People get tattoos for various reasons. Tattoos are often considered to be the symbol of a rebel who isn’t afraid to do their own thing. Some get tattoos for deeply personal sentimental reasons. Some see it as simply another form of self-expression no different from dying your hair.
So why shouldn’t a Jew or anyone who believes in the Bible get a tattoo? In the Torah we see the mandate, “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:28
So along with God’s desire for you not to mess yourself up we are also to refrain from doing anything that would mar the appearance of our bodies. Why not? Well the Torah does not go into much detail as to why in that chapter but I think it will help if we go back to the beginning for reasons. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7
God made humans to reflect the image of God so not tattooing our bodies is a sign of respect to God when we don’t make unnecessarily alterations to our bodies that would mar that image. When we make a decision regarding “our” bodies we need to keep in mind our life is not really our own. God is the one who made our bodies and gave us life so it is more than fair for God to the right to state how those things should be used. But we also need to pay attention the principle it is important to not just regain from getting a tattoo but to show respect for those made in the image of God in general.
The same chapter that says not to tattoo yourself says “’You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the Lord. And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.’” Leviticus 19:32-34. Not marking your body is an extension of the great principle of showing respect for to humanity in general. Not only are you not free to treat others with a lack of respect you are not free to treat yourself in a way that would show a lack of reverence for God either.
Picture originally found here