A: Lemme tell ya a story,... this is a piece I wrote for our old fanzine, and will explain the answer in full.
“Do you read the Bible, Ringo?”
Jules, ‘Pulp Fiction’
So, we’re crammed into the Continental, sweaty, tiny, punk rock dive bar that has been picking up a lot of the slack left over after the closing of Coney Island High, & leaving an entire crew of change begging gutter punks wandering aimlessly around St. Marks Place, & I finally get to see hometown crusties Furious George, playing openers for Boris the Sprinkler, & a dozen bands doing yet another Ramones tribute night. For some reason, I always miss seeing local bands, for example, I spent four years living in Tampa Bay, & never managed to see the Pink Lincolns. So it was cool to finally get to see Furious George Tabb, after reading his whiny columns in Maximumrocknroll & the New York Press for years, & after his appearance in Spike Lee’s ‘Summer Of Sam’ movie that summer. I had visions of how cool it would be to tattoo George & maybe the rest of the band, I could see big glossy photos of them onstage, maybe at CBGB’s, stage lights glistening off of fresh crazy punk rock tattoos on their extremities, blown up & hanging at a booth at a convention,... yeah! Punk rock baby,... so I flip George a card as he lugs his amp off stage, & joke about how it could make my career to have the honor of tattooing a big time rock star like him. He laughs & looks at me, & shrugs his shoulders & tells me he can’t get tattoos, when I ask why not, he tells me, “I’m Jewish!”
What?! Punk rock, getting drunk & rowdy, fights, drug usage, lap dances, promiscuous sex,... these things are well & good, but suddenly you get this overwhelming batiston of morality when it comes to TATTOOS? Go figure! So,... that’s just what I did, I set out to try to figure out where this whole ‘tattoos are so ungodly’ thing comes from, & if there is actually any sort of theological backbone to the whole premise, or just more puritanical holdovers from the days of witchburnings & inquisitions. If you’re into the body modification professions, you may want to print this out & keep it on hand as reference the next time you get into a heated debate on the subject.
“Do not cut your bodies for the dead, or put tattoo marks on yourselves.” Leviticus 19:28. This is the scripture that will appear in various tattoo magazines from time to time, & everyone seems to think that this means that tattoos are just plain forbidden. In context, many of these commands given were for a very specific period of time, & for very specific reasons, to ancient Hebrews living in a desert. People were worshipping demons with cutting & bloodletting, cannibalism, blood drinking, child sacrifice, all night orgies, & other practices that were either spreading fatal sexually transmitted diseases or were just out & out murder. 26 " 'Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it. Do not practice divination or sorcery. 27 Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard. 28 Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD. 29 Do not degrade your daughter by making her a prostitute, or the land will turn to prostitution and be filled with wickedness. 30 Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary. I am the LORD. 31 Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God."
They were living in a time, 3500 years ago, when someone actually had to sit down & write a law saying that child sacrifice was BAD! Again, this is a book written to have spiritual significance to ancient Hebrews. Many of these regulations were specific to the time & place that they were written. A prime example in Leviticus are all the laws concerning slaves, up to & including penalties for sleeping with another man’s slave, laws we can thankfully do without in this day & age. Necromancy, a form of sorcery for speaking to the dead, was a forbidden practice, & the tattooing cited in Leviticus singles that out. These tattoos had a hell of a lot more meaning than just getting a New York Yankees logo. “Do not cut yourselves or shave the front of your heads for the dead for you are a people holy to the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 14:1. Clearly the passage says, "I don't want you practicing IDOLATROUS DEATH MAGIC", not "Do not get a MOM heart or a hula girl."
It’s obvious that body art isn’t the issue here, the issue was the nation of Israel, rather literally, prostituting herself to pagan gods, & betraying all they stood for. In fact, there was plenty of 'godly' body art throughout the Bible. Nose rings were used as engagement pieces, to the extent that when God himself is speaking allegorically of her chosen people, He mentions betrothing her with this piercing,.... “I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms & a necklace on your neck, & I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears & a beautiful crown on your head.” Ezekiel 16:11-12 (also in Genesis 24:22, Genesis 24:30, Genesis 24:47, Genesis 35:4, & Exodus 32:2-3). Piercings & all manner of body arts were used in the most sacred of the rituals, marriage, which was instituted by God as an earthly analogy of what it would be like to commune with him in Heaven.
In fact, I would venture forward to say that God himself is adorned with markings not dissimilar to tattoos,... “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” Isaac 49:22. And like Father like Son, let’s not forget the physical description given to a resurrected Jesus Christ,... “On His robe & on his thigh he has the name written: KING OF KINGS & LORD OF LORDS.” Revelation 19:16. I can take it to a further extreme, & say that when Jesus rose from the dead, his wounds were not healed, He still bore them,... His hands, feet, side & scalp were all pierced, & were still there, as we can see when Thomas doubts the whole thing & demands to put his fingers in the piercings. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands & put my finger where the nails were, & put my hand into His side, I will not believe it.” John 20:25. Those piercings were the most significant act in all of human history, changing everything about society as we know it for millennia.
We must keep in mind the Bible’s perspective on flesh, it’s flesh that we try to separate from whenever fasting is spoken of, it’s flesh that dies off & is laid back to the dust, & it’s the flesh that we are asked to crucify every day. Whenever some ignorant right wing Pat Robertson drone is blathering on parroting some mindless garbage out of context about your body adornment or attire, they have other issues or some other human agenda, because that kind of judgmental idiocy not only is not in the Bible, but is also forbidden BY the Bible:
“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outer appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
“Stop judging by mere appearances, & make a right judgment.” Jesus Christ, John 7:21