The Bible’s take on tattoos and How it’s applied today

What does the Bible say about tattoos? Leviticus 19:28 is the most common bible verse people search for when researching tattoos in the Bible:

“Do not cut your bodies or put tattoo marks on yourselves”
 — God, Leviticus 19:28, King James Bible

In this verse, God commands the Israelites not to cut nor mark their flesh. The New International Version translates it as: “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves.” The King James Version translates it as “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you”. Let’s take a closer look at the original scripture and see how it applies to Christians versus Jews today.

The Hebrew expressions used in this verse are two types. The first, “cut” or “cuttings” or the biblical Hebrew word וְשֶׂ֣רֶט, refers to an incision or gash. This may refer to a more extreme form of body alteration known as scarification. The second expression is the phrase “tattoo marks” or “print any marks”. The word “marks” or תִתְּנ֖וּ, means incision, imprintment, tattoo or mark. So it is clear God prohibited tatoos among the Israelites.

As for applying this command today, it depends on your beliefs. Judaism generally prohibits tattoos according to this verse. But Jews tend to believe this commandment only applies to Jews and not to gentiles or non-Jews. There is no specific rule in the New Testament against tattoos. Many Christian denominations believe the laws in Leviticus are outdated (the “old law”) and feel this commandment only applied to the Israelites. While many Christian groups tolerate tattoos, some Evangelical and fundamentalist Christians do believe this commandment still applies today and think it is a sin to get one. See Tattoos, Religious views and Religious perspectives on tattooing articles on Wikipedia to get other religious takes on inking.

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