Discover the biblical views on tattoos from a Christian perspective. Explore the different interpretations of relevant scriptures and learn how to approach the topic with faith and discernment.
Although the bible does not directly say anything about tattoos that are known today as a type of “artistic expression“, the sacred scriptures have several verses that talk about the process of marking the skin.
One biblical chapter about tattoos is Leviticus 19, which expresses how God called the people of Israel to live a holy life (Leviticus 19:2).
Tell the entire assembly of Israel that they are to be holy, since I, the Lord your God, am holy.
The Christian Perspective on Tattoos
According to what the bible says about holiness, to be holy means to be separated from or set apart from the practices of the rest of the world.
God wants his people to be different from others in how they should live their holiness, separated from everything that is not pleasing to Him.
After calling the Israelites to live a holy life, God reminded them of several laws he had given in the past.
Whereby, obedience to God’s commandments was the key for the people of Israel to live according to his will and thus distinguish themselves from the people around them.
In Leviticus 19:28, the bible shows the practices that were carried out by pagan people, who were consuming blood, cutting their hair or beards as a god they worshiped, or even self-inflicting wounds on their bodies as a sign of mourning or respect for the dead.
You are not to make incisions in your flesh on account of the dead, nor submit to cuts or tattoos. I am the Lord.
The marks that remained after the wounds were an honor to the pagan idols, or even many times they were used to distinguish the slaves, to make the mark they used sharp objects, and then filled the wound with ink.
Tattoos as a sign of worship in antiquity
Tattoos were also used as a mark of worship or adoration of gods, which distinguished them from other people.
In other cultures, such as Greek and Roman, tattoos were used to distinguish between social positions and military ranks.
Is tattooing a bad practice according to the Bible?
There are several positions within Christianity about tattooing, while others support the idea that there is no problem with tattooing, and others think it is a practice that a Christian should not do.
Christians in favor of tattooing emphasize that Leviticus 19:28 says that the practice of tattooing was to honor other people’s gods; however, if the person is not seeking to honor any god, then there would be no problem.
Therefore, some Christians are not opposed to someone getting a tattoo, as it is seen as a type of art or a reminder of a special event.
However, other Christians are against the idea of tattooing and emphasize that the bible forbids tattoos no matter what, since it was a practice of pagan gods in ancient times.
Some Christian experts also suggest that marking the body is a bad practice, and that the Bible forbids tattoos.
The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit
Another verse that discusses how the body should be honored is 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, where it expresses that God owns his children.
You know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God, don’t you? You do not belong to yourselves, because you were bought for a price. Therefore, glorify God with your bodies.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
It is clear that the Holy Spirit dwells in every person who has received God and recognizes Him as his savior, therefore, to mark the body is to dishonor the Holy Spirit.
On the other hand, 1 Corinthians 8:9 also speaks about how the freedom to do things or make wrong decisions can become a cause of stumbling.
But you must see to it that this right of yours does not become a stumbling block for those who are weak.
1 Corinthians 8:9
Although many times something may not seem wrong, or it is not clear if God forbids it, it is important to know if it is good to please God.
God gives freedom to do things, but it is convenient to think about how actions will affect the relationship with God.
Likewise, other verses discuss the mark of the beast in the Bible in the book of Revelation, although it is not specified what kind of mark it will be. Revelation 13:16-17.
The second beast forces all people—important and unimportant, rich and poor, free and slaves—to be marked on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that no one may buy or sell unless he has the mark, which is the beast’s name or the number of its name.
Is it a sin to obtain a tattoo?
Although there are two different positions, there is no concrete answer whether getting a tattoo or already having a tattoo is totally displeasing to God.
The most important thing is to pray and connect with God, to ask if it is His will, and to allow the skin, the temple of the Holy Spirit, to be marked.
In addition, asking God for knowledge of how this decision will influence the future, with people close to you or with your health.
In the end, the most important thing for God is what is inside the heart, as Billy Graham says in one of his writings when Jesus spoke about the clean of the heart:
Jesus Himself spoke of the “pure in heart.” A pure heart is a reflection of doing what God wants us to do. Our inner being is the root of all our actions. From our hearts come our motives, our desires, our goals, and our emotions.