Leviticus 19:26-28 is a clear condemnation of pagan, witchcraft and heathen practices. Let’s look at the context.
"Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard." - Leviticus 19:27
The condemnation found in verse 27 of rounding “the corners of your heads" or marring “the corners of your beard" was the forbidding of a common pagan practice that cut the hair as an act of worshipping, and honouring the hosts of heaven
Verses 27 and 28 forbid:
Cutting the head or hair
Cutting the face or beard
Cutting the flesh
Inscribing writing on the flesh
The word for 'shave' or ''cut' is tah-kih-fu (Hebrew) and means,
'to surround, compass' 'to go or come round, of time'.
'To make or let go around' 'with men 'taking turns' at hosting banquets. In the sense of surround or encircle'.
'Hunting nets are cast, drawn around (Job 19:6) and Israelites are forbidden to shave or trim around the head (leaving a tuft of hair on top, emulating pagan cultists - Lev. 19:27)'.
To "round the edge of your head" means to cut off the hair around the sides of the head. Many exegetes associate this with the pagan "bowl-cut". A bowl-cut was an ancient haircut with pagan significance that was created by placing a round bowl on the head and cutting all the exposed hair.
However, when the prohibition to cut one's hair is repeated in Deuteronomy 14:1-2 we read:
...you shall not cut yourselves nor shall you place baldness between your eyes, for the dead.
The phrase “between the eyes" is usually understood as meaning the hair on the front of the head above the eyes. Bearing this in mind, we learn two things from Deuteronomy 14.
Firstly, we learn that the prohibition is not necessarily a bowl-cut, but making any baldness around the edges of the head.Secondly, we see that the prohibition is specifically in the context of mourning i.e. one is prohibited to make baldness in the head as an act of mourning "for the dead". In ancient times, when someone died the surviving relatives were so distraught that they cut their skin until they bled and shaved bald spots on their head.
The Mark of Rome
In his exhaustive work "The Two Babylons”, Alexander Hislop writes of the Tonsure (Shaved Head) as it relates to the Papal System.
These celibate priests have all a certain 'mark' set upon them at their ordination; and that is the clerical tonsure. The tonsure is the first part of the ceremony of ordination; and it is held to be a most important element in connection with the orders of the Romish clergy. ....the acceptance of this tonsure as the tonsure of St. Peter on the part of the clergy was the visible symbol of that submission. "It was the mark," says Merle D'Aubigne, "that Popes stamped not on the forehead, but on the crown.”
Now, as Rome set so much importance on this tonsure, let it be asked, what was the meaning of it? It was the visible inauguration of those who submitted to it as the priests of Bacchus.Centuries before the Christian era, thus spoke Herodotus of the Babylonian tonsure: "The Arabians acknowledge no other gods than Bacchus and Urania [i.e., the Queen of Heaven], and they say that their hair was cut in the same manner as Bacchus' is cut; now, they cut it in a circular form, shaving it around the temples." What, then, could have led to this tonsure of Bacchus? Everything in his history was mystically or hieroglyphically represented, and that in such a way as none but the initiated could understand. One of the things that occupied the most important place in the Mysteries was the mutilation to which he was subjected when he was put to death. In memory of that, he was lamented with bitter weeping every year, as "Rosh-Gheza," "the mutilated Prince." But "Rosh-Gheza" also signified the "clipped or shaved head." Therefore he was himself represented either with the one or the other form of tonsure; and his priests, for the same reason, at their ordination had their heads either clipped or shaven. Over all the world, where the traces of the Chaldean system are found, this tonsure or shaving of the head is always found along with it...
The high antiquity of this tonsure may be seen from the enactment in the Mosaic Law against it. The Jewish priests were expressly forbidden to make any baldness upon their heads (Lev 21:5), which sufficiently shows that, even so early as the time of Moses, the "shaved-head" had been already introduced....the Pope, as the grand representative of the false Messiah, received the circular tonsure himself, so all his priests to identify them with the same system are required to submit to the same circular tonsure, to mark them in their measure and their own sphere as representatives of that same false Messiah. (Page 221,The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop)
In their commentary Jamieson, Fausett and Brown comment on Jeremiah 47:5
Baldness . . .cut thyself--Palestine is represented as a female who has torn off her hair and cut her flesh, the heathenish (Lev 19:28) token of mourning (cf. Jer 48:37).
From this we see that the prohibition in the first part of the verse, 'not to cut' or 'shave' does not mean that men shouldn't cut or trim their hair but that it shouldn't be like what many youth do today. They shave or cut a patch of hair above their ears, encircling their heads. This is a pagan custom, most likely having to do with grieving for the dead.
Adam Clarke in his commentary is helpful, when he explains the relationship between verses 27 and 28.
27 Any cuttings in your flesh for the dead - That the ancients were very violent in their grief, tearing the hair and face, beating the breast, etc., is well known. Virgil represents the sister of Dido "tearing her face with her nails, and beating her breast with her fists.
Unguibus ora soror foedans, et pectora pugnis. Aen., l. iv., ver. 672.
28 Nor print any marks upon you - It was a very ancient and a very general custom to carry marks on the body in honour of the object of their worship. All the castes of the Hindoos bear on their foreheads or elsewhere what are called the sectarian marks, which distinguish them, not only in a civil but also in a religious point of view, from each other. Most of the barbarous nations lately discovered have their faces, arms, breasts, etc., curiously carved or tattooed, probably for superstitious purposes. Ancient writers abound with accounts of marks made on the face, arms, etc., in honour of different idols;
James Freeman tells us that it could also be a form of divination:
Among the ancients the hair was often used in divination. The worshippers of the stars and planets cut their hair evenly around, trimming the extremities. According to Herodotus the Arabs were accustomed to shave the hair around the head, and let a tuft stand up on the crown in honour of Bacchus. He says that same thing concerning the Macians, a people of Northern Africa. This custom is at present common in India and China. The Chinese let the tuft grow until it is long enough to be plaited into a tail.'
Freeman goes on to say that cutting the hair at death was an ancient pagan practice for the dead:
'It was also an ancient superstitious custom to cut off the hair at the death of friends and throw it into the sepulchre on the corpse. It was sometimes laid on the face and breast of the deceased as an offering to the infernal gods.'
Wikipedia explains that in Hinduism, the underlying concept is that hair is a symbolic offering to the gods, representing a real sacrifice of beauty, and in return, the offerers are given blessings in proportion to their sacrifice.
In some traditions, the head is shaved completely, while in others a small tuft of hair called sikha is left. In some South Indian temples such as Tirumala, Palani and Tiruttani, it is customary for pilgrims to shave their heads in or near the temple of the god they are visiting.
There has been an Indian custom to perform on widows after their husbands' deaths. It is not uncommon to tonsure the head of a child after the death of a parent (usually the father). It is also usual for male relatives, especially the first-born son of the dead father, to have his head shaved in mourning. The corpse, too, often receives the tonsure after death.
Nowhere in the Torah are the sons of Israel ever told that they must never cut their hair or trim their beards. What the sons of Israel are told to do is to refrain from participating in the ritual mourning practices of the pagans. These practices of cutting the flesh and cutting the hair on the head for the dead are always prohibited for Yahweh's people, whether priests or ordinary people
There is one case in Scripture when a man is commanded not to cut his hair or beard. This is the Nazarite vow (Numbers chapter 6). In this instance, one who takes this vow is to do so for a predetermined length of time, after which, he may again shave and drink of the fruit of the vine. Note that as a Nazarite he was allowed to cut his hair (Num 6:13,18,19). But this is the only time when the Scripture commands one to refrain from cutting the hair or the beard (apart from the case of mourning for the dead).
Here’s how Matthew Henry’s and Coffman’s Commentaries reflect on the "forbidden haircut":
Those that worshipped the hosts of heaven, in honour of them, cut their hair so as that their heads might resemble the celestial globe; but, as the custom was foolish itself, so, being done with respect to their false gods, it was idolatrous. (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Leviticus 19:27).
Herodotus tells of the use of this type of haircut, forming what is called a tonsure, as the practice of pagan religious cults of ancient times who did so honouring one of their gods (Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, Leviticus 19:27).
This then is the basis of God’s warning regarding the cutting of the hair. Not to mourn for the dead in this way, or more importantly cut, or mark yourself for the gods.
The facts are up until a few years ago, virtually everyone, including the most liberal Christian, KNEW the tattoo was clearly forbidden by the Word of God.
Most commentaries written understand that Leviticus 19:28 is an open condemnation of the tattoo. The Christian acceptance of a tattoo was not even considered for serious discussion.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown comment under Leviticus 19:28:
…nor print any marks upon you–by tattooing, imprinting figures of flowers, leaves, stars, and other fanciful devices on various parts of their person. The impression was made sometimes by means of a hot iron, sometimes by ink or paint, as is done by the Arab females of the present day and the different castes of the Hindus. It is probable that a strong propensity to adopt such marks in honour of some idol gave occasion to the prohibition in this verse; and they were wisely forbidden, for they were signs of apostasy; and, when once made, they were insuperable obstacles to a return (Bible Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, Jamieson, Faussett and Brown - Leviticus 19:28).
Hindu god Shiva
James M. Freeman in his excellent book writes of Leviticus 19:28:
Both cutting and tattooing were done by the heathens, and so God forbade His people from doing so in imitation of them (James M. Freeman, The New Manners & Customs of the Bible, 1998 edition, p. 157).
Coffman under Leviticus 19:28 states:
The cutting of one's flesh also characterized pagan worship as attested by the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel in the contest with Elijah. Tattooing was also a device of paganism. . . Christians generally disapprove of tattooing, despite the fact of the widespread use of it by many even today. In the light of what God says here, and in view of the history of it, it seems strange that anyone would pay someone else to tattoo him. (Coffman's Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, Leviticus 19:28).
But Nave’s famous Topical Bible puts it best. Under the topic Tattooing, Nave simply and bluntly writes: "TATTOOING, forbidden, Lev. 19:28" (Nave's Topical Bible, p. 1312).
2 Corinthians 6:14-17 - Notice the warning against trying to have "fellowship” or “concord” with Christ and Belial (the devil). Verse 16 is very interesting in its reference to your body – “the temple of the living God”.
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? (15) And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? (16) And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (17) Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
In writing this I recognize that some so-called “Christians” couldn’t care less what God says. They’re going to do what they want to do no matter what. But there are many Christians who want more than anything else to serve God with every fibre of their being. It is for those good and faithful servants of the Lord Jesus Christ that this is written, but also as a warning to others.
The Tattoo's Arch-enemy
In the pages of history, whenever and wherever "tattooing" pagan tribes were converted to Christianity, without exception, one of their first pagan practices to "pass away" (cf.2 Corinthians 5:17) was the tattoo. Why? Because, unlike today’s disobedient carnal tattooed “Christians”, the converted pagan KNEW the tattoo was against the Word of God. The Holy Spirit quickly "told" the converted pagan – no tattoo.
Just as occurred in other cultures with tattoo traditions, when these pagan tribes were ‘converted’ to the Christian religion, their spiritual and cultural rites (which included tattooing, piercing and scarification) were outlawed. . . (Jean-Chris Miller, The Body Art Book : A Complete, Illustrated Guide to Tattoos, Piercings, and Other Body Modifications, p.9).
Whenever missionaries encountered tattooing they eradicated it (Gilbert, Steve, Tattoo History: A Source Book, p. 101).
Some contemporary tattooing and body piercing is done with pagan symbols and pagan intentions. If you do a web search for - tattoos + paganism - you will see ample verification of this. This does not mean that all contemporary tattoos have pagan meanings. However what it does mean, at the very least, a person should check out the significance of any tattoo design.
Simply put, it is obviously wrong for a Christian to wear a tattoo that is pagan,obscene, immoral or sexually suggestive, and promotes or displays anything that is detestable to God.
A booming testimony to the author of the tattoo is recorded by Steve Gilbert:
When Cortez and his conquistadors arrived on the coast of Mexico in 1519, they were horrified to discover that natives not only worshipped devils in the form of statues and idols, but also had somehow managed to imprint indelible images of these idols on their skin. The Spaniards, who had never heard of tattooing, recognized it at once as the work of Satan (Gilbert, Steve, Tattoo History: A Source Book, p. 99)
Even though, these Spaniards "had never heard of tattooing" – they "recognized it at ONCE as the work of Satan".
Some of today’s carnal, rebellious and disobedient “Christians” talk nonsense about "marking themselves for Jesus". . . or argue it should be left to personal choice.
Somebody says, "Sure that was back in the dark ages. That was in heathen lands. Today that has all changed. Nobody seems to connect any kind of ritualistic or pagan spiritual rituals to a tattoo."
Yet, the following is clear,
These tattoos act as protective and empowering talismans for the wearer. There are even some body artists who perform ritual tattoos, piercing, brandings and cuttings. They may suggest you consult your astrological chart to pick the right time to get your body art. They will burn incense, light candles . . . (Jean-Chris Miller, The Body Art Book : A Complete, Illustrated Guide to Tattoos, Piercings, and Other Body Modifications, p. 29)
I know what some are thinking. . . “Sure, in the past tattoos were linked to criminals, depravity, and immoral behaviour, and idol worship – but not today. Today, the tattoo is worn by celebrities, athletes, politicians and business people. It’s adorned in high fashion magazines and sports magazines. There’s absolutely no data to even remotely suggest tattoos are linked to criminal or immoral behaviour. No sir. Today’s tattoo is high-fashion and cool!!”
A very comprehensive study and analysis of tattoos, published in April, 2001, was performed by Dr. Timothy Roberts, a paediatrician at the University of Rochester Children’s Hospital. The detailed analysis was taken from a study of 6,072 young people, ages 11 to 21. It was done all over the United States, with different ethnic groups, from all economic and social backgrounds. In other words, very thorough and reliable data models were constructed for the study. In fact, this study is probably the most comprehensive and conclusive analysis of tattoos ever conducted.
According to the study:
Tattooing in adolescents was significantly associated with sexual intercourse, substance abuse, violence and school problems in bi-variate analyses, and in logistic regressions adjusting for socio-demographic factors and peer substance use. (*Bi-variate analysis - shows the relationship between two variables)
(Timothy A. Roberts, M.D. and Sheryl A. Ryan, M.D., Tattooing and High-Risk Behavior in Adolescents, Division of Adolescent Medicine, Strong Children’s Research Center, University of Rochester School of Medicine, Rochester, NY)
Dr. Roberts, writes in the "conclusion" of the study that tattoos have strong associations with high-risk behaviours in adolescents.
It is worth mentioning, Dr. Roberts, himself has a tattoo. After evaluating the data, he wrote:
A tattoo is a sign that doctors, parents, teachers ought to be asking about the teenager’s behaviour.
According to study after study, a tattoo so personifies and establishes a "rebellious atmosphere" that one of the most important steps in prison rehabilitation is the removal of the tattoo. According to many serious studies, a tattoo is linked so strongly to criminal behaviour and delinquency, that without question, the mere decoration of the tattoo inherently contributes to the criminal behaviour pattern.
Although 'everyone' might be getting a tattoo, one of the businesses booming (along with the medical profession and pharmaceuticals thanks to the "hepatitis C-tattoo" alliance) is the dermatology industry. According to the American Society of Dermatological Surgery, over 50% of everyone receiving a tattoo want it removed.
There are different treatments such as laser, creams, or light therapy that can get rid of tattoos.
Tattoo removal via laser surgery is among the fastest growing areas of the dermatology industry. Depending on the size and colour of the tattoo the laser removal surgery can be very painful and very expensive. It takes between 10 and 15 laser surgery sessions to remove the average tattoo, but 25-30 sessions are not uncommon, depending on the complexity of the tattoo. When you consider the average single session costs between $400 and $800, the removal surgery can be very expensive. Despite this enormous personal cost, many people are so disgusted with their tattoo they’ll pay any cost to have it removed.
Plastic Surgeon Tolbert S. Wilkinson, of San Antonio, Texas, who has removed tattoos warns:
If people only realized how difficult it is to remove a tattoo, understood how costly and how painful tattoo removal is, and recognized that society as a whole still views tattoos as a stigma, maybe they would think seriously before getting one.
For someone like Mr Bentley with all over body 'art' removal is almost impossible.
Thus the need for this warning!
Although the popularity of tattoos is rising in some countries, the current financial woes in the Eurozone are causing tattoo removal to increase due to the battle for jobs. A Barcelona (Spain) clinic reports 81% rise in demand for painful laser treatment.
Tattoos - A dying art
Apart from the obvious difficulty of getting rid of tattoos, there are definite health risks associated with them. Since tattoo instruments come in contact with blood and bodily fluids, diseases may be transmitted if the instruments have not been sterilised. However, infection from tattooing in clean and modern tattoo studios employing single-use needles is rare. With amateur tattoos, such as those applied in prisons, however, there is an increased risk of infection.
Infections that can be transmitted by the use of unsterilised tattoo equipment or contaminated ink include surface infections of the skin, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, tuberculosis, and HIV, which was the case recently with an Australian tourist who contracted HIV from a tattoo studio in Bali, Indonesia.
The most common dermal reactions to tattoo pigments are granulomas1 and various lichenoid diseases 2. Other conditions noted have been cement dermatitis, collagen deposits, and other forms of eczema.
Removing the Past
We need to remember that what we feel okay with at one stage of our life, say, when we are twenty, we may not feel so okay with when we are thirty five. It is painful and costly to have tattoos removed. It is sometimes embarrassing in later life to find not only that one no longer really wants them, but also that because of a changed body shape they are no longer good to look at.
This article is intended to bring to light the 'dark' side of tattoos, but it is not meant to show distain or pharisaic morality toward those who wear tattoos. Having a tattoo does not make you a leper, or an untouchable. Many wear the scars of sin from their past, some more than others. The cigarette smoker, the alcoholic, those addicted to pornography, the murderer, so the Christian with Tattoos should never be looked down on, if they have repented and turned to Christ. If fact we have a few people in the CWM-Fellowship who have tattoos. There is not the slightest revulsion or judgement towards them, because these are marks from their past.
It is those who testify that they love the Lord, and ignorantly or otherwise go ahead and get a tattoo that we have an issue with.
Tattoos in Hollywood
Coco Chanel, the 1920's French fashion designer came home after a summer holiday in the French Riviera sporting a glorious golden tan. The idea caught on, and tanning underwent a transformation, and began being perceived as fashionable, healthy, and luxurious.
In the 40s and 50s 'Old Hollywood' made smoking look glamorous.
Both trends have compounded into an epidemic of skin cancers and lung disease. Today film stars such as Megan Fox, the Transformers actress, who helped to make tattoos fashionable are now leading a backlash against "body art".
Other actors have been doing likewise.
Statistics suggest Fox is far from alone.
Since 2008, the number of US tattoo parlours has fallen by 10 per cent and laser removal treatments are booming, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
If these stars change their minds about their tattoos, it begs the question why should actors and celebrities be our yardstick for what is fashionable, right or moral?
One of the most tragic stories surrounding this impetuous culture is the recent death of Amy Winehouse, the English singer who died last year, at the age of 27. Amy Winehouse is known for her bluesy voice, her wild behaviuor and a baker's dozen of tattoos. Since her career began in 2003, Winehouse rapidly went from no tattoos to fifteen. Depicting a large number of self-reflected objects, she said she painted her body when she needed a boost out of boredom, or a desire for more confidence.One of her tattoos was a lightning bolt. This symbol in mythology is the god Thor, the god of thunder and lightning. Thor, is supposed to be a provider and protector. But Albert Pike, the high ranking 33rd degree Mason, tells us on page 381 of his book, Morals and Dogma, that Thor was the Sun, the Egyptian Osiris, and Kneph, the Phoenician Bel or Baal. The Bible tells us that worshipping Baal is identical to worshipping the Devil himself. [1 Kings 16:30-33, 22:53; 2 Kings 17:16]
Sadly Winehouse sought protection from the god of the sky. She should have found solace and protection from the true kinsmen redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, instead she was 'struck' down, in the prime of her life.
Is it coincidence that her abusive relationship, the excessive drinking, the drugs and the tattoos, all occurred over the same period? Winehouse's death was one foretold by gruesome pictures of bloodied sneakers, and near death experiences from drugs, publicly retold by her lovers. It almost seems unsurprising that, in death, Winehouse joins many of her heroes - Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison - all of whom died aged just 27.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end is the ways of death - Proverbs 14:12
CONCLUDING NOTE -
Todd Bentley's Australian Tour Jan 25 through to early February 2012 was cancelled. Australian Immigration denied Todd entry into the country.
ED - Let the righteous rejoice.
Part 3 - Tattoos - No Longer Taboo
About the Author
Lance Goodall and his wife Norilyn left the Australian church growth movement in 2009. They both have a concern for the knowledge of God and His glory. They carry in their heart, a love for God’s honour, for His Word, and for the salvation of the lost. Lance can be contacted via email firstname.lastname@example.org
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