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Should Christians Get Tattoos? Written By a Tattooed Christian

Reformed Eve is a daughter of God, which makes her royalty - no matter what the world throws at her. She straightens her crown quite often.

The tattoo I received representing Jesus on my right forearm.

The tattoo I received representing Jesus on my right forearm.

Something Strange Happened at Church

Something strange happened to me a few Sundays ago at church. I might say ‘strange’, but it’s probably something that happened to you. It’s probably something that actually made you want to stay away from church, or God, or Jesus, or the Christianity faith altogether.

Impromptu Bible Study Group

My husband and I accidently attended the church services early. For some reason, we thought the schedule had changed, and we showed up early. We were redirected to a strange room to join a Bible Study group. I thought, “Hey, that’s not so bad. I’m kind of shy, and I need to network anyway.” I don’t really have a lot of friends, so I thought the Bible study group would be a great way to meet new people. The first thing I noticed is that most of the group members were people who were considerably older than I am. I’m in my thirties, and this group seemed more than that. Great, the older, the more experienced, the wiser and I could definitely appreciate some wisdom and experience. My husband and I were greeted warmly by someone and we sat down.

Calm Before the Storm at Bible Study

As soon as we sat down, I felt an excited nervousness. I’m not really into Bible studies because they are so intimate, but here I am, so I might as well make the best of it. I open my Bible to where a portly gentleman, who was leading the group, directed us to. We were directed to Mark 4: 35-41. This scripture was interesting because Jesus was laying down during the storm, all comfortable and calm, while his alarmed companions asked, “Don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” So we were off to a good start. There’s a lot to study here, a lot of material in which one could go in depth in regards to topics concerning faith, lack of faith, Jesus’s calm demeanor, Jesus’s power to rebuke the ways. Instead, something strange happens.

Demons, Pigs, Exorcism - Just Kidding

The gentleman leading the group directs us to another area in Mark, Mark 5:1 – 20 to be exact. All of a sudden, the gears switch. He wants us to read about how Jesus sent out a demon from a possessed man, and drove it out into the pigs. This may have led to more interesting discussion – maybe the supposed ‘uncleanliness’ of pigs, the nature of demons, or exorcism, but no. The gentleman leading the group focused on something else, something I didn’t even think to imagine, and something that actually kept me away from the church for a few Sundays.

The Strange Man Cutting Himself with Stones

In Mark 5: 1-20, it talks about a man who seems like something is wrong with him. In some Bible, it mentions that he man has an ‘impure’ spirit. The man was living in a cave. The man could not be confined by chains. He seemed unusually strong. He wasn’t really wearing clothes, to speak of. He could not be subdued. He would cry out, and he would cut himself with stones. My first thought was this - maybe depression and suicidal thoughts are demons. I was coming to some kind of mental, spiritual epiphany here, being someone who has battled and survived and continually fights against depression, and then the gentleman says: “Focus on how the possessed man cut himself with stones! He was marking his skin, making himself bleed, and forcing, upon himself, a tattoo!”

Tattoos = Demons?

(Insert sound of abrupt record scratching here.)

What?

I thought maybe that the man was cutting himself because he was in despair. Maybe the man was trying to get rid of the demons. Maybe the man was under some kind of mental influence that made him believe that there were insects on him. Perhaps the demons themselves wanted to use the man’s body to express whatever it was they were feeling, or whatever message they wanted to instill in others (fear, despair, and intensity). The gentleman kept talking about how the man, being possessed, was trying to tattoo himself with stones. Then he directed our attention to the infamous verse that Christians with tattoos hate: Leviticus 19:28. “It reads that you shouldn’t make cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you. “

I started to understand the correlation the man was trying to make. In the scriptures, it seemed that a practice that was considered heathen was to cut your flesh in an attempt to be appealing to the Gods. In a way, this was a type of unholy sacrifice. First Kings 18:28 mentions that ‘they’ shouted louder and slashed their bodies with spears and swords until blood flowed, as this was their custom. Strangely, in Leviticus, it mentions that you can’t cut your hair at the sides of your head. You can’t clip your beard edges. Then it mentions the part about ‘do not cut your bodies for the dead or make marks upon yourself.’ These were, perhaps, Canaanite practices for mourning and the Bible warned against them.

Breakdown of Original Hebraic Text in Accordance to "Dan"

This is the original text:

וְשֶׂ֣רֶט לָנֶ֗פֶשׁ לֹ֤א תִתְּנוּ֙ בִּבְשַׂרְכֶ֔ם וּכְתֹ֣בֶת קַֽעֲקַ֔ע לֹ֥א תִתְּנ֖וּ בָּכֶ֑ם אֲנִ֖י יְהוָֽה׃

I found an extremely interesting explanation given by a “Dan” in 2013 on the website “Hermeneutics Stack Exchange” wrote the following in response to this question: “Does Leviticus 19:28 in the original text instruct not to tattoo for the dead or not to tattoo at all?”

“Grammatically speaking, "the dead" isn't even mentioned in the original Hebrew text. It was simply "the soul." In Hebraic thought, the soul is the unified body and spirit. The soul can be dead, or the soul can be alive. The text doesn't say one way or the other. But the word commonly rendered as "for the dead" is grammatically connected with the word commonly rendered as "cutting." These two words are שרט לנפש.

The word שרט /'seh-ret/ is simply some type of mark made by cutting. This could even be a tattoo, where a needle is used prick the skin to deposit ink. Strong even lists tattoo among the definitions for this word in his lexicon.

The word לנפש /law-'neh-fesh/ actually refers to a soul, alive or dead it doesn't say. The preposition ל is applied to this word; it could be any of: to, of, for, in accordance with, etc.

The remainder, לא תתנו בבשרכם /lo 'tit-nu bev-sar-'chem/, is as you would expect: put not on your flesh.

This might prohibit the mark of a (nother) person, such as a branding, or simply a mark to the person, even as in a self-inflicted mark.

The word כתבת /ch-'to-vet/ refers to something written.

The word קעקע /qaw-a-'qaw/ has a remarkably similar definition to שרט. Again, Strong lists many definitions for this word, including tattoo. While we see examples of every other word here in other scriptural passages, this particular word only appears once in the scriptures. That leaves some questions, naturally.

And the remainder, לא תתנו בכם /lo 'tit-nu baw-'chem/, is a slightly altered version of the former, leaving out flesh: do not put on you.

Taking into account the above, we might have something more like the following:

And a mark to the soul do not put on your flesh. And a writing of a mark do not put on you. I am the LORD.

The second part is interesting, not only because the word for mark here does not appear elsewhere in the scriptures, but because of the process used to tattoo. Even today, a sketch (writing) is made on the skin, and then the skin is cut, scratched, or pricked, with a needle.

The preceding chapter begins specifically with the notion that what is to follow are prohibited because they are the doings of a pagan land. At the beginning of Leviticus 19, however, the LORD spoke to Moses telling him to address the children of Israel, that they shall be holy. The passage in verse 28 could be prohibiting something that is unholy, and not necessarily because of its pagan origin or connection. It could be an outright prohibition on markings on the flesh, or a specific type of marking common in that time.”

Tattoo Regret?

In any case, the gentlemen who presented the theme that went from the Jesus sleeping amidst a wild sea to the demon possessed man to tattoos being Satanic kept pushing the subject. He even asked me to read the Leviticus script for the Bible. I did. Yes, I had a short sleeved short on that day. Yes, I have about thirteen tattoos. Yes, I have a tattoos of the crucifix created with two wooden stakes. Yes, I realize I’m a sinner, and I realize I have a past. I also realize that God is a Redeemer and that in him, I am a new Creation. Something I can say is this: If God lives within me, and my body is like a temple, I should respect that temple. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have obtained any tattoos. They are expensive. They are permanent. And they are a very, very visual representation of me, as a sinner. Me, an unclean person part of an immoral world. Me, marked like the woman with the scarlet letter A. Obviously marred, scarred and at some point, destroyed but still alive.

Pot, Meet Kettle

The gentlemen presenting the tattoo theory in accordance to the Bible, prior to this, shared how he was in prison. He shared how he learned welding tips in prison, and how he has his own business now. He was dressed in nice clothes, no tattoos, and just seemed like a normal, portly Hispanic man with a big mustache. I guess he was sharing his testimony, but it was presented more like a humble-brag. Maybe they are the same thing sometimes, depending on who you give thanks to. (God, or yourself?) Looking at that man leading the bible study group, I would have never thought he had a background in prison. My thought was this: His sins are not so obvious. His past is not marked on his skin. It’s easier to judge me, than it is to judge him.

I'm a New Creation with a bit of Permanent Sharpie, but God Loves Me Anyway

I don’t think I deserve what happened that day. What if I was a person trying to look for Christ? What if I were new to Christianity? What if this was my very, very first day in a church, and all of a sudden, I am judged. It’s true. I haven’t returned to that church, but I will soon. I will because I actually like learning more ‘in-depth’ about God. I love not just reading the text of the Scriptures, but understanding them. I can’t let one man’s strange, not-so-subliminal comments destroy me, or my faith, or my visits to the church. Maybe, just maybe, it was a sin to get a tattoo. Maybe it’s not great that I have a crucifix on my right arm. And just to throw it out there, Revelation 19:16 mentions that Jesus has His Robe and that on his thigh, a name is written and it says: King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It’s kind of blasphemous to insinuate that Jesus has a tattoo, but maybe he has a name on his thigh. I guess someday, Jesus’s people will know, but not today.

I just know that I don’t plan on getting any more tattoos, only because of my personal feeling that I should respect my body as a temple in which God dwells. But it doesn’t just come down to tattoos, it also comes down to nutrition, exercise, what you watch, what you listen to. It’s more than marks on your skin. Even though I was judged, and humiliated, that day, I remember Psalm 103:12 - He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. Second Corinthians reminds us that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. May God bless you always.

© 2019 Reformed Eve

Comments

Mark Richardson from Utah on February 06, 2020:

I hope I didn't offend as that was not my intention. Another thought I had may be that tattoos are worldly. But they are not Satanic. But just because you have one or more tattoos does not mean that you cannot believe in God or be a Christian. We must all work out our own salvation, so it may be good to forget the opinions of others, especially those that are judgmental. Keep the Faith, sister.

Mark Richardson from Utah on January 25, 2020:

Excellent article. Sorry to hear your negative experience. Realize that every church/congregation is different. In my experience, there are often those that I like, those I dislike. We will not connect with everyone. In my opinion, when people get very judgmental or preachy, it is because life is going very well for them. When I have had a hard time, I focus on how to improve myself versus correcting people. However, I currently have a very difficult person at work who tries to tear me down because I think she feels guilty that she doesn’t try her best at work.

Consider that we are all different and have different experiences. I know several religious/spiritual/Christian people that have tattoos. Often their thoughts are like yours where it is a reminder of their past life. Most do not get tattoos after their life is changed through God/Jesus Christ. But tattoos have become more and more common. To each his or her own. I do not have tattoos, but I hear they are addictive.

It was as if you read my mind. My initial thoughts before reading your article were from Leviticus 19:28 and that your body is a temple, so that would be like preaching to the choir.

I believe a critical part of God’s plan for us is agency. We all have the freedom to choose as that is part of life. If anyone chooses to get a tattoo, that is their choice. I try not judge those with tattoos, but it is bound to happen with a lot of people. If you have them, it doesn’t make you a bad person, but it can be a reminder of your old self if you regret it. If you don’t regret it, no problem.

Lastly, to go along with what you are saying, I would say that one of my biblical heroes (other than Jesus Christ) is Peter. Peter was flawed like I am. He denied Christ 3 times. But if he didn’t do that, perhaps he would have died without spreading the gospel further and leading the early church. We are all flawed. All that we can do is live and learn.

Reformed Eve (author) from USA on November 29, 2019:

Thank you so much for your comment. May God bless you always.

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on November 24, 2019:

Nice to meet you, Eve. The Jews in the Old Testament were placed under more than 600 commands. We live by faith, There are many of the additional 600 commands that aren't followed today, nor should they be. Why is the tattoo issue singled out? I don't have any tattoos, and I supposed it makes good sense not to have them but isn't taking the scripture to that point a bit legalistic? Just thinking, and glad you're going on for the Lord. No judgment here.

Margaret Minnicks from Richmond, VA on November 09, 2019:

WOW! First of all welcome to HubPages. Your article was well written. I followed the article as if I were in that Bible Study. I could tell that you have a very good knowledge of the Bible based on the scriptures you pointed out.

I like a lot what you said in this article. Therefore, I will be reading more of your work.

Reformed Eve (author) from USA on November 08, 2019:

Thank you so much for your kind comment. It is truly appreciated. I'll be returning back to the church this Monday. I'm a bit nervous about it, but I think I will be okay. Sometimes, these kind of distractions are, in a way, demon play, to get you to stay away from God's word. I appreciate your words, again. Have a beautiful day, Ms. Arledge.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on November 06, 2019:

I am glad you are still going to church. This should not have happened.

God accepts us just as we are...I am sorry if any one made you feel differently.

I don't know the scriptures well enough to say for certain anything regarding tattoos, but I do know meanings were alot different back then.

Remember...church is for sinners...not for saints.

Too many people look down on others when they have their own faults they should be looking after.

Great write.

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