If you’ve ever seen a religious protest group you’ve likely seen them protesting tattoos along with whatever bigger picture they’re chasing. The Bible has a lot to say on tattoos because the process has been around for thousands of years. It’s likely you’ve seen a lot about Leviticus 19:28 – “You must not put a tattoo mark upon yourselves…cutting for the dead…and writing marks you will not make on you”. While this command seems pretty explicit, there’s several contrasting passages and several quantifying ones. For example, the rest of the sentence specifies doing so to glory the dead. Depending on your interpretation this could be seen as the fact that you can get tattooed, even as a devout Christian as long as you don’t “glorify the dead”.
Much of the reason that the bible disapproves of tattoos is that the process was used by other religions and peoples. To set the Israelites apart from other peoples as “chosen” there had to be things that made it so and not having marks to the dead on their skin would be very obvious.
Getting tattooed is mostly personal preference. Since Christians and Jews mostly relate to the same passages in the old testament as a reason why they shouldn’t get tattooed your religion may not expressly forbid the process. It also has a lot to do with how strict you want to interpret the passages. Many people who are religious still get tattooed and even get religious tattoos because their faith is strong.
What the Bible says:
Asides from Leviticus 19:28 there are 5 most important parts of the bible that relate to tattoos.
- 1 Timothy 2:9 – “Women should adorn themselves with modesty”. While you may not feel a tattoo has anything to do with modesty the implication is that women should not be adorned with additional decoration like tattoos or jewelry if they want to appear modest.
- Deuteronomy 14:1 – “ Do not cut yourselves…for a dead person.” The quantification of when you shouldn’t mark your body is pretty clear. Whether you want to interpret that as reason it’s okay to get your tattoo for other reasons is up to you.
- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and you are not your own.” In other words, you are not in charge of what happens to your body as it belongs to God. Whether you see tattoos as adornment and decoration to pretty up the temple or use this as an excuse not to add to your natural beauty is your choice.
What to get?
If you’re interested in getting a religious tattoo you should think about what your faith means to you. There’s likely icons or symbols that speak to you personally. Perhaps you have a favorite passage or section? A religious tattoo or your opinions on tattoos is ethical and personal. While you may take advice from a spiritual leader it’s your choice at the end of the day.
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