What Does the Bible Say About Tattoos?

by Pastor Ricky Kurth

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Under the Law of Moses, God’s people in Israel were told

“Ye shall not…print any marks upon you…” (Lev. 19:28).

Of course, our apostle Paul tells us that God’s people today “are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:15).

Having said that, it is important to remember that some of the Law’s prohibitions expressed principles that are binding in any dispensation, such as “thou shalt not kill” (Exod. 20:13) or “thou shalt not steal” (v. 15). God is always concerned when His people break these and any other of His laws that are based on moral issues of that nature.

That doesn’t seem to be the case with tattoos, however. God’s prohibition of body markings is rather based on their association with the customs of the heathen in those days. Notice the context:

“Ye shall not…mar the corners of thy beard. Ye shall not…print any marks upon you…” (Lev. 19:27,28).

Marring the corners of a man’s beard was evidently a custom found among the heathen at that time, and God didn’t want His people doing something that would associate themselves with unbelievers. But there would be no reason to refrain from rounding the corner of a beard on that basis today.

Similarly, while it may once have been true that getting a tattoo would associate a believer with people of questionable character, this may no longer be the case. Their growth in popularity among even professional people has made it so that each individual Christian must decide for himself if this association issue is a concern.

With all that in mind, the question of tattoos under grace seems to come down to a matter of personal conviction, and in such cases the apostle of grace advises us to be gracious, not judgmental (Rom. 14:3).

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