Mar 26, 2006

Piercing the Flesh

What does God think about body piercings and tattoos? Lev. 19:28 says "Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD." What does "for the dead" mean? I can just see a teenager saying that this body piercing is not "for the dead," it's for me! Although the current trend of body piercings and tattoos is not "for the dead," it is always interesting to me to see how something originated - for the glory of God or was it orchestrated by Satan? When we go back to the roots of customs, traditions, and even holidays, we are often shocked by how they got started. I will post plenty of these on this blog here and there!

So we can clearly see that cutting the flesh, which could mean any number of things, did not begin for the glory of God. And this verse is quite clear on God's stance on tattoos. What about body piercings? Are they "cuttings in your flesh?" "Marks?" They could arguably be in either or both categories, but is that convincing enough for a teenager? This verse is too vague to use as a "Thou shalt not..."

Thus I shall return to a couple of my favorite verses to answer the question of God's view on body piercings (this is other than a simple ear piercing, which is beautifying to a woman if she wears modest earrings). "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s." I Cor. 6:19, 20 "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." I Cor. 10:31

Is this body piercing glorifying to God? Am I doing this for the glory of God, or for the glory of self? What is my motivation? Would this please Jesus?


Diane Isler said...

What a timely post! I was just talking with a potential new member to our church who is having great difficulty with the fact that one of our childcare workers (Mother's Day Out and Sunday School teacher) recently got a lip ring and a tattoo. This is a 30-year-old woman, not a teenager! I myself have been at a loss as to how to respond. Your post speaks God's word clearly at just the right time!

Grafted Branch said...

Thanks for the good information. Maybe I'll wait on that tatoo I was going to get. lol.

Was the exception of ear-piercing in parenthesis a biblical exception, or your own interpretation based on cultural norms?

Natasha said...

I still want a belly ring!

Anonymous said...

>>Natasha said... <<
>>I still want a belly ring!<<

hahahaha - I knew there was a more pointed reason for you posting this Jen!!

Natasha, don't do it - when you get pregnant it gets all stretched out - it's the grossest thing. I have a friend who got one in college and 2 babies later she's really sorry she did that to herself.

I had a temporary belly ring. That's definately the way to go!! All the vain - without the pain.

Mark Epstein said...

Once again, I find the English Bible constrained in its wording. I think one must ask two questions (at a minimum): What does the original Hebrew say concerning these verses and what was the historical context? Since the mid-point of the 2nd Century (150 A.D.), the church has been comprised of a preponderance of "gentile" Christians. Thus, the understood "context" of the Torah was lost to Christianity, which makes the formerly clearly understood instructions (whys and wherefores) subject to "debate" among Christians. This should NOT be so. The historical context to many debated verses is researchable, understandable, and such "secular" research is not really secular at all and, therefore, does not violate the tenent of Sola Scriptura.

Grafted Branch said...


Anonymous said...

i second that, GB

Natasha said...

So Sarah, where can I get a temporary belly ring?

Grafted Branch said...


A temporary belly ring? Really? lol. Go ahead and be relevant! Be relevant all you can for the next 4 weeks because then... poof! of US! ha ha ha ha

Jen said...

Is a temporary belly ring any more glorifying to the Lord than a permament one?

Jen said...

GB - in reply to your comment about pierced ears: I think God placed you in my life for the express purpose of keeping me on my toes! I WILL answer all your comments, but give me a little time because your questions are so great they deserve an answer that has some thought put into it. Keep up the challenges; you WILL trip me up some day!

Anonymous said...

OK GB - LOL!! - that took me a minute - you are totally right - in 4 weeks, from today actually, I become a REAL ADULT!!!!

Speaking of being relevant, will someone ask Mark to please clarify his post??

Jen - I don't see anything wrong with body piercings that are covered up. (except ears) Believe me - there are worse places a person can pierce besides their belly button. AND NOT THAT I HAVE EXPERIENCED IT...but just know that I know! I don't see how a bellybutton ring is anymore offensive to God than a nose ring, which you have qualified as being OK.

Natasha - you can get them at Claires, or some place like that. Good luck.

Jen said...

All right, Sarah, when your daughters want them, I'll be sure to tell them where to go!

Anonymous said...

That's OK - if my daughters want one, I'll go with them to get one, just so long as they can pay for it themselves. I'll supply basic necessities - extra's are their responsibilities! As long as they are willing to keep it covered up. Wonder how many girls at *certain churches* secretly desire belly button rings?? At least Natasha's open enough to admit it and not try and hide behind some pretentious "ATI Wannabe" fascade, or worse...

It's not the worst thing she could do and I don't think God considers it a sin.

Mark Epstein said...

Okay all, this is what I meant in my earlier post (at least it is what I think I meant – I’ve been having more “senior moments” with each new gray hair).

The topic is piercing the flesh. My overarching point is this: Contemporary Christians give sin a “pass” because they are generally not taught scripture by their shepherds (who do not know it themselves), they do not study scripture with a hermeneutical approach (“well, I feel the scripture sez, blah, blah, blah”), and construe the verse in Matthew 5:17 to say just the opposite of what it says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (ESV)

Jennifer’s point concerning principles is spot on. In clear examples throughout the biblical text, God lays down foundational principles so we can apply them to contemporary issues. Did God know the issues we would face as 21st Century Christians? Absolutely. Would have there been a basis of understanding for the Bible’s Jewish writers? Absolutely NOT. These two questions underscore the timelessness of Holy Scripture, while still maintaining its historicity.

My comment concerning the historical nature of the church reflects the massive paradigm shift that occurred sometime after A.D. 150. From approximately that point forward, the church lost its “Jewish roots,” which were the religious, historical, and cultural basis for the writers and the readers of what we now call the Holy Bible. In other words, this basis is poorly understood in contemporary Christian life. Why is this so, and do our shepherds differ from us sheep in their understanding? The answer to the second question is NO, the overwhelming members of the clergy are “Judaic peasants” (they do not understand the eastern/mid-eastern mindset arising from the religion, history, and culture of the Jews). In fact, beginning in the 3rd Century (201-299 A.D.), the church leadership became comprised of former pagans (gentiles) who promoted a form of anti-Semitism that would make most Christians blush (except the so-called Christians of the white supremacist movement).

Because of the gentile take over, a common understanding of formerly clear passages became more and more “muddied” over the ensuing centuries. This becomes abundantly clear when one studies the Jewish Feasts that God commanded “forever.” I raise the timelessness issue in the last sentence for a very specific reason: If God said forever, then why do some people insist that portions of God’s law have passed away – despite what Christ said Himself? This is a lengthy topic itself, but there are two issues worth noting besides the previous Matthew 5:17. First, if the church is the new “Israel,” then why would Saul/Paul spend anytime laying the foundational principle that the Jews would be provoked to jealousy? Secondly, if we recognize God is speaking to the church and the Jews in Revelation (see chapter 7 for starters), then how do we reconcile the Christian church equating to Israel when God is still talking to and/or about the Jews in salvific terminology? (Note bene, I am not referring to dual-covenantalism. Salvation is through Christ alone.)

Therefore, in addition to a working hermeneutic that includes looking at scripture in a historical and grammatical context, one must really strive to understand the audience. In the First Century, the followers of The Way (Christians) were predominately a Jewish audience. Thus, when we look through a rather clear lens, we can reconcile three things: Christ came first for God’s chosen people, the Jews. Secondly, as He had promised throughout the Old Testament, God would reconcile Himself to the gentiles through His Christ (Messiah). Third, if we understand the overt “Jewishness” of Holy Scripture, then so-called “open to interpretation” passages are not open to that much interpretation, because they advance what God intended these passages to advance. In other words, it is our failure to approach scripture correctly that is the problem, not some obscurity that is somehow allowing multiple interpretations to be “truth” for individuals and different Christian sects. There is little doubt in my mind that God is grieved by the fractious nature of the Church, which is rooted in the aforementioned. In other words, the Church is paying the price for its collective Jew hatred, which spans centuries.

So what is the “bottom line” on the piercing issue? The answer is simple: What does God have to say about similar issues that could be reasonably understood to convey a principle? Of course, one must answer this question with the underlying presupposition that God’s holy and infallible Word speaks to all of life’s issues (something Jen already mentioned).

Thus, I will conclude with a couple observations. First, most people – including Christians – do not want to submit all areas of their life to God. They want a certain degree of autonomy while assuring themselves of an eternal home with God. Secondly, I will agree with anyone that says they can take scripture at face value – as long as the face value is a reading of the original Hebrew and Greek and a foundation that includes a full understanding of the religion, history, and culture of the Jews extending from the time period covered in Genesis 12 (the establishment of the Jews) and the end of the First Century A.D. If someone cannot claim this as a basis, then I would vociferously argue the person could not take Holy Scripture at “face value” because he does not truly understand what he is reading.

Can I do all of the aforementioned? Nope. Do I have a “leg up” on the majority of Christians? Yes, for a few reasons. I understand approximately the last 1,000 years of Jewish history/culture and a portion of the Jewish religion since its inception, and I am willing to take the hard road in developing an understanding. When the Bible refers to discussing, living out, and teaching scripture when one liest down, riseth up, walketh by the way, etc., this is referring to a life immersed in scripture, which was only the Pentateuch (Torah). If God commanded the Jews to do this (Deuteronomy 6:7) and Jewish Yeshivas (seminaries) to this day spend 5 years teaching the Torah, then what fundamental arrogance do we employ with our cursory reading, cursory understanding, and cursory devotion to the Creator of the universe that results in the “personal interpretation” mindset? This is not to say we cannot know God’s intent, but it takes a great deal more work than the majority of Christians are willing to invest. ‘Nuff said on that. Finally (yes, I am at the real finale), love does cover a multitude of sins. So, if I offended anyone, please forgive me. I have no intention to offend, but to spur on (encourage, exhort) Christians to love the Lord our God with all their heart, all their soul, all their strength, and all their mind.

Jen said...

Yes, hon, I agree that one must really strive to understand their audience!

Grafted Branch said...


Mark...don't worry that you've offended anyone...we would have to have some idea of what you're talking about to be offended!

So...I still don't know: are you two for or against piercing the flesh? If you reply, please just say, "for," or "against."

BTW and with all due respect: have you been born again?

Jen said...

I think the Bible is clearly AGAINST body piercings, while allowing for ear piercing for women (it is a sign of slavery for men) and nose rings, although our culture would probably not see that as a sign of belonging to Christ!

Who are you asking about salvation?

I'm not exactly sure why you are asking, but if it has something to do with the desire to truly study God's Word with one of the purposes being to understand what God thinks about everyday life, then I would say that I hope every Christian, as he grows in his walk with Christ, would desire to know God more and more, and would desire to please the Lord because he loves the Lord so much. The main purpose we study God's Word is not to look for a bunch of rules to follow or even to argue. We are to be ready at all times to give a defense for what we believe, however. We study God's Word to know God, in all three persons.

Yes, I have been born again, if you are asking me. And I desire spiritual meat at this stage of my life, not milk.

Mark Epstein said...

Grafted Branch: I’m glad I elicited such a beautiful response (rolling on the floor laughing out loud). Laughter is a wonderful gift from God – and I am not being facetious.

Jennifer convinced me that I still did not give anyone what we call the BLUF (bottom line up front) in the military. Therefore, in answer to your question, I am against body piercing.

As for your question concerning being “born again,” allow me to apologize for my longwinded answer. Sometimes I become carried away with the “all my mind” portion of loving God. ;~}