What Does The Bible Say About Tattoos?

Tattoos are strongly condemned in Christianity, but the Bible does not clearly prohibit them.

Written by , MA (Mass Communication & Journalism) Joyce Joyson MA (Mass Communication & Journalism) linkedin_icon
Edited by , MA (English) Subhrojyoti Mukherjee MA (English) linkedin_icon Experience: 4 years
Fact-checked by , MA (English Literature) Aparna Harry MA (English Literature) linkedin_icon Experience: 3 years
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Tattoos never go out of style! They are more of an accessory, not to mention, the prettiest and coolest designs, brought to life with the help of your trusted tattoo artist. Tattoos are a way to express your emotions, and in the world of beauty and fashion, they are much like a wardrobe extension.

With tattoos’ popularity on the rise, even the religious populace are intrigued. Many Christians wonder if they can get tattoos. In fact, what does the Bible say about tattoos? For many, the mere idea of getting a tattoo deviates them from God’s holy path. For others, the concept of a tattoo or getting one does not necessarily come in the way of their pursuit of holiness, and, for them, it’s acceptable to have to enjoy life and have a little fun while honoring God at the same time.

While there is a definite debate surrounding the taboo on tattoos, for some, it might feel like going against or not adhering to religious practices. Hence, the Biblical stance on tattoos is a topic worth discussing. Let’s understand in this article what the Bible says about tattoos.

What Does The Bible Say About Tattoos?

A group of Christian friends studying the Bible together.
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To say the least, there is no definitive answer to the question if Christians can get a tattoo. The biblical stance in reference to tattoos is a bit unclear. There is no mention of the prohibition of tattoos in the New Testament. However, the Old Testament does shed some light on it.

In the biblical scriptures, Leviticus 19:27-28 reads ‘Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.’ However, many believe that the word ‘tattoo’ is not the literal translation, as there was no such word in the English language until the 19th century. Moreover, there are people who believe that the verse is rather indicative of body modifications and not necessarily a tattoo.

A lot also has to do with the biblical historical context of the time. There are many commandments and laws mentioned in the Old Testament, including Leviticus, which were noted at the time when the Israelites were freed from slavery and were traveling from Egypt to Cannan. Back then, when they were bound to slavery in Egypt, evidence suggests that women used to get parts of their body tattooed, such as their thighs, breasts, chests, or abdomen areas, as it was considered to be a good luck charm before going through the birthing process. Also, it was found that Cannaites used to slash their bodies, wherein they indulged in cutting, branding, and even mutilating to mourn the passing of loved ones or as part of pagan worship rituals.

To put this in context, God was against worshiping other foreign Gods and sacrificial ceremonies associated with them, but there is no note of God being against the tattoo practices we know today in the modern context. So, it all boils down to matters of the heart. If getting tattoos fills one with strength, reminds them of God’s power and unfailing love when in depths of despair and pain, and brings some respite and cheer to their soul, then considering getting a tattoo may not be a bad idea.

Now, let’s dig deeper and take a look at biblical texts and verses about tattoos.

protip_icon Did You Know?
Justin Bieber got a tiny cross tattoo inked under his eyes in 2016. The singer was of the opinion that it was a representation of his faith in Jesus Christ.

Bible Verses About Tattoos

An open page from the Bible in the hands of an individual.
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It’s important to remember that the bible does not explicitly talk about tattoos, but there are a few Bible verses that can be interpreted as a reference to tattoos.

1. Leviticus 19:28: “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on yourselves: I am the Lord.”

This verse is commonly understood as a direct prohibition of tattoos. However, the very interpretation of this verse is subjective and varies according to different Christian religious denominations and individual perspectives. Some Bible scholars are of the view that this verse refers to idol worship, pagan customs, or mourning rituals related to the Old Testament or the historical context of the time. Others are of the opinion that this verse is a clear prohibition against getting tattoos.

2. Deuteronomy 14:1-2: “You are the children of the Lord your God. You shall not make any baldness between your eyes for the dead, nor shall you shave the edges of your beard. You are a people holy to the Lord your God…”

Although this verse talks about hair and does not specifically mention anything about tattoos, some Christians believe that this verse has a broader context. It indirectly talks about body modifications and not altering one’s physical appearance.

3. Romans 12:1-2: “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.”

These verses are often understood as a call for believers to offer themselves, in this case their bodies, as a living sacrifice for God. This means not conforming to the ways of the world, which, in this case, could imply avoiding getting tattoos.

4. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “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.”

This verse emphasizes maintaining the sacredness of the body and using it to bring honor and give glory to God alone. This can imply that one should treat their body with respect and reverence and stay away from all forms of body modifications.

5. Galatians 5:13: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

This verse does not directly address tattoos but emphasizes on living in accordance with the spirit and staying away from fleshly desires. It signifies that one should not misuse the freedom given in Christ but rather focus on spreading love and having a desire to serve others. This means emphasizing more on love and service than letting self-gratification get the better of you.

It’s important to note that the interpretations of these verses might differ from individual to individual, depending on religious denominations and personal convictions. However, getting a tattoo might not necessarily be a vandalism of these verses. Let us understand why in the next section.

Is Getting A Tattoo A Sin As Per The Bible?

A stone with the word ‘sin’ written on it, lying beside a wooden cross.
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After learning about the verses that address the concept of body art, it’s important to understand that the very interpretation of religious texts can vary from individual to individual. There are different beliefs about tattoos, where one such dominant view that emerges is that getting a tattoo is sinning against God.

On similar lines, Carmen Joy Imes, a blogger, shares her experience on how tattoos were banned in her family owing to religious concerns. She writes, “Growing up, I don’t remember seeing tattoos on any of the Christians in my community. My grandparents and parents were so firmly against the idea that the topic never even came up in our home. It was simply obvious that Christians shouldn’t get tattoos because it directly contradicted Scripture (i).”

Many Christians are of the view that since the only mention of tattoos is in the Old Testament, and just a few laws are stated regarding it, they do not apply to present-day Christians. With the arrival of Jesus Christ into the world, a new covenant was established known as the New Testament.

There is no mention of body modifications, ban on tattoos or ritualistic practices associated with them in the New Testament explicitly. Hence, one could argue that getting modern-day tattoos does not constitute a sin. Let us consider this topic in greater depth in the following section.

protip_icon Did You Know?
The Bible verse John 3:16 is one of the most popularly tattooed verses across the globe.

Can Christians Get Tattoos?

A Christian man with tattoos on his forearm and upper arms folds his hands in prayer.
Image: Shutterstock

While the Levitical laws stated in the Bible may be constituted as a taboo on tattoos, it’s important to remember that the laws were intended to prohibit practices such as paganism and slavery. It was basically based on the principle that God desires that one should not violate their natural body. Hence, a Christian should keep that factor in mind while getting tattoos.

Christians can think of getting Bible verse tattoos, God-honoring visible tattoos, and other biblical tattoos, such as pictorial depictions of the stories in it, as a reminder of their commitment, spiritual beliefs, and values. Also, Christian tattoos can be a great conversation starter to help you share the gospel and bring people to Christ. Moreover, believer tattoos can be powerful reminders of how God has helped one overcome insurmountable challenges, represent a period of growth, or simply stand as a symbolic representation of your spiritual journey.

The decision of Christian getting a tattoo is subjective and can vary from individual to individual, as do the very interpretation of religious texts and teachings. Depending on an individual’s convictions, values, and personal beliefs, one person may view something as meaningful and spiritually uplifting, while another might view it to be not as significant. In the end, whether to get a tattoo should be one’s personal choice, keeping in line with your faith, tradition, and mode of expression.

Key Takeaways

  • Tattoos are a form of personal expression, an embodiment of the essence of who you are as a person.
  • The question of whether a Christian should get a tattoo varies from person to person. For one, it might mean deviating from God’s holiness, and for others, it might just be a form of self-expression that may align with their faith.
  • The Bible does not explicitly address anything about the process of tattooing.
  • The decision of whether to go for a tattoo is a deeply personal choice that involves consideration of beliefs, values, and convictions.
what does the bible say about tattoos

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Frequently Asked Questions

What does Jesus say about tattoos?

There is no definite answer given in the Bible to this question. The Bible nor Jesus Christ make any explicit reference to tattoos. However, many Christians condemn tattoos as considered immoral by God, according to the Old Testament.

Do Christians with tattoos feel judged within their religious communities?

Christians may feel judged within their Christian communities for getting a tattoo, or they might find acceptance. It varies according to the attitudes of different Christian denominations, cultural influences, doctrines, etc.

What are common Christian-inspired tattoos?

While all Christian tattoos vary in size, shape, and design, symbols like crosses, angels, or praying hands are some of the most popular Christian tattoos. When it comes to larger tattoos, imagery from the Last Supper and Jesus Christ’s death on the cross are very popular.

Lex, a YouTuber, shares his views in the video of what the Bible says about tattoos. He was of the opinion that the Bible states that one should honor God in their body by refraining from getting tattoos

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Joyce Joyson
Joyce JoysonBeauty & Lifestyle Writer
Joyce Joyson is a beauty and lifestyle writer with over a year of experience crafting short-form content for the beauty, fashion, and lifestyle niches. She has a triple majors bachelor’s degree in History, Political Science, and Geography from IIS University and a master’s degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Kristu Jayanti College.

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