Tattooing and Body Piercing
Father Markos Hanna
We will attempt to present nourishing and convincing explanation, based on the Biblical references and commentaries by the early fathers of the Church, concerning the matter of tattooing and piercing of ears, nose, etc.
Tattooing and piercing were signs of enslavement in the Old Testament, as we shall see from the Biblical references and sources enlisted below.
Tattoo, means: mark, design, symbol, incision or sear, made in the skin in patterns indelibly, by pricking and filling the punctures with coloring matter (Webster's New Dictionary, Webster New Collegiate Dictionary).
The Commandment of the Lord God Given to Moses said: "You shall not have any other gods before Me. You shall not make unto you any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath , or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments" (Exodus 20:3-6).
Tattooing or inscribing- was forbidden by God's law and command to man.
In Leviticus 19: 28; (The Septuagint translation of the Holy Bible): "And ye shall not make cuttings in your body for a dead body, and ye shall not inscribe on yourselves any marks, I am the Lord your God."
In the 21st Century King James Version of the Holy Bible , it says: ".....nor print any marks on you : I am the Lord (also see Deut. 14 : 1).
In the RSVP version of the Holy Bible , it says: ".....or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord."
The same concept was repeated by God in Leviticus 21: 5, saying: ".....neither shall they make gashes (cuttings) on (in) their flesh . They shall be holy to their God and they shall not profane the name of their God." (Septuagint, 21st Century, RSVP).
Again the Lord God reminds us in Deuteronomy 14: 1, saying: "You are the sons of the Lord your God you shall not cut yourselves..."
God also reminds His people through Jeremiah the prophet saying: "...and their friends shall not cut themselves..." (Jer. 16:6) , as is their heathen custom.
The Unger Bible Dictionary explains Leviticus 19: 28 saying: "We find two prohibitions of an unnatural disfigurement of the body: "Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you." Marks or incisions refers to tattooing. This repetitive warning was intended to inculcate (impress on mind by frequent repetition) upon the Israelites a proper reverence for God's creation.
The Life Application Bible Commentary comments on Deuteronomy 14:1, saying: Since you are the people of God, never cut yourselves as the heathen do when they worship their idols.
Saint Jerome of the fourth century said in his Biblical Commentary: "These laws were prompted mainly by the danger arising from the cultic practices of Israel's neighbors. Besides the oft-mentioned prohibition of blood, likewise prohibited were the following: divination and magic arts as attempts to plumb divine secrets or to control events; the mourning customs of the Canaanites - cutting of hair, body lacerations, tattooing - probably viewed as means of warding off the departed spirit by changing the appearance to avoid recognition..."
The 'A Commentary' on the Bible by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, published by Eerdmans, comments on Leviticus 19:28 saying: 'The tattooing imprints were made sometimes by means of hot iron, sometimes by ink or paint , as is done by the Arab females of the present day, and the different castes of the Hindoos. Verse 29 tells us when adopting such marks in honor of some idol, gave occasion to the prohibition in this verse; and they were wisely forbidden, for they were signs of apostasy, and, when once made, were insuperable obstacles to a return.
The International Bible Commentary by Bruce comments on Leviticus 19:28 saying: ‘Cutting the flesh was a feature of the worship of Melqart (Baal in the Old Testament, see I Kings 18:28). There are various explanations ... at Carmel the priests of Melqart were not, however, performing mourning rites. Verse 29 would include cultic prostitution such as was common among the Canaanites.’
So marking or tattooing or printing any picture on your body is a sign of enslavement to this picture which you revere, like or worship!
Pierce, means: to penetrate sharply and painfully to make a hole in something; to force into or through. (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary)
Exodus 21: 5 says: "And if the servant shall plainly say ' I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free ' then his master shall bring him unto the judges. He shall also bring him to the door or unto the door post, and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall serve him forever."
So piercing the ears was a sign of permanent enslavement. Lifelong enslavement of an Israelite could only happen at his own request. The economic factor as much as professed love for a master must often have driven the Israelite slave to seek the security of a permanent contract.
The ceremony of enslavement was associated with the master's home because the slave is being admitted as a permanent member of the household. Deuteronomy 15: 16, 17 has a bearing on the matter:' then take an awl, and push it through his earlobe into the door, and he will become your servant for life.'
St. Paul said in his First Epistle to the Corinthians 6:19, the following:
"Know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you and which you have from God, and that you are not your own?
The Christian's body is a temple inhabited by the Holy Spirit, and therefore belongs to God. The Christian has no right to give it to another but God. The Christian has no right to damage it in any way, i.e. smoking, drinking, tattooing, gambling, etc. Christians are God's property, his precious possession, His people whom He has united to Himself in a new covenant that was effectively sealed by the sacrifice of his Son on Calvary.
A Christian can be thought of as the priest in the temple of his own body, in which sanctuary he/she serves God and keeps out whatever might profane it.
Q. Here we ask a question; what about the different tattoos, such as the cross or the date they visited Jerusalem, etc., which some Christians believers have on their hands or wrists?
The answer is; we enslave ourselves willingly and happily to God, and chose to be completely dependent on and obedient to our beloved Master Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word of God (Romans 1: 1). We love our Master, and will not go out free' without Him (Exodus 21:5).
We belong to and worship the true Master.
Our obedience to Him enables us to be useful and usable servants to do work that really matters.
A Distinction between the Seal of God and the mark of the Beast (Satan):
The Seal of God, based on Ezekiel 9:4, placed on the foreheads of His servants in the Book of Revelation chapter 7:3, is the exact opposite of the mark of the beast explained in Revelation 13:6.
These two marks place the people in two distinct categories:
1. The faithful owned by God have a mark put on their foreheads to safeguard them against the great day of divine wrath.
2. And those owned by Satan, refuse God's seal, and enslaved themselves to the Beast.
This portrays a theme running throughout Revelation, Satan's attempt to imitate the great works of God trying to confuse the believers by fighting them with his lies, and sometimes, unfortunately, his lies sound like the truth; but only believers have God's truth which can defeat Satan lies.
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