Is tattooing bad according to the Bible, and where does it say in the New Testament?

Leviticus 19:28

28 Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.

This is the verse cited by most religious traditions as a prohibition against tattoos, the problem many fall into is context.

The word “tattoo” did not enter into the English language until the late 1700s. This is why the KJV, written in the early 1600s, is closer to the literal translation saying, “ye shall not...print marks upon you.”

The background to this law was that Israel, after being rescued from slavery, was between Egypt and Canaan. Recent archeology indicates that, while Egypt did tattoo, 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, especially to mourn their dead and honor their gods.

1 Kings 18:28

28 And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.

In Leviticus 19:28, God was forbidding scarification, not tattooing as we know it, the specific note here, is markings for the dead!

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.

There are many scriptures that are used into order to make a stronger argument that tattoos are forbidden, (1 Corinthians 10:31, 1 Thessalonians 5:22, 1 Timothy 2:9, Colossians 3:20, 1 Corinthians 3:17, Romans 14:23, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Romans 14:15-20) but these are extrapolations.

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© Tony - W.A.M