In just a few days -- July 27-29 -- the United Ink Tattoo and Body Arts Expo opens at Nassau Coliseum. With so many people visiting the event, tattoo art will be getting a lot of attention. We asked the clergy, "Does tattooing the body offend God?"
The Rev. A.G. Chancellor III, Mt. Olive Baptist Church, Medford:
The only time Scripture really speaks about marking the body is in the Old Testament, in Leviticus 19:28. It isn't discussed in the New Testament. So, my answer from a cultural standpoint and from a religious standpoint is "No, it doesn't offend God." I don't think you can make that argument based on Scripture.
I also don't think that you can use the argument of the body being a temple to God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20: (19) What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? (20) For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.)
We drink coffee and do other things to that temple that could be construed as detrimental. People often try to make a scriptural argument by using only a certain part of Scripture that agrees with their argument. You have to read the Scriptures as a whole when attempting to make a scriptural argument. And, you have to remember that the Scriptures don't address everything.
I don't agree with tattooing, and my sons -- ages 13 and 8 -- know to not even ask about tattoos or getting their ears pierced, but I don't say that from a scriptural basis. Culturally, people around the world have tattooed and pierced their bodies throughout history. I can't use the scriptures to disagree with it.
Rabbi Isaac Bakhshi, North Shore Sephardic Synagogue, Great Neck:
According to Jewish law (Leviticus 19:28: "Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord."), it is forbidden to have a tattoo on the body.
The body is not man-made, it is God-made. It is not ours. It is given to us as a tool to serve him. We are responsible to keep it healthy internally and externally. We should not damage our body, commit suicide or otherwise put ourselves in danger. By respecting your body, by caring for yourself, you start to care for and value others. Once you start to go against yourself and your body, you may cease to have respect for others as well.
There is another aspect to this conversation. The more you care about the external appearance of your body, the more you forget about the internal needs of your body and soul. Are you forgetting that which God wishes you to be concerned about?
Your body was created and given to you by God. Everything God created for us -- our eyes, tongue, ears, brain, etc. -- is a gift from him. Our life and our body are our responsibility to take care of. If you're sick, you'd take medicine and go to the doctor. With this understanding, tattooing would be not taking care of the gift God has given me.
God created life and death. It is a life of examination. He has sent the prophets for our education. We have to follow the prophets and the commandment of God. There are no commandments guiding us to get a tattoo.
In the Islamic religion, a tattoo is not permissible. You are changing the creation of God, and that is not allowed.