Bible Verses about Tattoos

Does the Bible Say Anything About Tattoos?

Yes, the Bible does address the issue of tattoos, but the mention is specific to the cultural and historical context of ancient Israel. The primary passage that’s often cited in relation to tattoos is from Leviticus:

“You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD.” – Leviticus 19:28 (ESV)

Several things to consider about this verse…

See our post about Christian Tattoos for Men (ideas)

Verse about Tattoos

Historical Context about Tattoos in the Bible

In the ancient Near East, it was common for pagan tribes to mark their bodies with tattoos and cuts as a form of mourning or to identify with a particular deity. God was establishing Israel as a distinct nation, separate from the idolatrous practices of their neighbors. This command can be seen as a directive against assimilating those pagan religious practices.

Cultural Relevance of Tattoos in Bible Times

The Old Testament Law, especially those found in Leviticus, was given specifically to the nation of Israel. Many of these regulations are not directly applicable to Christians today, as they were a part of the Mosaic covenant, which is distinct from the New Covenant established through Jesus Christ. For instance, the same book of Leviticus prohibits eating pork and shellfish, but most Christians today don’t adhere to these dietary laws.

“You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD.”

Leviticus 19:28

Christian Perspective on Tattoos

The New Testament does not specifically address tattoos. Thus, many Christians approach the issue from the perspective of conscience, cultural context, and personal conviction. Some Christians believe that since their bodies are “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), they should refrain from marking them with tattoos. Others believe that tattoos, if they are not idolatrous or used to promote ungodly behavior, can be a form of personal expression or even used to share one’s faith.

What Other Bible Verses do People Reference about Tattoos?

Avoiding Worldly Conformity

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.” – Romans 12:2. Some Christians argue that getting a tattoo for the sake of fashion or worldly acceptance could be seen as conforming to the world.

Considering the Weaker Brother

“It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.” – Romans 14:21. The broader context of Romans 14 discusses Christian liberty and the importance of not causing a “weaker” believer to stumble because of one’s freedoms. Some might argue that tattoos could be a stumbling block for others, especially in cultures or denominations where they’re frowned upon.

While none of these verses directly address tattoos, they offer general principles that some Christians might consider when making a decision about getting a tattoo. As always, interpreting and applying biblical principles often involves considering the cultural, personal, and broader theological contexts.

Oldest Known Tattoos ever Found on Earth

The oldest known examples of tattoos were found on the naturally mummified body of Ötzi the Iceman, who was discovered in 1991 in the Ötztal Alps near the border between Austria and Italy. Ötzi dates back to approximately 3250 BC, making his tattoos over 5,000 years old.

Ötzi’s tattoos are simple patterns of lines and crosses made by making small incisions in the skin and then rubbing them with charcoal. Interestingly, these tattoos are located on parts of the body that might have suffered from aches and pains, leading some researchers to speculate that the tattoos may have been a form of ancient therapy, perhaps an early form of acupuncture.

This discovery provides valuable insights into the use of tattoos in prehistoric times and suggests that the practice of tattooing has been a part of human culture for thousands of years.

Some Questions about Christians and Tattoos

Can Christians go to heaven with piercings and tattoos?

The Bible does not explicitly link salvation to physical appearances like tattoos or piercings. Salvation is based on faith in Jesus Christ, which is based on the heart, and not on external factors. Therefore, having tattoos or piercings does not determine one’s eligibility for heaven. It’s important to focus on one’s faith and relationship with God rather than external appearances.

I consider myself religious (Christian), and tattoos are a sin, but can I have a crush on someone who does have tattoos?

Having a tattoo does not inherently make someone sinful or unworthy of love or respect. It’s important to understand the individual’s beliefs, values, and character. If their heart aligns with “Christian” values and they exhibit a genuine faith, their external appearance, such as having tattoos, should not be a barrier to forming a relationship.

Are tribal marks and tattoos sinful in Islam and Christianity?

Christianity: In Christianity, the Old Testament mentions tattoos in Leviticus 19:28, but the verse is specific to the cultural and historical context of ancient Israel and the pagan god worship of that time. The New Testament does not explicitly address tattoos but rather is focused on the heart. Therefore, whether tattoos are considered sinful can vary among different Christian denominations and individuals. Islam: Some Muslim scholars argue that tattoos constitute changing Allah’s creation and therefore are prohibited.

Tattoos and the feelings about them come down to personal conviction, cultural context, and the intention behind getting a tattoo.

Bible Studies

Closing Thoughts about Tattoos and the Bible

In summary, while the Old Testament prohibits tattoos within a specific cultural and historical context, there’s a diverse range of opinions among Christians today regarding their appropriateness. It’s important for each individual to carefully consider their reasons for getting a tattoo and to respect the convictions of others on the matter.

Leviticus 19:28 is the only definitive Bible verse about tattoos, and it is clearly speaking about “tattoos and marking” for the dead.

I personally have multiple tattoos. One is a cover-up of a decades old Army tattoo I received when I was 21 years old. The cover up is a cross logo and a representation of the Armor of God. A second tattoo I received when I was married, which is 1/2 of the scripture, “What God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Matthew 19:6) While this tattoo is not a covenant of my marriage, it is a reminder of the covenant of my marriage.

I’ve seen people with tattoos go to church and be judged for their tattoos. From someone who grew up as the son of a church leader, it saddens me. In this case, the one who judged by outward appearance was in sin, not the one who bore the tattoos. If Jesus of 2000+ years ago walked into some of today’s churches with long hair and tattered clothing, He would likely be judged as many people are judged today by their outward appearance.

Tattoos are outward and can be seen by anyone. The heart is inward and can only be seen by God.

Author Image

Bryan E. Robinson

Bryan E. Robinson is a U.S. Army veteran and founder of Scriptures.blog, 316Tees.com, and ChristianQuotes.info. Bryan is a spiritual warrior whose goal is to get God’s Word in front of as many people as possible through digital channels.