Video by Got Questions Ministries

Tattoos have become increasingly popular in recent years, with nearly 41% of Americans under 30 having at least one tattoo according to Pew Research Center.

As body art becomes more mainstream, many Christians wonder: are tattoos sinful according to the Bible?

While some argue that the Bible prohibits tattoos as sinful, a closer examination shows that the verses traditionally associated with condemning tattoos require thoughtful interpretation.

This article will examine key Bible verses about tattoos, unpack their historical context, and explore what the Bible really says about body art and modification.

Read on to learn the truth about tattoos and Christianity.

What Does The Bible Say About Tattoos?

The Bible And Tattoos

The most frequently cited Bible verses about tattoos come from the Old Testament, specifically in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

Leviticus 19:28

The verse most often quoted is Leviticus 19:28 (KJV), which states:

“Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.”

On its surface, this verse seems to prohibit tattoos and body markings. However, the key to understanding this verse is to examine it in its historical context.

The Book of Leviticus was written during a time when the Israelites were surrounded by pagan cultures that engaged in ritual tattooing and cutting.

These body modifications were done for pagan festivals, superstitious beliefs, and to honor and mourn the dead.

Thus, in the original Hebrew, Leviticus 19:28 does not refer to generic tattooing or body modification.

Rather, it is a specific prohibition against engaging in pagan mourning rituals.

Leviticus 21:5

Another key Old Testament verse is Leviticus 21:5 (NKJV), which states:

They shall not make any bald place on their heads, nor shall they shave the edges of their beards nor make any cuttings in their flesh.

Like Leviticus 19:28, this verse refers to cutting, marking, or shaving the body for pagan ritual purposes. Again, this particular verse was written for the priests and not for the ordinary people.

It seeks to differentiate God’s people from the pagan practices of Israel’s neighbors.

Deuteronomy 14:1

Deuteronomy 14:1 (NIV) offers a similar prohibition:

“You are children of the Lord your God. Do not cut yourselves or shave the front of your heads for the dead.”

Again, this verse prohibits ritual cutting and marking the body to honor the dead in pagan ceremonies.

In summary, a close reading reveals the Old Testament verses about cutting, marking, and tattooing the body refer to pagan mourning rituals, not body art or tattooing in general.

While all verses should be thoughtfully considered, these verses do not constitute a blanket prohibition of tattoos.

Can Christians Get Tattoos?

Can Christians Get Tattoos?

Besides the verses in the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament does not specifically prohibit tattoos or make any mention of them.

However, some argue tattoos should be avoided based on broader principles in the New Testament about honoring God with your body. Let’s examine two relevant passages.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV) says:

19 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; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

While this verse speaks of honoring God with your body, it does not prohibit tattoos or body modification.

Even so, it’s an important principle to thoughtfully consider when deciding about body art. Ask yourself, “Does this tattoo honor God?”

Romans 12:1

Similarly, Romans 12:1 (NIV) states:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

Like 1 Corinthians 6, this verse discusses honoring God with your body but does not directly prohibit tattoos. It emphasizes making decisions that align with worshiping God.

Overall, while containing wisdom to reflect on, these New Testament verses do not directly prohibit tattoos.

Bible Verses About Tattoos: Key Takeaways

Bible Verses About Tattoos

When studied in a historical context, the Bible does not prohibit getting tattoos in all cases.

The Old Testament verses referring to cuttings, marks, and tattoos pertain to pagan mourning rituals, not tattoos in general.

The New Testament does not specifically address tattoos.

However, several verses emphasizing care for your body provide wisdom to consider when deciding about permanent body modifications like tattoos. Questions to reflect on include:

  • Is my motivation to glorify God or myself?
  • Does this align with how God wants me to care for the body He gave me?
  • Could this specific tattoo communicate something at odds with my faith?

The Bible does not definitively settle whether tattoos are permissible or not.

Each believer must carefully examine their motivations and potential messages communicated by body art in light of Biblical wisdom.

While tattoos are not definitively forbidden, they do represent a permanent modification to God’s temple, your body.

Scripture urges thoughtful consideration of how to honor God with your physical body.

Ultimately, the Bible neither bans nor endorses tattoos. Whether getting a tattoo aligns with your faith is something each Christian must decide between themselves and God.

Conclusion: Are Tattoos Sinful According to the Bible?

While certain verses touch on body modification, the Bible does not explicitly prohibit tattoos in all cases.

Specific prohibitions on cutting, marking, and tattooing oneself refer to pagan religious rituals, not body art generally.

However, scripture does say to honor God with your physical body. Carefully examine your motivations and the messages behind body modification.

Ultimately, since tattoos are not forbidden or endorsed, prayerful reflection is required to decide if getting a tattoo aligns with your Christian convictions.

The Bible alone does not settle whether tattoos are sinful. With wisdom and guidance from scripture, each Christian must seek the Holy Spirit’s direction to discern if getting a tattoo is appropriate for them.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Bible and Tattoos

Q. Does the Bible say you can’t get tattoos?

A. No, the Bible does not prohibit getting tattoos in all cases. The verses traditionally associated with condemning tattoos, in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, refer to pagan ritual tattoos, not body art in general.

Q. What does the Bible say about tattoos and piercings?

A. The Bible does not specifically address piercings. The verses interpreted as prohibiting tattoos refer to pagan mourning rituals, not body modifications in general.

However, scripture does provide principles to help believers carefully consider how body modifications can honor God.

Q. What does the Bible say about marking your body?

A. The Bible prohibits marking or cutting the body for pagan ritual purposes. It does not prohibit all forms of body modification.

Verses that emphasize care for your body provide wisdom for considering how modifications like tattoos will impact your Christian witness.

Q. Should Christians get Bible verse tattoos?

A. Some Christians feel Bible verse tattoos are a meaningful way to demonstrate their faith. Others feel that permanently marking Scripture on one’s body is inappropriate.

Since the Bible does not definitively prohibit tattoos, each Christian must decide what is most appropriate for their convictions.

Q. Why is the body considered a temple?

A. The concept of the body being a temple comes from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, where it says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit?”

This means that our bodies should be treated with respect and used for honorable and pure purposes.

Q. Is it sinful to have a tattoo?

A. The Bible in Leviticus 19:28 states, “You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD.”

This verse suggests that the act of tattooing was associated with pagan religious practices in ancient times.

It is sinful if your motives for getting a tattoo do not line up with the word of God.

Q. What is the significance of tattoo marks in the Bible?

A. In the Bible, tattoos are mentioned in Leviticus 19:28, which advises against making any cuts on the body or tattooing.

Tattoos, at that time, were associated with pagan rituals or idol worship, which is why it was discouraged.

Q. Are Christians allowed to have tattoos?

A. The Bible does not explicitly forbid Christians from having tattoos. However, Christians should glorify God in everything they do, including having body art.

It is important to consider the motive behind getting a tattoo, the message it conveys, and whether it aligns with biblical principles of honoring God.

Q. Does the Bible condemn cutting your body?

A. The Bible does not specifically condemn cutting one’s body. However, in the context of Leviticus 19:28, which mentions cutting the body and tattooing, the practices described were associated with pagan rituals and idolatry.

Therefore, it should be understood in that cultural and historical context.

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