Tattoos In The Bible

Tattoos and body piercing are done as an impression and expression of independence, for religious purpose and some cultural reasons. It is accomplished by injecting pigment into the deepest layer of skin. Some say that there is a link between depression and tattoos. It is also the articulation of creativity and a signpost of some message.

Tattoos in the Old Testament

“You must not make cuts in your flesh for a dead person and you must not make tattoo markings on yourselves. – Leviticus 19:28

In the Bible, there are indications that God hates the idea of tattoo piercing. This is the reference we get about body modification in the Bible. The specific word tattoo is not used at any point. Some said that the only possible mention is present in the Old Testament and there are no explicit rules or commands present in the New Testament.

Tattoos Used as a Metaphor

“Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me” – Isaiah 49:16

Here, God has talked about divine tattoos. He is assuring his people that no matter what happens, He will never forget them, just as a mother who takes care of her child in every circumstance. He figuratively spreads out his hands and says, “Look, I have written your name on my hands.” This is most likely a reference to a kind of tattoo, a mark made with invisible ink. Of course, God does not have actual arms, and therefore he does not have any real ink. However, the point is clear enough. He uses a picture his people will understand that doesn’t mean that he is allowing tattoos here.

In reference to this verse, some Jews started tattooing their hands to remind themselves about the relation towards God.

“On his robe and on his thigh, he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” – Revelation 19:16

Some Christian scholars refer to the depiction of Jesus second coming in Revelation 19, and the “name written” on his “thigh” as a tattoo. At best it is unclear if this is a tattoo, but it seems much more likely that this name, “King of kings and Lord of lords,” is written on his garment, not his actual leg. John records that the name was written on his robe and his thigh, and it seems most likely that the lower part of the robe, covering the thigh area, carried the name.

Interpretation of Tattoos

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” –  1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Some people misinterpret the reference of the body described in the above verse. One of the most common passages of Scripture brought up to argue against tattooing the body is 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. The argument is that our bodies are not our own, our body and soul belong to God, and the body represents the temple of the Holy Spirit. So, we must glorify God with our bodies, and tattoos desecrate, rather than decorate, the temple. So some people prefer to have religious themes in tattoos. But how we treat our body, it does matter. We wholly belong to him; he created us and redeemed us. We glorify God by following his rules, loving him, and above all, trusting him.

Tattoos versus Self-harm

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:1-2,

Conforming to the world means doing everything against Christian principles. Cutting and even some methods of tattooing are associated with punishment throughout the ages in many cultures, whether self-inflicted or as a means of torture by others. Inflicting pain — physical or emotional — on one’s self or someone else is an outpouring of hatred and an exercise in control. Is the image or message a reminder of past guilt, a way of inflicting emotional distress every time one sees it? Paul writes, “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31). Is obtaining a tattoo about self-punishment? Is the purpose of taking control of one’s punishment and salvation? In either case, getting a tattoo is an act of unbelief.

“You are the sons of the Lord your God. You shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead.”  – Deuteronomy 14:1

The above-given words are a clear indication against piercing tattoos.

“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves” ( Romans 1:24)

The question stands, “is getting a tattoo a good and necessary thing to do?”

“Everything is permissible – but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible – but not everything is constructive.” 1 Corinthians 10:23

Here the above verse tells that Christian tattoos may be “permissible,” but think they are beneficial or constructive.

Influence of Tattoos in Modern Times

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” – Galatians 2:20.

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24

Many Christians follow a simple principle from the New Testament that one should have the attitude of the Apostle Paul. People with extensive and offensive tattoos are always refused jobs. Visible body piercing or tattoos make people reflect as an unrefined or uneducated person. Tattoos and excessive body piercings can hurt and perhaps even destroy a person’s influence. They can violate principles of modesty. They can also pose grave risks to one’s health, and they may result in poor stewardship. However, if one already has them, it is not a serious crime. Also, as the years passed, the rules on tattoos and body piercing have changed. Now, most Christian leaders and organizations are not very keen or judgmental about tattoos. They cannot stop you from being a Christian or going to church.

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