Bible Verses About Tattoos

Tattoos in the Bible - What does Scripture say?

As the popularity of tattoos continues to increase, many Christians wonder what the Bible has to say about tattoos. The short answer is nothing, at least nothing definitive. The Bible makes no specific reference to tattoos as we understand them in modern times. Some Christians condemn all tattooing as immoral because God clearly forbids them in Leviticus 19:28. Since the word tattoo does appear in this verse in some popular English translations, this argument seems straightforward. For example, the NIV reads, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.”

Leviticus 19:28 literally translates, “And a cutting for the dead you will not make in your flesh, and writing marks you will not make on you; I am the Lord.” The word writing refers to inscribed or engraved symbols/words and is used only here. The word for marks, also used here alone, has an uncertain root, so we’re not really sure what the word means. Further, the word tattoo did not enter into the English language until the late 1700s. This is probably why the KJV, written in the early 1600s, is closer to the literal translation saying, “ye shall not...print marks upon you.”

The background of this law was that Israel, after being rescued from slavery, was between Egypt and Canaan. Recent archeology indicates that, while Egypt did tattoos, it was limited to women. Evidence suggests that tattooing the body parts of women associated with fertility (breasts, thighs, and abdomen) was believed to be a good luck charm to protect the birthing process. In Canaan, evidence indicates that instead of marking the body with ink, more extreme scarification measures, like branding, slashing, or gashing the skin were used. Archeology, backed by biblical texts, indicates the Canaanites would customarily slash their bodies for ritualistic purposes (1 Kings 18:28), especially to mourn their dead and honor their gods. Leviticus 19:28 seems to imply this when it says, “you will not make cuttings in your flesh, for the dead, nor print marks on you.” In light of this information from Egypt and Canaan, it would seem God was forbidding scarification, not tattooing as we know it. (excerpt from "7 Questions to Answer When Considering a Tattoo", Crosswalk.com.)

With this said, while there may be no clear passage in the Bible addressing tattoos, this is hardly a license for unrestrained tattooing. You still need to think before you ink, especially if you’re a Christian. The following Bible verses that can apply to tattoos are guiding questions to help you think through your decision. Study the Bible, pray and ask God for wisdom, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

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Bible Verses about Tattoos

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You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord. ~ Leviticus 19:28

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. ~ Revelation 19:16

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. ~ 1 Corinthians 10:31

And try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. ~ Ephesians 5:10

“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

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. ~ 1 Corinthians 10:23

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves ~ Romans 1:24

Bible Verses about Our Bodies

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Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple. ~ 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. ~ 1 Corinthians 9:27

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. ~ Romans 12:1

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. ~ 1 Corinthians 6:18

It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:44

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:10

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. ~ Romans 6:13

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. ~ 1 Peter 3:3-4

Inspiring Bible Verse Tattoos - Top Scriptures for Tattoos

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Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. ~ Hebrews 13:8

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ~ Isaiah 41:10

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. ~ Joshua 1:9

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. ~ 2 Timothy 1:7

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. ~ Psalm 34:4

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. ~ 1 John 4:18

Of David. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? ~ Psalm 27:1

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. ~ Psalm 23:4

Let all that you do be done in love. ~ 1 Corinthians 16:14

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. ~ John 3:16

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. ~ 1 John 4:8

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. ~ 1 Peter 4:8

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. ~ Colossians 3:14

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