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Exodus 20:4
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

A graven image is defined as “an object of worship”. Using Scripture, it may be better stated as a “false” object of worship.

Looking at the context of the Commandment in both Deuteronomy 5 and Exodus 20, God says to worship only Him, and a graven image is an image of worship.

Heaven Above

There was an ancient religion in Egypt, and adopted by much of Rome, that worshipped the sun. Some of the Greek gods were renamed by Rome, such as Zeus was called Jupiter.

Yet heaven is also the abode of God and His angels, and it says not to make an image in the form of anything in heaven.

Earth Beneath

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, Aaron had made an image of a bull and the people were worshipping it. Ancient civilizations worshipped animals and as portrayed in Greek mythology, half humans/half animals.
rams, of Astarte, etc. They worshipped other Gods.

Waters Below

One of the ancient Greek Gods (also adopted by Rome) was Neptune, the god of fresh water and the sea.

Exodus 34:12-17
Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same. “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

Here again God says do not worship idols, but with more context. Idol worship was all around them, the Greeks, Romans, etc. This is the reason God was warning them not to intermingle with other nations.

The question comes down to worship. We’re told to honor the Son the same as we would honor God, and that He was God. But are we worshipping the image?

No one knows what Jesus looked like. So images depicting Him were formed. If the visage we have of Jesus isn’t correct, does it matter if it is not being worshipped but is a reminder of the one who God sent to die for us?

God commanded Israel to observe a festival to remind them of how God led them out of Egypt. So God understands that we need reminders. But should we use reminders with images or observances?

Tattoos

There was another form of worship in place at the time. And this too was addressed.

Leviticus 19:28
“ ‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.

Deuteronomy 14:1
You are the children of the Lord your God. Do not cut yourselves or shave the front of your heads for the dead.

These two Scriptures are used often to show that children of God should not get Tattoos. However, they are typically quoted absent the words “for the dead”.

Cutting the flesh was done as a form of worship and has it’s roots in witchcraft.

Scripture tells us not to live like the world or follow it’s customs.

Leviticus 20:23
You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them.

However, many Christians receive tattoos. They bare a cross or the name of Jesus, and other religious symbols. They get tattoos that are centered around Christ, and the world’s customs were worshipping other gods.

So if we’re honoring God with a Christ centered tattoo, or remembering Christ with pictures, is it wrong?

Deuteronomy 12:4
You must not worship the Lord your God in their way.

Still, does this mean we should or should not get tattoos? We may find answers  through other Scriptures besides just Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

Others

Another concern is how such things appear to other people.

1 Thessalonians 5:22 in the KJV says to abstain from all appearance of evil. However, according to the original Greek, the text says to “abstain from evil of every kind. It does not include the “appearance of”.

But does it line up with other passages?

Romans 14:19‭-‬23
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

1 Corinthians 8:9‭-‬13
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

Paul is concerned with how we are seen by weaker Christians, and how it will affect their faith, yet did Jesus ever say this?

John 15:13
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

For some , they may actually lay down their life. But Jesus brought a message of servitude to others, to give up our comforts for others. Paul declared he would give up eating meat just to keep a weaker Christian from stumbling because of his freedom.

It comes down to a personal decision. But if getting a tattoo might cause a newer Christian to question, should you get it?

My personal choice is no, but I also realize tattoos are permanent and may not look so good at 70. I have one I got before I gave my life to Christ, and would love to remove it, but I must bear it for the rest of my life.

That is my decision. You must make your own.

1 Corinthian’s 10:31‭-‬33
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

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