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Anonymous Grace wrote:

Hi, guys —

I know the Catholic Bible says that having any kind of tattoo is wrong because the body is a Temple of God and so it must be kept pure, for God is pure. I've read some articles on on this issue and in the replies the person answering the question (the apologist) has said it's okay to get religious tattoos because they have good intentions.

  • If it is OK, if you have a good intent, to get a tattoo, why would God say not to get a tattoo?

Thank you,


  { If it's OK, with a good intent, to get a tattoo, why would God say no to getting a tattoo? }

Eric replied:

God gave the Israelites specific ritual rules to mark them as His chosen people.

For example, before the rule against tattoos (Leviticus 19:19-28) (RSV2CE) says:

27 You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard. 28 You shall not make any gashes in your flesh for the dead or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord.

(Leviticus 19:27-28)

19 You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your animals breed with a different kind; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed; nor shall you put on a garment made of two different materials."

(Leviticus 19:19)

23 When you come into the land and plant all kinds of trees for food, then you shall regard their fruit as forbidden; three years it shall be forbidden to you, it must not be eaten. 24 In the fourth year all their fruit shall be set apart for rejoicing in the Lord. 25 But in the fifth year you may eat of their fruit, that their yield may be increased for you: I am the Lord your God.

(Leviticus 19:23-25)

Obviously, we don't follow those rules as Christians. That's because they were directed to the Israelites as part of their ritual rules that marked them as God's. They weren't directed to Gentiles, which is what most of us are.
The aim of the prohibition does not really apply to today's culture.

Theodoret (19:28) mentions, that the pagans were accustomed to cut their cheeks, and to prick themselves with needles, infusing some black matter, out of respect for the dead, and for demons. Allusion is made to these customs. (Revelation 13:16, and Isaiah 49:15)

Christians have sometimes marked their arms with the cross, or name of Jesus.
(Procopius in Isaiah 44. 5. C.):

The Church historians relate, that St. Francis and St. Catherine received miraculously the prints of His wounds."

(Haydock, George Leo, (Online) Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary [New York: Edward Dunigan and Brother, 1859], p. Le 19:28) — From Amazon.

According to the Navarre Bible commentary on this verse,

"The criteria given here were designed to prevent the Jews' being affected by the superstitions and magical practices prevalent at the time."

(Gavigan, James, Brian McCarthy, and Thomas McGovern, eds., The Pentateuch, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 1999), p. 485).

So really, this prohibition is linked to magical pagan practices practiced by the nations that surrounded the Jews.

Very few people get tattoos today for magical or superstitious purposes, besides the fact that they aren't Israelites. Therefore, the prohibition doesn't really apply to today.


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