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Q&A: Are Tattoos Bad?

Question: I am thinking about getting a tattoo but am concerned that it is a bad thing from a biblical point of view. Is that true?

The Old Testament is clear that tattoos are unacceptable (Leviticus 19:28). The reason given by scholars is that they were once used in pagan religious practices. But there is no actual reference to this in Scripture. The most probable reason they were forbidden by Law for the Jews is that in ancient times, tattooing was used to mark a slave. If a slave escaped, they could easily be identified and returned to their owner. The Jews were enslave while in Egypt thus, it is highly probable they were tattooed as such. Therefore, Moses initiated a law that Jews were now forbidden to be tattooed in any way as it was reminiscent of Egyptian slavery and paganism.

Today, we are no longer under the Law of Moses. The Law was from God and perfect, but imperfect man could not keep the perfect Law of God. Through the sacrifice of Christ, the Law is now dead and we live in a dispensation or time of grace and mercy. The New Testament does not speak directly about tattooing. However, it does refer to a person’s body as, “… a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you” and, “Therefore glorify God in your body and spirit which are God’s.” (I Corinthians 6:19-20) So the question becomes, it is appropriate that a person should tag their temple. If the tattoo is in praise of, or to glorify God, it would be appropriate. However, if it is for self-aggrandizement, or an attempt to draw attention to one’s self, or to be popular with the crowd, then the tattoo is not being applied for the right reasons. God does not condemn a person for having tattoos. He only condemns those who knowingly live lives of unrighteous behavior as an outward sign of their inner rebellion against Him as their Creator. Bottom line, when in doubt … don’t do it.

On an interesting note, a study conducted by 2016 found that a high percentage of people with multiple or full body tattoos had a number of mental health commonalities. The study involved 2,008 participants and showed that people with multiple tattoos were more likely to engage in risky behaviors. These included smoking, illegal drug use, issues with authority figures, sleep problems and an unusually high number of sex partners. A higher than expected percentage of people with sleeve and full body tattoos were found to have been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorders and/or Bipolar Disorders. Also, less than fifty years ago, a tattoo was seen as inappropriate for the middle and upper-class in America. Today, tattoos are seen as commonplace and this sudden change in social acceptance has caused Biblical scholars to question if this current fad will make the coming Mark of the Beast not only more acceptable but a fashion statement.

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