Tattoos: What Does the Bible Teach?

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There is debate concerning what the Bible teaches about tattoos. Does the Bible allow or prohibit tattoos?

Bible Passages About Tattoos

Leviticus 19:28

You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.

The Answer – Does the Bible Prohibit Getting Tattoos?

What Is the “Tattoo” in Leviticus 19:28

Regarding Leviticus 19:28, the question is whether the word “tattoo” used here is equivalent to the modern-day tattoo. There is good reason to believe that it does not.

The cutting of the body and tattooing oneself in Leviticus 19:28 refers to pagan rituals that worship false gods. This is what Leviticus forbids.

Deuteronomy 14:1, a parallel passage, says this:

You are the sons of the Lord your God. You shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead.

Deuteronomy 14:1 forbids cutting oneself for the dead, which means that the prohibition is specifically against cutting oneself in relation to a pagan ritual. It can be assumed that just as Leviticus 19:28 combines “cuts” and “tattoos,” Deuteronomy 14:1 is likely also referring to “cuts” and “tattoos.”

Modern-day tattoos are in a completely different category than these rituals.

Consider Your Motivation for Getting a Tattoo

The key issue concerning getting a tattoo is your motivation for getting it. If you get a tattoo, make sure you think through your motivations and make sure you will not regret getting the tattoo in the future.

Consider whether getting a tattoo will help or harm your witness of Christ to the world. There are some circumstances in which having a tattoo may help you build relationships for the gospel, and there are other circumstances in which having a tattoo may hinder your witness to others.

The Old Testament and the Law

Some argue that we can ignore the passages in the Old Testament concerning tattoos because we are no longer under the law. However, this is a wrong interpretation of the Old Testament law. To read more, see Did Jesus Abolish the Law?.

Read More About Tattoos and the Bible

Below are arguments others have made about the subject of. tattoos. We do not endorse any particular viewpoint expressed below, but wanted to provide them as resources for people who want to explore the issue futher.

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