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Can christians have tattoos

Updated on August 3, 2015

Can Christians Have Tattoos?


Can Christians have Tattoos?

Tattoos seem to be everywhere these days, they are on rock stars, actors and actresses, professional athletes, service men and women, and even on some pastors. A nationwide Harris poll found that 16 percent of all adults have at least one tattoo. The highest incidence was found among Americans age 25 to 29 (36 percent) and those age 30 to to 39 (28 percent) (Sever). Among University students, it's reported that 23 percent had one to three tattoos (CNN/Money). According to U.S. News and World Report, tattooing is the country's sixth fastest growing retail business, growing at the the rate of one new tattoo parlor opening it's doors every day. One estimate has 30,000 tattoo and body piercing artists working in the U.S. with at least eight major tattoo magazines being published regularly (DeMello 13).

Since tattoos have become so ubiquitous in our society today it has become a hotbed of controversy in the Christian community. Most traditionalist Christians will say that getting a tattoo is a sin antithetical to Christianity because the bible says that it is, typically citing Leviticus 19:28. So, the question that presents itself is getting a tattoo a sin and does the bible expressly forbid a believer to not get tattoos? If the Levitical verse is viewed in light of why this command was given, other verses in the Bible and the work of Christ, tattoos in and of themselves are not sinful and not prohibited to believers.


Tattoos and the Bible

The only verse in the Bible that forbids tattoos is Leviticus 19:28 which states "You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoos yourselves: I am the Lord your God" (ESV). This at first seems cut and dry upon first reading it but if we look into why this law was given we come out with a clearer understanding. During this time, after the Israelites were freed from Egyptian bondage, the Israelites were given these laws to set them apart from pagan nations. In this period, tattoos signified ownership and devotion, it was a common practice in Egypt as well as Babylon to tattoo a slave with his owner's name or the name of a god. According to theologians Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich in The Theological dictionary of the New Testament, Tattooing and acts of self mutilation were also religious mourning rites associated with the Canaanite fertility god (Kittel 660). According to Kittel the idolatrous nature of tattoos in the Israelite culture he explains is " when a person was tattooed he became dedicated to the god and became its servant, as well as came under its protection, so as not to be harmed" (Kittel 660). Hence tattoos were strongly affiliated with idolatrous practices and were strictly forbidden because it was viewed as contrary to the sole ownership and devotion that was to be only Jehovah God's. Another contextual issue that those who support the view that tattoos are sinful or contrary to God will also have to come to the conclusion that those who shave their beards, cut their hair or eat a medium rare steak are also sinning according to the preceding verses in Leviticus. Almost no one these days will say that those particular areas are contrary to God now and were merely cultural customs.

Free in Christ

Another thing that needs to be addressed is that are we as believers under the Levitical laws of the Old Testament. According to Paul in the New Testament we are no longer bound to the sacrificial and ritual laws and we are now free in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:13- 15 states " But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of expressing in ordinances that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace". In Romans 10:4 further states "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes". And 1 Corinthians 10:23 goes one more step further in saying that "All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful, all things are lawful but not all things build up". Now clearly Christ didn't end all law, for example, moral laws on killing, stealing and lying, but He did end all the rules and regulations regarding the temple worship. Also those things which were once forbidden like the dietary laws are permissible, however they may still be unhealthy and not beneficial to our overall health. Tattoos according to this assumption would be permissible however it's a different story if tattoos are beneficial or build up.

Leviticus 19:28

Tattoos the Christians Choice

Pastor Mark Driscoll lead pastor of Mars Hill church in Seattle, Washington wrote in His book The Radical Reformission that "Restrictive Christians go too far and name everything a universal sin, forbidding some cultural activities that the Bible does not, such as listening to certain music styles, getting tattoos, watching movies, smoking cigarettes, consuming alcohol, and body piercing (103). The author of this paper also would have to agree with Pastor Driscoll that Christians can be too restrictive and thus become like Jesus' nemesis in his day the Pharisees, who were so legalistic that they thought that they were too sinless for grace that Christ had to offer. Let us not make judgements and restrictions based on tradition and cultural standards but let us judge people for what is in their hearts.

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    • profile image

      chrislpatton 4 years ago from Valdosta georgia

      PattyJane, I really enjoyed reading your article on Christians and tattoos! Your writing is very scholarly and well researched! Very nice job. I look forward to reading more of your work.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      An interesting hub. For me, I'd rather leave my body the way that God intended it to be, but I know that some of my Grandchildren have 'Christian' tattoos, so I guess it's as you write: what is in the heart is the important thing.

    • nArchuleta profile image

      Nadia Archuleta 4 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Well-written. I like how you go into the history of the biblical quote, rather than just letting it stand as-is. I have a couple tats myself and will get a third to commemorate my favorite band this summer. (I've been a fan for a decade and a half, so they've passed the test of time, IMO) Voted up!

    • A Little TRUTH profile image

      A Little TRUTH 4 years ago

      Lots of good points to consider. I look at tattoos as a personal decision that everyone has a right to make for themselves - unless they’ve made the decision to attach themselves to a particular Christian organization, agreeing to follow its rules, and those rules forbid it.

      My choice is to stay away from tattoos for two reasons: 1) just out of a general respect for God’s creation and 2) it requires injecting substances into the body that may have unknown medium and long term negative effects on health.

      But I hold nothing against to people who choose differently. I even know people who get tattoos because they love the feeling of pain it gives.

      Welcome to HubPages, PattyJane, you’re a good writer from the start! I have one suggestion. Its customary for the author to leave at least a brief response to each and every comment, just showing acknowledgement and appreciation.

    • PattyJane profile image
      Author

      PattyJane 4 years ago

      chrislpatton, BlossomSB,nArchuleta, and a little Truth, thank you for your comments and kind remarks on my hub. You are right a little truth, I am new to hub pages and I will definitely be responding to other hubbers comments from now on

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      Some of these initial responses make good points. While it is true that making judgements and restrictions based on tradition and cultural standards can surely get us out of alignment with God's Word, it is also true that we are to judge behavior according to His Word (especially whether our own is right or wrong).

      Behaviors that are not specifically mentioned in the Bible, such as using tobacco, easily fall under the categories of whether we are harming or protecting our bodies when participating in them, and/or whether we are living like the culture around us as opposed to living separate unto Christ according to His Word.

      Often, "judge not that ye be not judged" is taken out of context and used to try to discredit the rest of Scripture that actually does provide a guide for judging behaviors. We need the counsel of the entire Word of God for ourselves and for the sake of others. Scripture is a mine of gold and silver that confirms itself--thoroughly cross-referencing our studies is the excellent way to discover answers to questions that come up.

    • Bedbugabscond profile image

      Melody Trent 4 years ago from United States

      I hope I won't go to hell for my tattoos. I got them before I found Christ and the issue has always caused some stress for me. Thanks for addressing this topic!

    • PattyJane profile image
      Author

      PattyJane 4 years ago

      RTalonni thank you for your comments. I agree that sometimes the judge not lest you be judged is often overused, however Christ came to set us free not to put more burdens on us. We should always strive to live by Gods standards but many times the standards placed on us are those designed by men.

    • PattyJane profile image
      Author

      PattyJane 4 years ago

      Bedbugsabscond , thank you for your comments. I don't think you are going to he'll for your tattoos, if you are those who eat medium rare steaks, shellfish, men who shave their beards, and those who wear clothes made of two different materials will also go to hell with you.

    • Availiasvision profile image

      Jennifer Arnett 4 years ago from California

      Excellent job breaking down what the Old testament says and then how we are free from the Law, in Christ, according to the New Testament.

      After volunteering in youth and young adult ministry for several years, I have dwindled this issue down into a couple of questions and verses. Every person must decide between themselves and the Lord what they consider to be right. It's like the new believers in the NT trying to figure out if it was sinful to eat meat offered to idols. If you are convicted one way, then that is between you and God.

      If your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, how are you to treat it? ( 1 Cor. 6:19)

      When you are "one" in marriage, will your spouse want that tattoo representative of them?

      Will that tattoo lead other to believe that you are not a child of God?

      What are your intentions for getting a tattoo? Is it for prideful and showy reasons, or done to glorify God? (1 Cor. 10:31)

      Are you being a good steward of you money and body by getting a tattoo?

      “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes." ( Duet 11:18 ESV)

      I think that your tattoos are incredible daily reminders to honor Christ with your marriage. They are definitely "bound on your hands."

      Bedbugsabscond, Even if tattoos were 100% sinful, you are free in Christ from ALL of your sins. You are a new creation. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!' (1 Cor 5:17 NIV) When God looks at you he ONLY sees the perfection of Christ.

      "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:1-4 ESV)

      Cheers!

    • profile image

      Mt 4 years ago

      When you have to ask the ??? Can I? Should I??? You pretty much Already know the answer, just looking for excuse to do what want to do. Its sad that churches will not preach this!!! I see more ppl in church with tattoos than outside, and not because they had them before salvation, a lot get them after. Then the ones who got them prior to being saved seem to still flaunt them. I get so aggravated over this self glorification, because that's what it is. I went to one church and the bible study teacher said for women to stop getting tattoos basically around breast and places that are in appropriate, that if your going to get one, get one where it can't be seen, which is stupid to me, ppl only get them

      To be seen, how about let's not get one at all!!! And start preaching about the curse that comes behind a tattoo, all tattoos, And especially these demonic ones, skulls, death!!! Just inviting the spirit of death into their lives, and glorifying Death, which is the enemy. That excuse, its in the Old Testament is soooooo foolish, so is the scripture about fathers prostituting their daughters,, so is

      Stealing, etc. Jesus said he did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it!!!!!!! If there was anything in the Old Testament that's ok now, God made it clear in New Testament and God never said in the n.t that tatoos are fine now. As well as bringing curses upon ourselves when we do this foolishness, we are also destroying our bodies!!! When did God say it was ok to allow foreign substances such as ink into our bodies. It goes into our bloodstream. If we drink ink we get sick, so injecting thru skin, what's the difference!! As well, there is blood letting involved!!!! If you are Christian why do you want to imitate the world when the bible says come out from among then and be ye separate ???

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