What does the Bible say about tattoos?

by | Jul 6, 2023 | Christian Ethics | 0 comments

When we enter the world of Christian values and beliefs and get acquainted with the Bible and its verses, after a while we begin to wonder how to interpret the sentences we read. We wonder how the Bible translates into our daily lives, how we have functioned so far, as well as issues, and experiences that we planned to live through or… we did. When looking for an answer to the question, “Does the Bible forbid tattooing?”

One would have to look at the interpretation of the verses in question. Does a given passage from the Bible cite a historical aspect that occurred at a particular time and is not applicable today? Is it contained in the Old or New Testament? What are the translations of the chosen verse? And finally, what are your thoughts and beliefs on the subject? The Bible contains several verses that prescribe purity of the body or behavior that is considered inappropriate. 

Taking the Bible as a whole – the Old and New Testaments – one can look at tattoos in two ways. However, making a broader interpretation, based on theology and historical aspects – the Bible does not contain a direct prohibition on tattoos. 

So let’s check the verses of the Bible:

  1. ” Leviticus 19:28 You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the Lord.
  2. Revelation 13:16-17 And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.
  3. Revelation 14:9-11 Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.
  4. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. 
  5. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24  I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

Interpretation of verses

However, it is worth digging a little deeper into the written verses, rather than relying on single sentences taken out of context. If it were otherwise, the passage contained in the Old Testament – “Do not make any incisions on your skin for the dead, and do not tattoo marks on yourselves”, could become a direct prohibition of such an act. Only a deeper insight helps to establish that the above words from the Old Testament referred mainly to the beliefs of the Canaanites, who offered sacrifices to their gods by mutilating their bodies. Thus, the Bible, in this verse, refers to pagan practices in which one cut one’s skin, tattooed it, or drank blood in honor of idols. Thus breaking one of God’s main commandments – “You shall have no other gods beside me. ” Not surprisingly, tattoos were banned in this context.

In the context of the New Testament, these verses represent a kind of call to cherish the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit, an encouragement to treat the body as something holy. One can also understand that this represents a call to avoid actions that can contaminate the body. In this context, however, it is not explicitly stated what activities are those that could “pollute” the body. Christians usually rely on general moral principles.

Some might consider tattoos inappropriate because they integrate into the body and may be associated with an attempt at self-expression that is incompatible with church values. Others, on the other hand, embrace tattoos as a form of art and personal expression, often praising and glorifying God. In this case, the interpretation of the verse belongs to individual beliefs and faith. It can certainly be said that as Christians we are still bound by the principle of respect for ourselves and our bodies, which are God’s creation. In addition, there is a prohibition on idolatrous activities, including pagan practices. The question is whether tattoos are now considered a pagan practice.

There is an essential principle in the Bible that says “And keep your conviction to yourself before God. Happy he who does not condemn himself in his resolutions.” (Romans 14:22), and also “Love does no evil to its neighbor.” (Romans 13:10). So, if you intend to get a tattoo and have no objections to it, your beliefs are compatible with the act, it is not a manifestation of vanity or idolatry, and it is not a cause of annoyance or demoralization – you don’t need to think any further. In Christianity we always return to what is most important to God – what makes us better people – full of love, humility, and moderation. However, if you still have doubts it is always worth consulting with a spiritual leader or priest, to understand your religious tradition. Or perhaps… do we really want a tattoo that will stay with us for the rest of our lives?

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About: Krzysia

An enthusiastic lover of travel and meeting new people! For most of my life, I was raised in the tradition of the Catholic religion, and for the past four years, I have been consciously and actively getting to know God in the Protestant community.

I believe that every person, regardless of the faction of religion or denomination, can be a witness and image of the living Jesus. I adhere to the principle - be the change I would like to see in the world, and I find inspiration and real ways to realize these changes in the Holy Scriptures.

<a href="https://walkingcrossroads.com/author/krzysia/" target="_self">Krzysia</a>

Krzysia

An enthusiastic lover of travel and meeting new people! For most of my life, I was raised in the tradition of the Catholic religion, and for the past four years, I have been consciously and actively getting to know God in the Protestant community.

I believe that every person, regardless of the faction of religion or denomination, can be a witness and image of the living Jesus. I adhere to the principle - be the change I would like to see in the world, and I find inspiration and real ways to realize these changes in the Holy Scriptures.

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