What does The Bible say about tattoos? 

Tattoos have transcended their historical origins as marks of tribal identity or symbols of rebellion to become a mainstream phenomenon in modern culture. With this surge in popularity, it’s normal for christians to ask what does The Bible say about tattoos and if is it ok to get one.

The popularity and significance of tattoos have changed over the years, reflecting shifts in societal attitudes, fashion trends, and individual expression.

In recent decades, tattoos have experienced a rise in popularity, with a growing number of people choosing to have tattoos on their bodies. 

From celebrities to everyday individuals, tattoos have become a ubiquitous form of self-expression, serving as a canvas for personal stories, beliefs, and experiences.

What Does The Bible Say About Tattoos

I. Bible Verses about Tattoos:

When talking about tattoos, most christians refer to 2 verses in The Bible. 

  • Leviticus 19:28 (NIV) – “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.”
  • 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV) – “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.”

Let’s look at each verse and see what we can learn from them, and how we can apply each of these verses to our lives.

II. The Scriptural Passage: Leviticus 19:28

Tattooing and body modification have been practiced for thousands of years across various ancient civilizations. Evidence of tattooing dates back to the New Stone Age, with tattoos found on mummified remains from ancient Egypt. 

The Bible does mention tattooing in Leviticus 19:28, where it states, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.” 

As mentioned above, this verse is often quoted in talking about tattoos from a biblical perspective. 

Leviticus 19:28 is part of the Holiness Code in Leviticus, which outlines various laws and regulations for the Israelites to maintain holiness and purity. 

This verse specifically addresses restrictions against certain practices, including cutting the body for the dead and tattooing. 

However, it’s crucial to understand Israel’s cultural and religious context in those times to interpret this verse correctly.

A. Historical Context of Tattoos in Biblical Times

In ancient times, tattoos carried many different meanings depending on the culture. 

Among the Israelites, tattooing may have been related to pagan rituals or mourning practices for the dead, as a result- The scripture outlawing it in Leviticus 19:28. 

Understanding the cultural and religious significance of tattoos in biblical times helps give context to the biblical perspective on this practice.

B. Interpretations of the verse by biblical scholars:

Biblical scholars have offered various interpretations of Leviticus 19:28, considering linguistic nuances and historical context. 

Some scholars argue that the restrictions against tattoos were specific to pagan practices prevalent in ancient Near Eastern cultures. 

Others view it as a broader principle of maintaining purity and separation from pagan customs.

One common misconception about Leviticus 19:28 is that it categorically condemns all forms of tattooing. 

However, a nuanced understanding reveals that the verse primarily addresses specific cultural practices associated with mourning for the dead and pagan rituals.

C. Comparison with other Levitical laws and their relevance today:

When considering the relevance of the prohibition of tattoos in Leviticus 19:28 today, it’s important to compare it with other laws in the Levitical code. 

Some laws, like dietary restrictions and sacrificial rituals, are understood as culturally specific to ancient Israel and not binding on Christians today. 

However, principles underlying laws, such as maintaining purity and honouring God with one’s body, remain relevant for contemporary believers. 

Therefore, while the prohibition of tattoos may have a specific historical and cultural context, its underlying principles of holiness and devotion to God can still carry moral significance for Christians today.

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III. The Scriptural Passage: 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

1 Corinthians 6:19-20, often quoted when talking about tattoos among Christians, and provides a helpful way to think about whether Christians should get tattoos.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NIV)

In this passage, the apostle Paul addresses the Corinthian church, stressing how important and special our bodies are because they’re like a holy place where the Holy Spirit lives.

This verse teaches us the truth that– as Christians, our bodies are not our own but are instead temples of the Holy Spirit. 

This truth should impact the way believers treat their bodies, including the decision to have tattoos or not.

A. Our bodies are temples: 

To form a Biblical perspective on tattoos, we first have to understand that our bodies are a temple and therefore are valuable. 

In The Old Testament, we see that the physical temple in Jerusalem was a place set apart for the worship and presence of God. 

In The New Testament, we see that The separation between man and God were separated and it is now our bodies that serve as dwelling places for the Holy Spirit. 

This truth means that as Christians, we should honour and respect our bodies, and treat them with reverence and care- just like The Israelites took care of The Temple.

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B. Stewards of our bodies

With this truth in mind, the decision to get a tattoo becomes a matter of stewardship. 

If we are true followers of God, we need to consider how our choices regarding bodies align with our commitment to honouring God with our bodies. 

This means we need to consider whether a tattoo improves or makes worse the cleanliness of the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit.

C. We belong to God

From these verses, we learn that Christians belong to God and have been redeemed through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. 

The phrase “you were bought at a price” emphasizes the costly nature of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, which secured our salvation and reconciliation with God. 

As recipients of this grace, we are called to live in a manner that reflects gratitude and obedience to God.

For some Christians, this understanding of belonging to God and being bought at a price may lead them to abstain from getting tattoos.

They might think changing their bodies isn’t right because they want to keep themselves pure for God like their bodies are special places for the Holy Spirit.

Here is where people have different interpretations

However, it’s important to recognize that interpretations of this verse may be different among Christians. 

While some believers may feel convicted against getting tattoos based on their understanding of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, others may interpret the passage differently or feel that tattoos can be a legitimate form of self-expression and personal adornment when approached thoughtfully and respectfully.

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IV. Should Christians have tattoos or not? 

Tattoos often occupy a gray area within Christian discourse, as they are not explicitly condemned or condoned in religious texts. 

Some Christians view tattoos as a form of self-expression, while others see them as a violation of biblical principles.

Given this ambiguity, Christians should turn to God for personal conviction regarding the issue of tattoos. 

We should ask God for guidance through prayer and reflection to understand our convictions and whether getting a tattoo aligns with our values and relationship with God.

Christians need to approach the topic of tattoos with humility and an open mind, recognizing that different individuals may arrive at different conclusions based on their personal beliefs and interpretations of scripture. 

While some Christians may feel convicted against getting tattoos, others may view them as a legitimate form of self-expression and body art.

Ultimately, the decision to get a tattoo should be rooted in a sincere desire to honour God and live out one’s faith authentically. 

Christians should consider how their choices reflect their identity as followers of Christ and whether getting a tattoo aligns with biblical principles such as love, respect, and self-discipline.

Consider the potential impact

It’s also important to consider the potential impact of their tattoos on others. 

While tattoos can serve as a means of personal expression, they can also influence how others perceive and interact with believers. 

Christians should also extend grace and understanding to those who hold different perspectives on this issue. 

While individuals may arrive at different conclusions based on their interpretation of scripture and personal convictions, the overarching principle of love, acceptance, and unity in Christ should guide interactions and discussions surrounding tattoos within the Christian community.

Whether Christians should have tattoos or not is a matter of individual conviction and discernment, guided by a desire to honour God in all aspects of life.

As believers navigate this complex and nuanced issue, they are called to seek wisdom, humility, and grace, trusting in God’s guidance and sovereignty.

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