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It says in Leviticus 19:28 (NIV)

28 “‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.

Does that mean it's a sin to get a tattoo? Where do mainline Protestants stand on this Old Testament verse?

(If that scope is too broad, let me know and I'll refine it.)

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Off-topic, but this made me think of the man who had Leviticus 18:22 tattooed on his arm. I guess he didn't get to the next chapter. technoccult.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/leviticustattoo.jpg –  a_hardin Aug 25 '11 at 18:17
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4 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

I think the questions should be, why do I want/need one? Our body is a "temple of the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor 6) - is it right for us to decorate it?

Also, if you are married, your body is not yours, but your spouse's - if your spouse asks you to do it, or, conversely, asks you not to, then you need to follow that request (after, perhaps, discussing).

I do agree with @El'endia Starman's answer that in the NT, God has not given a huge list of DO's and DON'T's - we are under grace and a law of liberty. I don't believe it can be dogmatically asserted whether it is "right" or "wrong", but rather is a matter of personal conviction in relation to God, your spouse, and the church.

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Though I agree with your answer, please keep in mind that 1 Corithians 6 is talking about sexual immorality and should not be used as an argument against tattoos as that was not the intention. –  ecesurfer Jan 9 at 20:02
@ecesurfer - that is certainly the immediate context, but I believe it would be a very poor hermeneutic to say that is the only context. –  warren Jan 9 at 20:39
I fail to see how inferring a point that was not there is proper interpretation. My only point is that the premise that "your body is a temple" does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that "getting a tattoo is defiling it", especially if the tattoo is honoring to God in its theme (i.e. a Bible verse). Using your logic, it would be wrong to dye one's hair as well. Food for thought :) –  ecesurfer Jan 10 at 2:46
@ecesurfer - I never said it was wrong to get one: merely that you need to ask why you are doing it, and that that verse is at least a good place to start when it comes to thinking about your reasoning :) –  warren Jan 10 at 15:07
I will definitely agree to that :) –  ecesurfer Jan 10 at 17:01
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What do you do when your wife asks you to forgive her for putting on a tattoo that you absolutely hate? If your definition of sin is that action that hurts God or hurts others, then yes it is a sin. I always believe that asking for forgiveness requires restitution when possible. It is painful and costly to remove tattoos. Never put on a tattoo before consulting your spouse first. That is, unless you want resentment and a constant disappointment every time your spouse sees the tattoo. Not to mention Satan will use the tattoo to annoy you on a regular basis. Simply put, I don't see any good or blessing that would come to your marriage by putting on a tattoo.

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Welcome to Christianity.SE! This answer could benefit from sources - either Scripture, Tradition, Reason, or Experience. You are making a logical case here, but it relies strictly on a personal analogy. You may want to consider a more scholarly answer. –  Affable Geek Feb 14 '12 at 21:53
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The question is, is it drawing attention to yourself, or is it giving glory to God? If it will be drawing attention to yourself and not pointing to God, then it probably isn't a good idea. Getting a tattoo may also be in rebellion. You need to examine yourself and figure out your motives.

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Following this, is anything that draws attention to us (rather than God) a sin? –  Richard Aug 25 '11 at 21:44
Hmmm...I would have to say that I'm not sure. I think so, but see if you can give me an example where something that draws attention to us that isn't a sin. –  daviesgeek Aug 25 '11 at 22:01
Marriage. Having children. Getting a job. Graduating college. We can (and probably should) direct the glory to God, but I don't think it would be sin, necessarily, if we accepted attention in those situations. Also, at the other direction, breaking a leg, getting cancer, etc. –  Richard Aug 26 '11 at 0:21
@Richard: getting a prominent job at, say, Google. Or Microsoft. Or... at stackexchange :D Or, like Larry Wall, writing a programming language (that I hate) that helps thousands if not millions? Or Don Knuth? Should he have kept his gifts hidden in order to avoid attention? –  Jürgen A. Erhard Sep 1 '11 at 22:48
It's the difference between wanting to draw attention to oneself, and just being in circumstances that draw attention to oneself. Of course, the latter can lead to the former, there is danger here. (You can get hooked on getting the attention, which can lead to craving it) –  Jürgen A. Erhard Sep 2 '11 at 17:11
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The answer to this question has basically been covered in general by these questions, but I'll post what seems to be most relevant.

Acts 15:28-29 (NLT)
28 “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no greater burden on you than these few requirements: 29 You must abstain from eating food offered to idols, from consuming blood or the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. If you do this, you will do well. Farewell.”

Thus, it seems that it is no longer considered a sin to get a tattoo. I myself know at least two Christians that have multiple tattoos and have gotten at least a couple after conversion.

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1 Corinthians 8— In response to your Acts reference. –  Albert Renshaw Aug 6 '13 at 12:16
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