"What Does the Bible Say About Tattoos?"

I have a few family members who have recently gotten tattoos. I was wondering if there was any mention in the Bible about this being a good thing to do or a wrong thing to do? I thought that at one time I read something about it being wrong. And if it is wrong how can I address the issue in a decent way to people I love and care for who are not Christians?

Actually, yes the Bible does address the subject of tattoos. Lev. 19:28 says, "Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD."

If your loved ones are not Christians, they may or may not care that God specifically addressed this issue in the Bible. If they do, knowing God said not to do it might be enough. If not, you might mention that there must be a good reason for God to forbid His people to permanently mark their bodies this way, and it turns out there are several.

1. To quote my brother-in-law, who became enamored of "body art" when he was younger and sports seven large tatoos on his body--which he now despises--"Permanent is a long, long time." The majority of people who get tattoos regret it later.

2. Tattoos are exceedingly painful and expensive to have removed.

3. There is metal in the ink, so if one's health is threatened, a person with a tattoo cannot have an MRI done.

4. On a more spiritual note, God may not want us to permanently mark our bodies because it is disrespectful to the body He fashioned and gave to us to steward. The fact that a tattoo cannot be undone (completely) reflects the sad truth that some decisions are one-way and we box ourselves into a corner. Tattoos make a statement physically, but God intends that the purity and beauty of our LIVES make the statement, rather than "I was young (or drunk, or on drugs) and did this to myself." (Yes, I am biased, I will cheerfully admit. <grin>)

I hope this helps.

Sue Bohlin
Probe Ministries


Several e-mails arrived shortly after this article was posted, pointing out the fact that this prohibition against tattoos was part of the Levitical code, but Christians do not live under the Old Testament laws. Otherwise, we would be sinning to:

I appreciate being shown the need to explain the fuller picture.

The person who wrote merely asked if the Bible said anything about tattoos, and it does, and I pointed out some good reasons for that prohibition. However, it is also true that we do not live under Old Testament laws, and most of the Levitical prohibitions and requirements no longer apply because we live under a new covenant of grace. (I hasten to add here that the moral prohibitions, such as those against any kind of sexual activity outside of marriage, including homosexuality, are still firmly in place.) For more information on this issue of the Christian's response to Old Testament law, may I suggest you check out what our friends at the Biblical Studies Foundation wrote on this topic at http://www.bible.org/docs/qa/qa.asp?StudyID=3.

Thus, while the Bible did prohibit tattoos in the Old Testament, it is not a sin to get one today. Stupid, maybe, but not sinful. <grin> (That's a joke. Please don't send me e-mails if you have one and like it. You have complete freedom in Christ to do anything He gives permission for you to do.)

See also "What About Body Piercing?"