Should Christians get tattoos?

Jaipuri Tribal Tattoo (Meena Kadri)


Tattoos have been around a long time. In Western societies, they seem to be getting more popular. Should Christians get them?

What is a tattoo?

A tattoo is a form of body modification, made by inserting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment…Historically, a decline in traditional tribal tattooing in Europe occurred with the spread of Christianity…The majority of Christians do not take issue with the practice, while a minority uphold the Hebrew view against tattoos (see below) based on Leviticus. (Tattoo. Wikipedia, viewed 05/08/13)

The Smithsonian reported:

Humans have marked their bodies with tattoos for thousands of years. These permanent designs—sometimes plain, sometimes elaborate, always personal—have served as amulets, status symbols, declarations of love, signs of religious beliefs, adornments and even forms of punishment…

What is the earliest evidence of tattoos?

In terms of tattoos on actual bodies, the earliest known examples were for a long time Egyptian and were present on several female mummies dated to c. 2000 B.C. But following the more recent discovery of the Iceman from the area of the Italian-Austrian border in 1991 and his tattoo patterns, this date has been pushed back a further thousand years when he was carbon-dated at around 5,200 years old…

What is the evidence that ancient Egyptians had tattoos?

There’s certainly evidence that women had tattoos on their bodies and limbs from figurines c. 4000-3500 B.C. to occasional female figures represented in tomb scenes c. 1200 B.C. and in figurine form c. 1300 B.C., all with tattoos on their thighs. Also small bronze implements identified as tattooing tools were discovered at the town site of Gurob in northern Egypt and dated to c. 1450 B.C. And then, of course, there are the mummies with tattoos, from the three women already mentioned and dated to c. 2000 B.C. to several later examples of female mummies with these forms of permanent marks found in Greco-Roman burials at Akhmim.

What function did these tattoos serve? Who got them and why?

Because this seemed to be an exclusively female practice in ancient Egypt, mummies found with tattoos were usually dismissed by the (male) excavators who seemed to assume the women were of “dubious status,” described in some cases as “dancing girls.”…it has long been assumed that such tattoos were the mark of prostitutes or were meant to protect the women against sexually transmitted diseases.

What did these tattoos look like?

Most examples on mummies are largely dotted patterns of lines and diamond patterns, while figurines sometimes feature more naturalistic images. The tattoos occasionally found in tomb scenes and on small female figurines which form part of cosmetic items also have small figures of the dwarf god Bes on the thigh area

In old and modern times, some have multiple tattoos on their bodies.

Some of these markings are obviously meant to be provocative, since only part of the markings show on a bare midriff or the lower back while the remainder is concealed by clothing. A slang name for this kind tattoo is calling it a “tramp stamp.” And that is what Nichole Richie wanted gone.

The Smithsonian report mentioned Egypt and the dwarf god Bes. Here is some information about him:

Bes (Bisu, Aha) was an ancient Egyptian dwarf god. He was a complex being who was both a deity and a demonic fighter. He was a god of war, yet he was also a patron of childbirth and the home, and was associated with sexuality, humour, music and dancing. Although he began as a protector of the pharaoh, he became very popular with every day Egyptian people because he protected women and children above all others. He had no temples and there were no priests ordained in his name. However, he was one of the most popular gods of ancient Egypt and was often depicted on household items such as furniture, mirrors and cosmetics containers and applicators as well as magical wands and knives. It is also thought that sacred prostitutes may have had a tattoo of Bes placed near their pubic area in order to prevent venereal diseases…(Gods of Ancient Egypt: Bes. Copyright J Hill 2010.

Thus, tattoos provided a religious connection with this Egyptian deity. Throughout the Bible, God’s people are warned to come out of Egypt and not have images of heathen gods (e.g. Exodus 20:1-6). Since Bes was supposed to be a protector and fighter against demons, this may well be why prostitutes had tattoos–apparently some were mistakenly led to believe that the tattoo would protect them from sexually-transmitted diseases and other problems. God did not want His people to follow such practices.

Lower-back tattoos are also perceived as an indication of promiscuity by some, and so that is likely how come the term “tramp stamp” is sometimes used to describe them (for more details you can also watch the Bible News Prophecy video Should Christians Get a Tattoo?). When one considers that the tattoo is not in a place that the woman getting it can see without mirrors or some other aid, this is also consistent with the view it is there to be seen by someone looking at her nude/nearly nude body (or fairly low cut slacks while wearing a short top/blouse).

Whether related to increased promiscuity or not, more and more seem to have tattoos. When I grew up, it seemed it was mainly bikers and men who had been in the military.

Although the Church of Rome does not discourage tattoos, and some Protestants seem to believe that displaying certain ones (normally with symbols such as crosses or scriptural verses) gives a public testimony to Christ. Yet, Jesus never had a tattoo.

Actually, His word condemned them:

28 You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the Lord. 29 ‘Do not prostitute your daughter, to cause her to be a harlot, lest the land fall into harlotry, and the land become full of wickedness. (Leviticus 19:28-29)

The fact that the admonition against prostitution comes right after the admonition to not have tattoos reminds me of the view that certain tattoos are signs of a tramp, hence the modern term “tramp stamp.”

Notice what the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary says about Leviticus 19:28:

Leviticus 19:28

Ye shall not make any cuttings … The practice of making deep gashes on the face and arms and legs, in time of bereavement, was universal among the pagan, and it was deemed a becoming mark of respect for the dead, as well as a sort of propitiatory offering to the deities who presided over death and the grave. The Jews learned this custom in Egypt; and, though weaned from it, relapsed in a later and degenerate age into this old superstition (Deuteronomy 14:1; Isaiah 15:2; Jeremiah 16:6; 41:5; 47:5), which, as Palgrave informs us, still prevails among the Djowf people in Arabia.

Nor print any marks upon you – by tatooing; imprinting figures of flowers, leaves, stars, and other fanciful devices on various parts of their person. The impression was made sometimes by means of a hot iron, sometimes by ink or paint, as is done by the Arab females of the present day (D’Arvieux and Burckhardt’s ‘Travels among the Bedouins;’ Lane’s ‘Manners and Customs of Modern Egypt,’ pp. 25-35), and the different castes of the Hindus. It is probable, from the association of Leviticus 19:29, that a strong propensity to adopt such marks in honour of some idol gave occasion to the prohibition in this verse; and they were wisely forbidden, for they were signs of apostasy, and, when once made, were insuperable obstacles to a return. (from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

And while some may think that this was limited to the Old Testament, the reality is that the New Testament seems to condemn them as well:

19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Since tattoos tend to contain toxins and are not something that adds to health, this should give Christians pause to realize that they should not get them. There are health risks associated with tattoos.

There are also health risks associated with tattoos. Mayo Medical Laboratories reports:

Tattoos breach the skin, which means that skin infections and other complications are possible. Specific risks include:

  • Allergic reactions. Tattoo dyes — especially red, green, yellow and blue dyes — can cause allergic skin reactions, such as an itchy rash at the tattoo site. This can occur even years after you get the tattoo.
  • Skin infections. A skin infection — which might cause redness, swelling, pain and a pus-like drainage — is possible after tattooing.
  • Other skin problems. Sometimes bumps called granulomas form around tattoo ink. Tattooing can also lead to keloids — raised areas caused by an overgrowth of scar tissue.
  • Bloodborne diseases. If the equipment used to create your tattoo is contaminated with infected blood, you can contract various bloodborne diseases — including tetanus, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
  • MRI complications. Rarely, tattoos or permanent makeup might cause swelling or burning in the affected areas during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams. In some cases, tattoo pigments can interfere with the quality of the image — such as when a person who has permanent eyeliner has an MRI of the eye.

Of course, if you have one or more tattoos this does not mean that you are doomed or that you have to rush out and try to get it removed. But certainly, you should not get more of them. Nor should anyone who claims to believe the Bible actually go out and get them.

13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:13, KJV)

The growing acceptance of tattoos in Western societies is consistent with the above.

Some information of possibly related interest may include:

Tattoos: History and Biblical Teachings Would you like to know more about the history of tattoos, social concerns about tattoos, health risks of tattoos, and what the Bible teaches about them?
Should Christians Get a Tattoo? What is a tattoo? Does the Bible teach about tattoos? Should Christians get tattoo? What is a ‘tramp stamp’? What is the history of tattoos? Are there health risks associated with tattoos? What type of people originally got tattoos? Do tattoos protect against sexually-transmitted diseases? Is there any connection with hepatitis? This is a YouTube video.
Anglo – America in Prophecy & the Lost Tribes of Israel Are the Americans, Canadians, English, Scottish, Welsh, Australians, Anglo-Saxon (non-Dutch) Southern Africans, and New Zealanders descendants of Joseph? Where are the lost ten-tribes of Israel? Who are the lost tribes of Israel? What will happen to Jerusalem and the Jews in Israel? Will God punish the U.S.A., Canada, United Kingdom, and other Anglo-Saxon nations? Why might God allow them to be punished first? Here is a link to the Spanish version of this article: Anglo-América & las Tribus Perdidas de Israel. Information is also in the YouTube sermons titled Where are the Ten Lost Tribes? Why does it matter? and British are the Covenant People. A short YouTube of prophetic interest may be Barack Obama and the State of the Apocalypse.
Will the Anglo-Saxon Nations be Divided and Have People Taken as Slaves? Will the lands of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand be divided? What about Jerusalem? What does Bible prophecy teach? Are there non-biblical prophecies that support this idea? Who will divide those lands? Who will end up with the lands and the people? Here is a link to a video titled Will the USA and other Anglo-nations be Divided and Their People Made Slaves? Here is a related item in the Spanish language ¿Serán divididas las naciones anglosajonas?
British are the Covenant People What do ‘British’ and ‘Britain’ mean in Hebrew? Are the descendants of the Anglo-Saxons people of the covenant? Does the British royal family connect to the throne of David? What does the Bible teach? What does history show us? Is there any DNA evidence related to British-Israelism? When did Christianity make it to the British Isles? Could Jeremiah have made it to the British Isles? What type of Christians made it to the British Isles? Did the last King of England believe in British Israelism?


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