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What Does The Bible Say About Tattoos?

Tattoos can be defined as the permanent marking of the skin with ink or pigment and have become a prevalent form of self-expression in contemporary society. Many wonder, what does the Bible say about tattoos? While the Bible mentions tattoos in a negative context, it is important to note that possessing one does not determine one's salvation or spiritual standing before God. Will having or getting a tattoo keep you from heaven? No. There is no scriptural basis to suggest that a tattoo will limit or keep someone from being saved. However, many scriptural considerations should be weighed when considering this topic. This post will explore the biblical perspective on tattoos, drawing insights from the Old and New Testaments.



bible verses about tattoos


What Does The Bible Say About Tattoos?


THE OLD TESTAMENT PERSPECTIVE


Leviticus 19:28 states, You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord. This prohibition against tattoos is embedded in a broader context of mourning practices and idolatrous customs in various ancient cultures. As mentioned by renowned historian William Smith in his work "A Dictionary of the Bible" (1860), historical records shed light on the cultural and religious backdrop of this prohibition.


While mourning, cultures such as the Hebrews, Philistines, Moabites, Arabs, Ethiopians, Babylonians, Armenians, Greeks, and Romans engaged in extreme acts of grief involving bodily incisions and mutilations. These practices were believed to honor the deceased and secure atonement through bloodshed. Moreover, engraving symbols or names of chief deities on the body was a common form of religious expression among idolaters.


God's commandment to the Israelites, prohibiting such practices, aimed to distinguish them from surrounding pagan nations and discourage associations with idolatry. Understanding this historical context enables us to interpret the verse in Leviticus 19:28 as addressing specific cultural practices.


Applying this commandment to Christians today requires discernment. While the cultural practices of ancient times may differ from contemporary tattooing, the underlying principle of avoiding practices associated with idolatry and respecting the sanctity of the body remains relevant. As Christians today, we should be encouraged to consider the motives behind getting a tattoo and whether it aligns with honoring God.



A NEW TESTAMENT PERSPECTIVE


1 Corinthians 6:19-20 emphasizes, 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. This verse highlights the believer's body's sanctity as the Holy Spirit's temple or dwelling place.


This verse raises important thoughts and potential questions about the impact of tattoos on the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit. While the Bible does not explicitly address tattoos, believers must consider how their choices align with glorifying God in their bodies. They must remember that their body is not their own but God's. This again, speaks to the reasons or motives a believer might have for getting a tattoo and whether it is right and pleasing the Spirit of God. This understanding should influence a Christian's decision to get a tattoo, encouraging them to weigh their relationship with God and to think about their choices.


The mention of a mark in eternity in Revelation 22:1-4 further emphasizes the enduring nature of spiritual marks. Though this passage doesn't specifically address tattoos, it underscores the idea that the ultimate mark is one God will give Christians, marking those who are His for eternity.



FREEDOM AND CONSCIENCE


1 Corinthians 10:23-24 addresses Christian liberty, stating, ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. This principle guides believers in exercising their freedom responsibly.


Discussion questions arising from this passage prompt consideration of the impact of one's choices on oneself and others. Christians are encouraged to exercise freedom responsibly, considering the potential effects of getting a tattoo on their witness and the well-being of their fellow believers.


Indeed, getting a tattoo is not a salvation issue, and one might be "free" to get one; however, is it the most beneficial thing to do? Is it something that reflects a godly witness? Will it build others up or hinder their relationship with God? Those are questions that must be considered.



MY STANCE


If someone were to ask about my stance on tattoos, I do not favor them or think them appropriate for a Christian. Given that our bodies are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit and considering the message a tattoo may give to others around me, my conscience is not favorable to them. I also don't think it's the best example for a pastor to have or overtly display a tattoo. I do understand that many pastors have tattoos because of decisions they made before getting saved or in their younger years, and that is different than choosing to get one now. I should note that I am not suggesting a Christian or a pastor who has or decides to get a tattoo is less spiritual or somehow inferior to me. This is my stance and thoughts on why I would not get one.



CONCLUSION


In conclusion, understanding the biblical perspective on tattoos involves carefully examining Old and New Testament passages. While the Old Testament provides specific cultural prohibitions, the New Testament underscores the sanctity of the believer's body as the temple of the Holy Spirit. Christians are called to exercise freedom responsibly, considering the motives behind getting a tattoo, its potential impact on their relationship with God, and its effect on those around them.


Considering the biblical perspective on tattoos and in relationship to our body being the temple of the Holy Spirit, what factors do you believe should weigh most heavily in an individual Christian's decision to get a tattoo, and how might this decision impact their witness and relationship with God?



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3 Comments

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Guest
Jan 24
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Thank you for a balanced approach on the topic.

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Guest
Jan 19
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

I really appreciate your reflection and reasoning concerning this topic. I appreciate your look at scripture and in the way you have urged Christian to consider, reflect and ultimately take it up with God. <3 Thanks so much.

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Replying to

Thanks very much. I appreciate your encouragement.

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