What does the Bible say about Tattoos?

Leviticus 19:28Can you guess what this article is going to be about?! Let me give you a hint, it isn’t about… unicorns or tithing or Christmas. Well, maybe there is a connection with Christ or something like that. :)

For starters, the Bible doesn’t say a whole lot about tattoos. There is one verse and then there are verses which affirm this verse and the validity of it’s position.

So we will start with the one verse:

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

Leviticus 19:28

I would say that is pretty straight forward… strangely enough people like to argue the validity of the verse. I have read a lot about this subject. I have seen lots of peoples opinions about it, most of the time I see them try to explain it away. We will cover a few of those things here.

Breaking down the verse:

“Ye shall not”

I hope this sounds super familiar. Maybe “Thou shalt not” will ring bells a little better. There is something called the Ten Commandments of which several of those ten say “Thou shalt not”, most people are familiar with this saying. Just as a point of reference, “Ye” and “Thou” are interchangeable, so is “shall” and “shalt”.

“make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead”

This is straight forward as well, cuttings or “cuts” in the flesh “for the dead”. I seriously don’t think anyone does this anymore, yet it must have been necessary to be written in the law.

“nor print any marks upon you”

Equally as straight forward as the other parts of the verse. “Nor” is a negative conjunction in accordance with the word “not”. And “print any marks upon you” this isn’t in conjunction with “for the dead” it is just in conjunction with the “not”.

“I am the LORD”

Can everyone agree with me, this is a straight forward verse? The Lord is speaking, therefore he states who he is in this fashion.

The verse is laid out as plainly as it can get. It is laid out in the same fashion as some of the ten commandments.

Some people want to argue with this verse, others will agree with it and do what God said according to it.

So the main questions we need to ask is: Who was this for? We will answer this question in. :)

Who was Leviticus 19:28 for?

This question is answered most simply with a verse in Hebrews.

If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?

Hebrews 7:11

The book of Leviticus and the Levitical priesthood go hand in hand. The law was delivered to the people, by the levitical priesthood. We know this law was for all of the people of Israel, not just the levitical priesthood, according to this verse.

Now, all of the people of Israel needed to keep this law.

You may say, ok so then it isn’t for us today… Well, wait just a minute there…

Are you not one who received the promise of Abraham? Were you not grafted in according to that promise?

That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Galatians 3:14

And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 3:29

16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. 17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;

Romans 11:16-17

If you aren’t any of this, then I would agree with you. None of the stuff I am writing about here has anything to do with you! You are just getting a lot of knowledge right now. :D

But… if you do consider yourself part of the promise, then you are part of the seed of Abraham. You are a Jew, so these laws do need to be considered under the premise I just gave.

Now, I know thus far this won’t sway many people to “not get a tattoo (or tattoos)”, but I am not really trying to sway anyone either. This is about what the Bible says about tattoos. So far, getting one doesn’t look good according to the old testment.

But a lot of times people don’t like the laws of the old testament and say “not all of them are relevant”. That’s fine, a lot of it can be debated, so we will move on to the new testament stuff.

What can you do?

Walk in the Spirit

16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

Galatians 5:16-17

This doesn’t seem as straight forward as the last one… but it is totally relevant…

The flesh wants things that are against the Spirit and the Spirit wants things that are against the flesh.

They are enemies.

What does the tattoo have to do with the Spirit? Absolutely nothing. It is something that goes on the flesh, it would then be a fleshly desire. Everything about a tattoo has to do with the flesh. The thing that is against the Spirit.

Therefore, it is not of the Spirit.

Are we going to do things contrary to the Spirit? Yes, eating food is not of the Spirit, it is of the flesh. But even then, we are supposed to fast.

If you are considering a tattoo, then be sure to talk to God about it, because your body belongs to God. God is that Spirit in Galatians 5, I think he may be contrary to it, if I had to guess :)

19 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.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

To sum it up

If you walk in the Spirit, then you won’t want to get a tattoo to satisfy the lust of the flesh.

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

1 John 2:16

If we were keeping tallies, there are more verses “against” it than there are “for” it. (I think I counted 0 “for” it)

In all things, Let the Lord be magnified :)


23 responses to “What does the Bible say about Tattoos?”

  1. An excellent argument against getting a tattoo, I think and one that needs to be discussed and written about, too. It is such a prevalent thing in our society now. At one time a “normal” person would never consider it, but they have become very popular, unfortunately. And sadly, once the deed is done, it is not easily undone. I agree with you entirely, it is a lust of the flesh that causes a person to want a tattoo.

  2. I got two of my three tattoos in my teens, after going to our pastor and asking if there were any verses in scripture against getting them. He told us that there was one and it was “old law”….fast foreword several years and two more tattoos, and now that I have truely given myself to God’s direction for my life, I can honestly say that I wish I didn’t get them. They are there, forever, and they are not of anything bad or something I wouldn’t want my mother to see, but I will certainly not be getting anymore and will be teaching my children not to and will actually SHOW them scripture, unlike I was shown. Thank you for your post.

    • Thanks for your comment, I am glad our spirits agree with each other :)

      I am also glad you have committed to teaching your children the same! :D

      Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
      Proverbs 22:6

  3. I got a tattoo shortly after my 18 birthday. It’s actually a really good message, it says “Know Your Worth”. I had been in a really downgrading and abusive relationship, and decided I wanted a reminder not to ever go back again. Needless to say, it wasn’t but a few months later before I started to regret getting it. The fact that it isn’t something terrible makes it even harder to explain to people as to why I wish I hadn’t and why it’s wrong. I fully agree that tattoos are a fleshly desire. There is no spiritual reason to want a tattoo. We are suppose to be the temple of the Holy Ghost, why would we want to tear that up with scars, piercings, and ink?

  4. I see what you’re saying but dose it not say I that same passage not to trim the edges of the hair and not o harm the ends of the beard it also says not to work on the Sabbath to keep it holy I’m not sure where I stand on the matter I have 8 piercings and 4 tattoos on of them being a Christian reminder to be strong and of good courage spiritually I’ve already prayed on the subject I just wanted to know what you thought on the other subjects related to the tattoos in Leviticus it was to my understanding that Jesus basically removed the old law and that if it isn’t reiterated in the new testament it isn’t completely relevant in our lives today that’s not to say it shouldn’t be taught and studied for sure because without the old testament we don’t have Jesus and without Jesus we don’t have the new testament idk I’m still learning I just want to get some Christian opinions while I wait for gods reply

    • Right, so here is the context of the verse:

      26 Ye shall not eat any thing with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times.
      27 Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.
      28 Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.
      29 Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness.
      Leviticus 19:26-29

      That which you brought up is kind of what I was alluding to when I brought up the “debatable” part. The reason being are the points you just brought up about the Old Testament being applicable to us located here in the New Testament.

      Now as far as it being applicable, I full believe it is. There are things that changed like the sacrifices, Jesus became that sacrifice (1 Corinthians 5:7). And food, God made everything clean (Acts 10:9-16).

      Some people will say the law was fulfilled with Jesus’s sacrifice. They take this to mean that all law is fulfilled and can no longer be fulfilled. There is a problem with this though.

      14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
      Galatians 5:14

      The law -can- be fulfilled. Loving God is a requirement according to 1 John 5:2

      1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.
      2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
      3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
      4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
      1 John 5:1-4

      Which is affirmed by John 14:21 and Proverbs 8:17. I cover this a little more in the Godliness article I made that talks about spiritual exercise.

    • I do agree with you that we are owned by God so we should ask permission for what we do with his temple and after reading this I immediately apologized because I never thought of it that way, but I personally don’t see anything wrong with decorating his temple as long as its positive and for God

      • As far as being able to decorate the temple and God being ok with it – I would simply ask the question: If you were a landlord and I was a tenant and I never got permission from you to be able to decorate your property. Yet I painted or decorated it anyway because I thought it was for the better, then you come by your property and see I have made changes.

        What then?

        It is kind of the same thing, God is our landlord. He certainly give us time to repent if we mess up. Being of a repented heart is a very good thing to have.

        This comment of yours made me think immediately of Psalms 51:17 – I appreciate your spirit, it’s refreshing to see it. :)

  5. Thank you for clearing this up for me. I am an Apostolic and I was thinking about getting a tattoo, but after reading this and seeing the verses you provided I know that I would be defying God if I did get one. And I can’t argue with scriptures in the Bible because it is the law of God. Thank You and God Bless!!!

  6. Well if you say that Leviticus 19:28 is for us today then you have to also agree that the prior verses and following are for us today also. Therefore if we are Christians we cannot trim the edges of our beards or hair or eat any meat with blood in it or wear mixed materials in our clothing.

    • Hi Chris,

      As I am sure you are aware, that which you have provided is a common response to the teaching I have provided in this post.

      For anyone else that might read this, here are the verses of scripture to which Chris is referring.

      19 Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.

      26 Ye shall not eat any thing with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times. 27 Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.
      Leviticus 19:19, 26-27

      So here is my response to you Chris: I agree.

      I agree that we should not “round the corners of our heads”.
      I agree that we should not “mar the corners of our beards”.
      I also agree that we should not “wear a garment that has wool and linen” as it’s composition.

      And I think it is as equally important to create posts for each of those points. Lord willing I will get to those one day. :)

  7. Hey Dakota,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Sorry to say this is a gross misunderstanding of Scripture. The tattoo deal isn’t so big (although we’ll talk about that), but rather making the claim that we in Christ Jesus are still under the law. This is a claim equal to what the pharisees or pope teach – proclaiming laws for people that we are not under. (cf. Romans 6:1, Romans 7:1-6, Romans 8:2-3, 2 Corinthians 3:7, Galatians 2:19, Galatians 3:1, Ephesians 2:15)

    Clearly we are not under the mosaic law left for the Israelites, but under grace, for Christ has abolished the law. What then, shall we keep on sinning? By no means. Our lives now follow any law reinstated in the New Testament. That is, the ten commandments, and to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22)

    As for the tattoo issue, you put the verse in it’s immediate context (that is, the verses on either side of it), but radically miss the historical context

    Leviticus 19:28 was written to a people living amongst a cult, who identified themselves with their pagan gods by cutting themselves for their dead and getting specific markings on their skin. Some good hermeneutical truth to gather is not, “don’t get tattoos!” but rather, “don’t identify with cults!” Yes, I would say do not get any tattoos that identify you with cults still today, but tattoos in and of themselves are not bad. Again, we can look at Revelation 19:16, “On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.” While this is most likely metaphorical, it is worth examining.

    Finally, we turn to Romans 14, where we find that those who are “weak in faith” continue to follow certain laws we need not anymore, yet we are told, “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.”

    What does this mean? It means there are certain situations (tattoos, drinking [in moderation], watching things like Harry Potter) that are not bad. What IS bad is breaking your conscience, which is from the Lord. If you feel you should not get a tattoo, it would be sin for you to do so, and it would be sin for me to try and persuade you (Romans 14:20), NOT because the tattoo is sin, but breaking your conscience is sin (Romans 14:23)
    Likewise it would be sin for you to look down or judge a brother or sister who has gotten a tattoo (cf. Romans 14:3).

    Finally, on the broader point that you claim even the surrounding verses of Leviticus we should still follow (that is, do not clip your hair or trim your beard, eat shellfish, wear clothes of two fabrics, etc), are you then a follower of Jesus? For if these things are sin, and we find “…if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins…” (Hebrews 10:26) Then is there a atoning sacrifice for anyone in your line of thinking who willingly gets haircuts, trims their beard, or wears any shirt with cotton and polyester?

    I speak out of love and desire for you and your readers to know the truth. Study the law and it’s bearing on Christ followers today my friend. May we all continue to seek the Scriptures and find truth!
    – Jacob

  8. My daughter is a very beautiful lady and wants to get a sleeve tattoo, which to me would greatly take away from the beauty that God has blessed her with. Not to mention, it would really bother me every time I looked at her. Any verses that you know of that I could pray or bring to her attention that might help her reconsider?

  9. I read your piece on tattoos and I do not believe in tattoos myself because when God speaks we ought to listen , when he says though shalt not to me that means DO NOT simple. I have no tattoos nor will I get any I love God more than a tattoo plus I believe it’s a good mark for police if someone says he had a tattoo of such and such and you have it you’re done, to me God is the reason why I don’t have nor need a tattoo. Good Job Dakota.

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