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Mixing Fibers and Levitical Prohibitions

August 18th, 2010 | 1 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

Mention the prohibition on tattoos in Leviticus 19:6 and it's 98.7% likely that the immediate response will be, "Yeah, and don't wear a cotton/polyester blend, either!"

Now, I take it that the existence of polyester suits is a prima facie case on behalf of mixing fibers.  Clearly, a good God would want to save us from such atrocities.

The rejoinder is, of course, a reference to the prohibition on mixed fibers in Leviticus 19:19.  If you want to appeal to the prohibition on tattoos to make a case against them, you have to engage--the argument goes--in a pretty selective reading.

What no one has, to my knowledge, pointed out in context of the debate over tattoos is the oddity of the prohibition on mixing fibers.  If you look at Exodus 28, the priests are commanded to make garments that seem to require...mixing fibers.

There's lots we could make of this regarding the nature and purpose of the holiness laws in Leviticus 19.  But given that this realization is new to me, I plan on ruminating on it some more before drawing any fast conclusions.

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.