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.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

0 Comments

  1. The answer, clearly, is that only Levites are permitted to wear cotton/poly blends. And I’m only half joking.

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  2. Another argument: the Levitical rules are lex specialis.

    And an observation: yarn is not the same as cloth, is it?

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  3. then there are the prohibitions on bacon, catfish and shrimp (devastasting for southerners)…stoning children for disobeying their parents, some alomst punitive (in today’s perspective) treatment of women having their period. It’s not just mixing fibers or crop seed.

    Its defintiely not just a cut and dry case of “Leviticus says it, so I believe it” when it comes to tats in today’s culture.

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  4. I’m excited to hear your thoughts when you’ve ruminated some.

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  5. @tusc0n, I’m not sure whether mixing yarn in counts as mixing fibers. Intuitively, it seems like it would, especially given the less sophisticated manner of making clothes they had.

    @casey, if you think that the above is simply quoting Leviticus to prohibit tats, I’d encourage you to reread it.

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  6. Matthew, I didn’t mean to insinuate you were simply quoting Leviticus to reject tats. I just thought you curiously focused only on one other “strange” Levitical law to make the point its not that cut and dry…and then proceeded to hint at a possible solution for that law.

    I was just pointing out (and probably unnecessriy so) that the issues with transporting Mosaic law into our context without some serious interpretation and contextualzation requires us to look at much more than just the mixing of fibers and prohibitng tats. But liek I said, you were aware of that even though it wasn’t stated.

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