What Does The Bible Say About Tattoos?
In many religions, getting a tattoo is a sin and is a sure way to ensure you do not reach the gates of heaven or the blissful afterlife. However, with society becoming more accepting of these bodily decorations, and even pastors, priests, and “holy men” sporting them, what is the Bible’s stance on the matter? Though the Bible may seem clear-cut on the topic, you should always keep the context.
Most texts in the Bible say that tattoos get considered a sin and that you should not make any permanent marking on yourself. However, you must read these texts within the context and remember that the words used aren’t necessarily the same as we see them today because of the age of the scriptures.
Since the Bible got written long before the development of English as we know it today, translating the scriptures is not an easy task. One example of how the Bible may get mistranslated is looking at the word “love.” The word love often gets used in the Bible, yet we do not differentiate between the four meanings. This shortcoming is one reason why knowing what the Bible says about tattoos is tricky.
Biblical Scriptures That May Relate To Tattoos
Though there is one specific scripture with the word “tattoo” in the modern translation, there is more than one piece of text that may relate to tattoos. Whenever the topic of whether tattoos are a sin or not comes up, these scriptures get used quite loosely, either to promote tattoos or to fight against the view that tattoos are not a sin.
However, it is essential to mention that not all of these scriptures have the word tattoo in them. Many people also believe that some texts are used without context or written symbolically. Below is a list of the scriptures that commonly appear when discussing tattoos.
This scripture states that God is speaking to Moses, and the text says that God commanded that no one should make cuts on their bodies for the dead and that they should not put tattoo marks on themselves.
This scripture is the most quoted and referred to text in the Bible that relates to tattoos, as the word tattoo appears explicitly in more modern translations of the Bible. Seeing as this text says it is against God’s will to get a tattoo, many Christians and other believers take the text at face value and agree that they should not get a tattoo.
However, in the same chapter, there are commands that we should not cut off the hair on the sides of our heads or attempt to trim the edges of our facial hair, something that most men do and a rule enforced to ensure cleanliness and tidiness in many schools and workplaces.
Additionally, there are texts in this chapter that say we should stand up in the presence of our elders, and there are references to making offerings, something most modern Christians do not do. One of the most neglected verses in this chapter of the Bible says that we should not wear clothes woven from more than one kind of material, something that almost every human does daily.
The fact that this scripture is so strict and that most Christians and believers do things that go against these commandments has led many to disregard the chapter completely and reconsider whether tattoos are a sin.
There are two different beliefs on this topic; the first believes that if we already do everything else, why does it matter if we get a tattoo and the second assumes that since this chapter is from the old testament, it has no place in our beliefs today. This text is used for and against the argument that tattoos are not an actual sin.
One verse commonly referred to in the effort to make getting a tattoo alright is this verse which states that there is a name written on the robe and thigh of Jesus at the second coming.
Since the text states that there is writing on the robe and thigh of Jesus during the second coming, many tattoo enthusiasts claim that tattoos are okay since Jesus has one. However, something people forget to mention during this chapter of the book of Revelation is that this book got written with a lot of symbolism and hidden meanings.
The book of Revelation was written long before the events of the book were to take place; since this is the second coming of Jesus Christ and in the belief of most modern Christians, this is still to come. This book of the Bible is also full of symbolism and metaphors, making knowing what this text is saying quite challenging.
The truth is that this scripture most likely does not refer to tattoos as we know them today but would relate to something different altogether. One explanation of this text is that the robe covering Jesus’ thigh may have words on it, or even that the sword he carries may have an engraved hilt that has the words on it.
Ultimately, there is no fool-proof way of determining what precisely this text is referring to and if this text on the thigh of Jesus is a tattoo or not.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Though these verses of the Bible relate directly to sexual immorality, a completely different topic, it often gets quoted in the fight against tattoos. This text is one that almost all people will know, whether they are Christain or not, since it is used so regularly, even outside of religious context. The text reads that your body is a temple, and you should treat it in a manner that glorifies and pleases God.
Once again, many Christians and believers that do not see tattooing as a sin claim, “if the body is a temple, why would you not decorate the walls.” Though this statement seems overly simplified and disregards some other commandments and texts, many people have stuck with that thought process.
Another common belief concerning this scripture is one we discussed earlier, that the old testament does not apply to modern Christianity and is there only to provide guidelines. On the other side, some Christians believe that since your body does not belong to you but God, you should never make any bodily modifications, including getting a tattoo.
Other Texts That People Use To Promote Tattoos
Though this doesn’t relate directly to getting tattoos or whether tattoos are a sin or not, there are other texts often quoted to justify the act of getting tattoos. However, some of these texts can be taken out of context to have a different meaning, and many people who believe tattoos are a sin will simply dismiss these arguments in this case.
1 Samuel 16:7
In this Biblical verse, God tells Samuel not to judge someone based on their appearance since God does not judge persons based on their exterior looks but the person’s character and “heart.” This verse, though not in the context of tattoos, shows that God does not judge us based on our appearance but on who we are and how we live.
This text is held dear by many Christians with tattoos or other body modifications as it shows that though the world may judge you on appearance, God does not. However, as stated before, this text is not in the context of tattoos and is therefore not an accurate representation of the Biblical views on tattoos.
Since this verse also includes a section telling you not to judge people on their stature, this is possibly a text that tries to help people understand that others do not get to choose how they look. However, if you perform procedures like tattooing voluntarily, this is likely not what this verse refers to and shies away from judging.
The passage “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” is likely one of the reasons this verse is so famous for defending the act of getting tattoos. In this verse, God speaks to His people and explains to them that he has engraved their names on His hands, meaning that even if everyone else forgets about them, He will constantly be reminded and will never forget them.
Though this text has seemingly little to do with getting a tattoo, and though God likely does not have arms the way we do, many people see this as God telling people he has gotten tattoos of their names on his palms.
The fact is that this depiction of getting the names of followers on the palms of His hands is again not a literal statement but a symbolic way to show that God will never forget His people. For this reason, using this text to show that God is okay with tattoos is highly ineffective.
Other Texts Used To Fight Against Tattoos
As there are texts that do not directly relate to tattoos but get used to change the minds of those against the thought of getting tattoos, so too are there texts that get used to strengthen the fight against tattoos, even though they may not be within the context of tattoos when written. The following are some of the other favorite verses that get used to deter people from getting tattoos.
Depending on your specific Bible translation, you may be uncertain about how this passage can get used against tattoos. However, in modern Bibles, the words are simplified to relay the message quite directly. This chapter discusses how other tribes and peoples have worshiped their gods and that the Israelites should not worship their God in this manner.
Though this may be a bit of a stretch, many believe this relates to practices like getting tattoos, as tattoos seem to originate from darker beliefs and even witchcraft. For this reason, though the writing of this text is not within the context of tattoos, it is still adaptable enough to make some reconsider getting tattoos.
In this text, we are instructed not to do as those who God had driven out before us, in the sense that we should not follow their customs or beliefs since that is why God “detested” those people in the first place. Initially, this scripture relates to the rules the Israelites needed to follow to ensure they saw and lived happily in the promised land after escaping Egypt.
The claim made by using this text in the fight against tattoos is that the text clearly states that we should not practice our religion or take on the traditions or actions of those who God is displeased with and has driven out. For this reason, many Christians believe that since tattooing came from groups that are not holy and do not believe in God, Christians and believers should avoid getting tattoos.
This piece of Biblical scripture relates more to the common acceptance of tattoos in the modern world than the general idea of getting a tattoo. The message most will receive when reading this text is that you should not conform to the world and be like it since Christians are supposed to be living sacrifices to God and should honor Him with all they do.
Within this scripture, we see that we should only do what glorifies and pleases God and that we should not conform to the world and society. Though this is an excellent stand to take when you view how acceptable tattoos have become, this does not directly impact the act of getting a tattoo unless you want one to “fit in” with the rest of the earth’s population.
Though a book containing a lot of knowledge, the Bible is relatively unclear regarding the subject of tattoos, or at least the modern practice of tattooing. People use many scriptures and passages in the context of getting or rejecting tattoos, but most get used in a different context than initially used within. If you consider getting a tattoo, you should consult others, pray, and be sure before taking the step.
Some of my favorite designs, tattoo books, and aftercare products, selected for you
Thank you for reading my article, I hope that you have found it helpful. If you would have trouble finding ideas for your tattoo, wonder what is meaning of design that you have found or what to buy for aftercare, to make sure that your tattoo will be healing quickly and easily, here are some of my favorite products in one place, hope that this will also help.
Design and tattoo ideas
For some ideas you can have a look at those 3 books with hundreds of designs that I use with my clients, they are available on Amazon for Kindle or in classic, paper version (links below):
- Great Book of Tattoo Designs, Revised Edition: More than 500 Body Art Designs (Fox Chapel Publishing) Fantasy, Celtic, Floral, Wildlife, and Symbol Designs for the Skin by Lora Irish
- The Big Book of Small Tattoos – Vol.1: 400 small original tattoos for women and men by Roberto Gemori
- Tiny Tattoos: Over 1,000 Small Inspirational Artworks by Rebecca Vincent.
If you would like to read more about the meaning of different tattoo styles and designs before you will decide what you would like to have, I can recommend a book that was really useful for me when I was starting my tattoo adventure – it’s “Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos” by Lisa Barretta (through the link you can find it on Amazon for around $10).
The skin at the tattoo site often dries out. To prevent it and speed up healing for my clients, I usually recommend one of those tattoo aftercare balms (you can find them on Amazon):