What Does the Bible Speak about Tattoos?A Chapter by Ethan Paz
This paper is to show you what the Bible says about tattoos.
What Does the Bible Speak about Tattoos?
Tattoos have not just existed recently but for a long time. Regarding this practice and many who exercise it, people must know the right answer. The holy Scriptures prove there is an answer and I recommend you look up the references provided so that you may know the truth. Do not take tattooing lightly if you are considering to get a tattoo. If you do take it lightly than ask yourself this question, “What will Christ think of this on judgment day?” If you have a tattoo than give God the glory for we were made for His glory (Isaiah 43:7). This article will give a detailed answer as to what the Bible says about tattoos.
You must wonder at some point and ask yourself this question, “Are tattoos right?” and come with an answer. Consider these staggering statistics:
In January of 2007, The Pew Research Center found out
“-36% of 18-35 year olds have at least one tattoo.
-In April of 2005 it was reported that more than 45 million people had at least one tattoo.
-In July of 2005 a group of teenagers from the ages of 13-17 were asked when they thought the right age to get a tattoo was and they answer [ed] 19.”
In March of 2005, The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology find [sic] out:
“-24% of the general U.S. Population had at least one tattoo
-17% of those people have thought about having a tattoo removed
-5% of them have had a tattoo covered up with a different design.”
Seeing this, which side is right? Let us now go into the world of the tattooist.
This portion will be divided into three sections: what people say, it is about the body, and what the Bible says. I will state information about each from the tattooist’s perspective than state what the Bible says. What the Bible says is what goes.
Pastor Chuckk Gerwig says the following in (Im) Morality of Tattoos:
“1. Structurally, tattooing is moral because humankind is created with the ability to
appreciate beauty and art, and decorate themselves accordingly. The Body Art Book identifies
“aesthetics” as one of the many reasons why people get tattoos.
2. Functionally, tattooing is moral since humankind has free will and believers are free in
Christ to do what they want with their own bodies (1 Corinthians 6:12). Jean-Chris Miller bluntly
states, “It’s your body and you can do what you like with it.”
3. Relationally, tattooing is moral for it accounts for diversity amongst believers. Just as
God created humans with different colored skin, so people who are tattooed with different
colored skin shouldn’t be prejudiced against. Unity should not be based on outward appearance,
but on spiritual matters (Philippians 2:2). Amy Krakow begs for unity amongst humankind when
she exclaims that tattoos are, “Just ink; body art. Not some scarlet letter telling the world we’re
wanton criminals, sexual perverts, biker scum, sailors, soldiers or just plain weird.”
4. Teleologically, tattoos are moral for they are a medium by which a believer can
communicate God’s character to the external world, as well as to their own internal world. A.
Gell expresses the external as well as internal communicatory nature of tattoos by saying, “The
inside-facing and the outside-facing skins are… one indivisible structure, and hence the skin
continually communicates the external world to the internal one, and the internal world to the
In point one he states that “humankind is created with the ability to appreciate beauty and art, and decorate themselves accordingly . . . .” This does not mean the person should treat his/her body as he/she wishes. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” We bear the images of God and to take that for granted is sinning against our body. As 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 states boldly, “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? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” To design your body as you wish violates these verses, thus tattoos should not be tolerated
In point two Gerwig states because we have a free-will, we can do whatever we wish to do. Such is not the case, as I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Yes, we have a free-will but that does not mean we live the Christian life aimlessly and abuse our bodies. We are made in the image of God and should treat it like so. Our will is sinful and to follow our will would be a disastrous ending. Look at Jonah, he did what he wanted to do and God had to discipline him. No man should follow his will or conscience only, for it is God alone Who is perfect.
In point three Gerwig states because God created humans with different colors it is alright to tattoo ourselves. Gerwig is DEAD WRONG! I will give two proofs: this reasoning violates Leviticus 19:28 and the people who built the Tower of Babel wanted to dwell in the heavens like God but ultimately they were scattered because of their sinfulness. Just because God does something does not automatically mean we should do it too. Just because God dwells above the heavens does not mean us humans should do it too. He is omnipotent; we can never do the stuff He accomplishes.
In point four Gerwig states tattoos show who God is. The problem is it violates Leviticus 19:28! God can be clearly seen. As Psalms 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” Practically, Gerwig is saying, “God did not show Himself clear enough so I will do it for you.” God said during the six days of creation, “It is good.” Are you saying, God did not do a good enough job?
The body is cherished and rightly so. I love my body! I love the way God made me. I love how I can see, taste, smell, walk on two legs, think, and much more. The world shows their satisfaction by improving their body in many ways (some are sinful) clothing choice, makeup, plastic surgery, haircutting and coloring, weight loss, body-building, and ear piercing. Our body is not meant to be improved anymore than what it is (nothing wrong with makeup, haircuts, most clothes are right but some wrong etc). It was made by a perfect creator! It was all good.
God would not approve of tattoos because it destroys His creation He created for His glory! There are risks in having a tattoo. A tattoo breaches your skin- your body’s main protective barrier- skin infections and other skin reactions are possible. God would not approve of something that has the possibility of harming you! MayoClinic.com mentions specific risks of tattoos:
Blood-borne diseases. If the equipment used to create your tattoo is contaminated with the blood of an infected person, you can contract a number of serious blood-borne diseases. These include hepatitis C, hepatitis B, tetanus, tuberculosis and HIV " the virus that causes AIDS.
Skin disorders. Your body may form bumps called granulomas around tattoo ink, especially if your tattoo includes red ink. Tattooing can also cause areas of raised, excessive scarring (keloids), if you're prone to them.
Skin infections. Tattoos can lead to local bacterial infections. Typical signs and symptoms of an infection include redness, warmth, swelling and a pus-like drainage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has linked clusters of potentially serious antibiotic-resistant skin infections to unlicensed tattoo artists who don't follow proper infection-control procedures. Some antibiotic-resistant skin infections can lead to pneumonia, blood infections and a painful, flesh-destroying condition called necrotizing fasciitis.
Allergic reactions. Tattoo dyes, particularly red dye, can cause allergic skin reactions, resulting in an itchy rash at the tattoo site. This may occur even years after you get the tattoo.
MRI complications. Rarely, tattoos or permanent makeup may cause swelling or burning in the affected areas during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams. In some cases " such as when a person with permanent eyeliner has an MRI of the eye " tattoo pigments may interfere with the quality of the image.
Also those that received tattoos at a commercial tattoo parlor were nine times more likely to get hepatitis C! “That’s nine times more likely to be infected by a deadly, fatal disease” (MayoClinic.com). God does not approve of murder; tattoos are almost murder you just hope the person giving the tattoo will not mess up!
The most quoted verse against tattoos is Leviticus 19:28, “Ye shall not make . . . print [s] upon you.” People for tattoos will conclude this statement not inerrant. This presents itself not just one problem but many problems concerning the Bible. (I will talk about inerrancy later.) Those for tattoos justify themselves by the following passages of Scripture, Galatians 5:4-6 and Romans 7:6. Galatians 5:4-6 reads,
“You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”
Romans 7:6 reads,
“But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”
So Leviticus 19:28 is left void, right? Wrong! Let us observe these verses now and know where is the right rock to stand on.
I am not being anti-tattooist; I am simply agreeing as to what the Bible says and what the Bible says is what goes. Galatians 5:4-6 is not a verse against tattoos. This passage condemns working for your salvation by the law for one is saved by faith through grace in Jesus Christ. How do I know this? Just read the book of Galatians as an entity and do not just read a single sentence.
Romans 7:6 basically says we do not live by the law (Ten Commandments) but by faith through grace. This verse and the verses above are verses to fight against the law not against tattoos. Read before you assume anything!
One might say, “Leviticus 9:28 is part of the law; it is the Leviticus law!” and I agree with you. The problem is you would have to take every single command out of the Septuagint and follow the New Testament. No where in the New Testament does it tell us not to sacrifice babies. So some of the Old Testament have to be followed but not every command has to be followed for most people are not Jews!
Another question a tattooist will ask is, “Does not this verse only apply to the Israelites because the previous verses God is telling the Jews to abstain from the pagan practices?” If you take this question into consideration, you must also take the Ten Commandments into consideration. My question would than be, “How would the Old Testament Gentile be saved if he could not follow the law?” He could not and therein lies the problem because God is not partial (James 2:1). God provides salvation to all.
Gerwig said, “I believe the key principle in Leviticus 19:28 is: God does not want His people to be idolatrous. The emphatic theme of Leviticus is God calling His people to holiness.” There are two problems with this statement. 1) It is a subjective view; an opinionated bias not on the Word of God but by self. You do not ask “What does this Bible verse means to you?” but rather ask, “What does this Bible verse mean?” Inerrancy is not based on the will but on the infallible Word of God. 2) Leviticus’ main theme is holiness but you must take account of the passages of Scripture like you do with the other books of the Bible. Hence each word is important, even a comma.
Perhaps the most controversial topic concerning tattoos is: it can give God the glory. This I do not agree. What you are practically saying is God did not manifest Himself clearly enough and thus you contradict the Holy Scriptures. Romans 1:20 is an excellent example of this,
“For although they know God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
The tattoo will not solve the problem; God’s grace will but it is man’s stubbornness which declines God’s grace. The tattoo cannot do any more of a job than what God has done.
I have answered all of the questions which may be presented to the conservative Christian. I will now present the facts as to why tattoos are sin. I am saying what the Bible says. I encourage you to look up the verses yourself and to follow as to what I am saying.
I will list seven major reasons as to why tattoos are not biblical. Here are the reasons:
“ 1. Structurally, humans are endowed with certain traits which make them distinct including the capacity to obtain knowledge, reason, and make moral decisions.
2. Functionally, humans are able to operate as God’s representatives on earth, namely through ruling over nature (Genesis 1:26, 2:5; Psalm 8:5-6)
3. Teleologically, humans are created to glorify God through making visible His character (1 Corinthians 10:31).
4. Structurally, tattoos are immoral for they violate our conscience (Romans 2:15)
5. Functionally, tattoos are immoral. As God’s representatives, we are to care for creation
(including our bodies) through exercising responsible dominion. Tattoos mutilate the body which
is supposed to be nurtured and sustained, and make it vulnerable to infection. Victoria Pitts
records the negative perception of tattooing in her book, In the Flesh: “Practices such as
piercing, scarification, and branding are linked to anorexia, bulimia, and what has been called
‘delicate self-harm syndrome,’ which is an addictive, repetitive, non-decorative form of skin
cutting, usually on the arm or legs. This is considered an expression of absolute hatred or
6. Relationally, tattoos are immoral because they hinder unity within the body of Christ.
Tattoos could be seen as immoral by a fellow believer, and may violate their conscience (1
Corinthians 8:9-12). Steve Gilbert states: “many people " especially those belonging to nonconformist groups " get tattoos to demonstrate their defiance of traditional authority… Many
studies link multiple tattoos with antisocial personality, an increased incidence of assaultive
behavior, impulsivity, and difficulties in heterosexual adjustment.”
7. Teleologically, tattoos are immoral because they glorify the ungodly and vulgar,
instead of God’s righteous character. Tattoos may also convey vanity and arrogance; vices
inappropriate for believers (1 Peter 3:3). Jean-Chris Miller verifies this point by stating that,
“Death and darkness have always been a classic tattoo theme " skulls, snakes, demons, spiders,
and spider webs are all conventional tattoo imagery.”22
The sources above can not explain it any simpler than this. What can one say when confronted with what the Bible says? The Bible has answers for everything for it is infallible. One might say though, “Hey, Jesus had a tattoo as recorded in Revelation twenty!” Oh, really, let us take a look in Revelation 19:16, “And he hath on his vesture and on thigh a name written, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.” Why would Jesus have a tattoo on Him? This would disobey Leviticus 19:28 and He could not be the Savior of the world!
Leviticus 19:28 is here for a purpose. The Bible is our guideline and must be treated as such. To the person getting the tattoo it means nothing but it means everything! The person getting the tattoo just wants an identity or be accepted. To him Christ is not enough and therein lies the problem. The problem is sin; a sin of unbelief but with Christ we can do anything.
We all can accept God’s Word, the Bible, for it is inerrant. If there was one mistake with the Bible, the whole Bible would be flawed. Everything we had in Christ Jesus would be a fluke and we would be living a lie. No error, whatsoever, has been found in the Bible. Those who claim an error in the Bible take the passages of Scripture out of context. This proves that there is a perfect God! Hence we take the Word of God seriously from word to word for it is inerrant.
This article was to show you what the Bible says about tattoos. The word tattoo is not mentioned once in the Bible but by many verses we know the truth. What will you do with the truth presented to you? Tattoos are literally one phone call away but they can ruin your whole life in this world.
© 2010 Ethan Paz
Added on April 18, 2010
Last Updated on August 23, 2010
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