What Does the Bible Say About Tattoos?

The number of Americans with at least one tattoo has jumped 50% in the past four years.

Does the Bible promote tattoos or other means of body art? Roughly 50% of millennials have one, as do 36% of Gen Xers, according to a recent Harris poll. The number of Americans with at least one tattoo has jumped 50% in the past four years. But before we can give a full explanation of the biblical view, it is important to understand that no one should be condemned if they have at some point had a tattoo put on.  I have known countless sincere Christians that have had various tattoos ranging from a small emblem to a full sleeve. More times than not there is some degree of regret in the mind of the person concerning the body art that they had done.Often times people get tattoos prior to an encounter with Jesus Christ. Once the tattoo is complete, it can be both painful and expensive to have removed. So people are basically stuck with a tattoo that they may feel differently about than when it was first put on. For this reason, we should never become legalistic or condemning regarding people who are tatted.

Biblical Perspective
The scripture speaks to tattoos very directly in Leviticus 19:28 stating, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.”  Darby’s translation of the Bible states this with greater clarity, “And cuttings for a dead person shall ye not make in your flesh, nor put any tattoo writing upon you: I am Jehovah.“  Of course this is part of the Law given to ancient Israel and is not imposed upon Christians. However, we must realize the underlying principle is at least worth some personal reflection.
Looking at this from a New Testament perspective we find that 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 states, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” The point here is that the Christian’s body is now the temple of God, the Holy Spirit. Upon salvation we become the personal property of God.  We should insure His clear permission before marking or altering our bodies.

Human Perspective
Our body’s skin is not a very durable canvas for artwork. What may appear a beautiful and colorful tattoo on the day it is done will invariable turn into a washed out blur in years to come. As skin stretches, wrinkles and grows the once beautiful tattoo will not retain its initial beauty.  In addition, due to personal growth and maturity, what one may have thought to be a reason to tattoo at age 21 will probably not remain a sufficient reason at age 45.  Visible tattoos can often lead to difficulty obtaining the employment that one would desire in midlife simply because employers understand that the visible presentation of their employees reflect directly on the reputation of the company.

When considering a tattoo, one should first consider  how they would feel if a person marked their car or house without permission first. Consider how the Lord may feel when we do the same.  Also, one should think about the health risks in getting a tattoo. It is not uncommon for people  to experience itching, swelling and redness. They may even contract infections such as hepatitis B or C, or even HIV.