Did you know that the Bible prohibits tattoos on our body?
Although tattoos have evolved a lot in recent decades, rudimentary tattooing techniques have been used since ancient times.
Tattoo fever came to The United States several decades ago. They are of all kinds. The eagerness of some to inject ink into their skin is such that their bodies are flooded with drawings and artistic expressions. There are those that turn out to be showy to the eyes. Others throw back whoever observes it.
Most tattoos symbolize a special event in the life of the wearer: an experience, a tribute to an absent loved one, a motivating phrase ... But let’s not fool ourselves either. Tattoos are not an invention that recent generations have made fashionable, since they have been used since ancient times, although it is true that with a very different meaning.
So much so that the Bible even makes mention of this issue. It does not refer to tattoos expressly, but it does refer to marks on the skin.
In Leviticus 19:28, it is explicitly stated: “Do not injure your body because of the dead, nor do you tattoo your skin. I am the Lord ”.
What does Leviticus refer to?
In this 19 chapter of Leviticus, God calls the people of Israel to live a life of holiness: “Be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” Once he made this call to Israel, God reminds them that obedience to a series of laws was fundamental so that in this way, the people could live according to the will of the Lord, unlike other territories.
In verse 28 reference is made to some of the practices of the pagan peoples. And among these practices mention is made of making cuts and wounds on the body as a symbol of mourning. It was a way of worshiping the dead. It was even also the way to distinguish who belonged to a slave. The technique they used to do this was to make a wound with a sharp object to later fill it with ink.
How do Christians interpret this verse today?
Today, many Christians use the Leviticus verse to justify their refusal to tattoo, since they believe that it would be to maintain a pagan custom of antiquity. Others, on the other hand, consider that there is no type of problem, since the verse refers to practices to honor pagan gods, so if the motivation of the tattoo is not to honor one of them, there should be no problem. And it is that as we have commented, most of today’s tattoos represent a tribute, a reminder, a prominent aspect of his life.
What does that verse refer to?
Chapter 19 of Leviticus begins with a call from God to the people of Israel exhorting them to live a life of holiness.
Be holy, because I, the Lord, your God, am holy.
(Leviticus 19: 2)
Being holy means being separate or apart. God is unique, there is no comparison between Him and the other gods or angels. In the same way, He wanted his chosen people to be different from other peoples in living a holy life, separate from everything that did not please Him.
After calling the Israelites to a life of holiness, God reminds them of various laws and ordinances that He had given them previously. Obedience to those laws would be the basis for them to live according to their will. That would distinguish them from the people around them.
Verse 28 is part of the section on common practices among pagan peoples. There they mention, for example, eating things with blood or cutting their hair and beard in a specific way as a sign of the cult of a god. It also talks about making wounds on the body as an expression of mourning, superstition, or as a sign of respect for the dead.
The marks or tattoos spoken of in this verse were in honor of the idols or as a sign of mourning. They were also used to distinguish who a slave belonged to. It seems that they were scratched with their nails or with some kind of sharp object until they got a mark or scar and then they filled it with ink.
Tattoos in ancient times
The tattoos were used mainly as a sign of worship or worship of a god or an idol. As soon as others saw the brand they knew which god the other person served.
In some cultures like the Greek or the Roman they used tattoos to distinguish the social position or the military rank of someone. They were also used as a sign of belonging, that was in the case of slaves.
The two positions among Christians
Within Christianity we find two positions in terms of tattooing. On the one hand there are Christians who think that there is no problem with getting a tattoo and on the other hand there are those who believe that Christians should not do it.
Christians in favor of tattooing are based on the fact that this verse of Leviticus talks about practices to honor pagan gods. If one’s motivation has nothing to do with idols or pagan gods, then there is no problem. They do not see anything bad in that because a Christian person gets a tattoo just because he considers it an art or because he wants to have a reminder of something special.
Christians against tattooing say that the verse does prohibit tattooing whatever the reason. Some do not see well imitate or follow a pagan custom of antiquity. Others say that any tattoo or brand we make in our body is wrong. Both groups agree in believing that the Bible does prohibit tattoos and that this prohibition is valid today.
Two verses from bible to think about
The following verse can help you evaluate this topic in prayer before God.
Although this verse of 1 Corinthians is found within a passage that speaks about sexual immorality. It is clear that the Holy Spirit dwells in those who have accepted and received Jesus as their Savior. We are his temple and we must honor him in everything we do. Will that tattoo bring honor to Jesus?
Another verse that can help us meditate and pray about this is found in 1 Corinthians 8. It says:
However, be careful that your freedom does not become a stumbling block for the weak.
(1 Corinthians 8: 9)
Sometimes, even if something is not wrong for us or we know that God does not forbid it, we do not do it because we know it will affect the spiritual life of someone we love. The fact of being free to do something specific does not mean that we should do it without first praying or thinking about how it will affect others.
For example, that verse of 1 Corinthians 8: 9 refers to eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Eating the meat itself was not the problem, but the purpose for which it had served before was. Paul exhorts Christians to love the weakest in the faith and be careful not to do anything that would stumble in their spiritual growth. The love of God and others must be so great that we are even willing to give up things we would like to do or have for love of them.
What you should consider before tattooing
If you are thinking about getting a tattoo it is important that you do the following.
- First, pray. Ask for the direction and confirmation of God.
- Talk to your pastor and explain your feelings. Ask him what is the position of the church that you attend.
- Ask yourself honestly whether it will be a stumbling block for your brothers in faith.
- Analyze what your motivation is. Why do you want to get a tattoo? Do you want to get people’s attention or create controversy? Do you consider it beautiful or an artistic expression? What motivates you?
- Do not let yourself be pressured by friends or by fashion. Do not get a tattoo to please another person.
- Choose the tattoo well. Imagine yourself with that tattoo in 50 years. Will you be ashamed? Can it make you feel ridiculous? Will you feel good when looking at it?
- Think about how it will influence your life. For example, will it cause complications in the workplace?
Other verses from bible that seem to talk about tattoos
There are some biblical verses that seem to speak of marks similar to tattoos. Let’s see some of them.
One will say: ‘I belong to the Lord’; another will bear the name of Jacob, and another will write in his hand: ‘I am of the Lord’, and he will take the name of Israel for himself. “
(Isaiah 44: 5)
This verse seems to allude to the mark received by slaves, soldiers, or those who became idolaters. That mark was made by drilling with fire or some type of coloring.
The verse mentions the yearning of the people of Israel to identify themselves as the people of God. Some said freely that they belonged to God, others changed their names and some others were willing to mark themselves, by writing in their hands (or with their hands) that they were of the Lord.
In the last book of the Bible, Apocalypse, two types of marks are mentioned. One is the seal of God on the forehead of his servants and the other is the mark of the beast on the hand or forehead of the person.
The seal of God
Do not harm the earth, nor the sea, nor the trees, until we have put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God!
(Revelation 7: 3)
The verses that speak about the seal of God on the forehead of their children do not say exactly what that seal will be like. Is it a tattoo, a light? We do know that the people redeemed by God through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross will receive a mark on their forehead, the name of God. This will distinguish you as your chosen ones and will protect you in the midst of the tribulation of the end of time.
The mark of the beast
He also made it possible for everyone, large and small, rich and poor, free and slaves, to put a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, so that no one could buy or sell, unless they bore the brand, which is the name of the beast or the number of that name.
(Revelation 13: 16-17)
The other mark mentioned by Revelation is the mark of the beast that will be the name of the beast or the number of its name. Once again we are not sure what kind of brand it will be (tattoo?). But we do know that without that brand no one will be able to buy or sell.