forum for this question, but I will attempt to answer.

The Scriptural reference is from Leviticus 19:28: “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh on account of the dead or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the LORD.”

The prohibition, however, had specific purposes in circumventing any tendency for the people of ancient Israel to lapse into idolatry and assorted forms of pagan worship. It is important to note, of course, that this Old Testament prohibition on marking one's body does not apply to Christians because the Old Testament Law does not apply to Christians.

Having said that, I would add that while the Church certainly teaches against any form of self-mutilation and encourages modesty, there are no specific teachings against tattoos of which I am aware. One might remember, however, that modesty should be followed, as should respect for the integrity of the human body; in considering a tattoo (I am not in favor of them), questions can be asked as to whether it is offering a vulgar or obscene image or message, is it worth risking various infections and diseases, has a parent forbidden the action, and what are the underlying motives for seeking it?

Finally, respect should be paid to those cultures where tattooing is specific to their customs and social structure, such as New Zealand and parts of Oceania, and also some tribal communities in Africa and Asia.



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