Most people might get confused about the New and Old Testaments. The simple distinction is that the Old Testament talked about the creation of the world and the teaching that the Israelites and people of the Hebrew faith used to follow. The New Testament follows the teachings of Jesus Christ and what is mostly followed in today’s world.
The Old Testament contains the book of Genesis, Leviticus, Job, Proverbs, etc. These teachings predate Jesus, for example, the book of Leviticus is one of the books of Moses and the teaching he had imparted. On the other hand, the New Testament contains scriptures from the book of Corinthians, Peter, John, Luke, and many more.
These names seem more familiar because the teachings from the New Testament is the what is mostly followed in Catholic Christianity. The teachings of the Old Testament are not really followed today, but some of the scriptures often come up from time to time. This is especially the case when the scriptures of the two Testament clash about tattoos.
Different scriptures from the Old and New Testaments talk about tattoos, in which Leviticus 19:28 is probably the most quoted one about tattoos. So let’s look at some of these scriptures and determine their meaning concerning tattoos. All the translation to English is taken from the English Standard Version of the Bible (or ESV for short)
In the Old Testament, the ESV of Leviticus 19:28 states “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord”. This is one of the only explicit mentions of tattoos. It clearly mentioned that tattoos are a sin.
But the problem is when finding out the Hebrew words for the scripture, the origin of the word ‘tattoo’ is a bit obscure. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and when a word is used only once, it becomes harder to translate to English. The Hebrew word used ‘qaaqa’ which means tattoo and imprint. So it becomes confusing which word meaning is being conveyed here. Nonetheless, the Old Testament clearly states that tattoos are prohibited.
From the book of Revelation in the New Testament, the scripture states, “On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”. Here, the Lord’s name is said to be tattooed on someone’s body. This contradicts 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 which states “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”. While it does say to glorify God in the New Testament, the Old Testament was rather stringent about tattoos because it related to paganism and as such was not followed.
So you can see how the Old and New Testaments had clear discrepancies about tattooing. This is primarily because the reason that tattooing was considered a sin during the time of the Old Testament. This was when the Israelites were between Egypt and Canaan after being exiled, a place that used tattoos for many different religious reasons.
See Also: How Long After A Tattoo Can You Tan?
The ancient Egyptians used tattoos on women to show their status in society and for religious purposes. We know this because the skin was preserved perfectly to still be seen in the modern day. This was considered to be a sin by the Christians because of how the body was hurt during the tattooing. The Canaan people used to put tattoo branding on slaves.
Both the Egyptians and the Canaan depicted images of their gods and symbols relating to their gods. Upon seeing this, the Christians saw this as paganism and idol worship, something that was forbidden in the religion. Also, self-mutilation was practiced by both Egyptians and Canaanian. As tattooing is considered to be a form of mutilation of the body, the Old Testament reflected that in their teaching as well. This can be seen in Deuteronomy 14:1 and Romans 1:24.
✨ You May like: How Old Do You Have To Be To Get A Tattoo?
Other religions have their own perspectives about tattoos. As Judaism was founded from the teaching of the Old Testament (the Old Testament and the Torah were written in Hebrew), their stance on tattoos is similar to that of the Old Testament.
Hinduism and Buddhism both allow tattoos, both permanent and temporary. Buddhist monks can be seen sporting tattoos on their bodies. However, there is a certain restriction on where one put tattoos on their bodies in Buddhism.
In Islam, a tattoo is considered to be a sin because it destroys the creation of God. While it is not specifically mentioned in the Quran, the consensus is that tattooing should not be done at all.
As the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis mentioned was asked in 2013 about his stance on tattoos. He had mentioned that priests to “not to be scared of tattoos” because they could be a way for them to connect to the younger generation. More progressive Christians are of the same belief about tattoos if it is done to dedicate faith, family, and expression of the inner self. However, excess tattooing, acts of rebellion, and grotesque imagery are considered a sin in Christianity.
What does Jesus say about tattoos?
The only mention of tattoos in the Bible is from the Old Testament in Leviticus 19:28, which predates the birth of Jesus.
Is it forbidden for a Christian to get a tattoo?
No, there is no mention of tattooing being forbidden for a Christian to get. However, heavy and/or grotesque tattoos are considered to be a sin.
Will my workplace fire me for getting a tattoo?
It is up to your workplace and their stance on tattoos, whether the imagery or how exposed it is.
Pope Francis is a very good example of the way of thinking changing with time. The Old Testament prohibited tattooing and considered it a sin because of the time and how tattoos were used for enslavement and branding. Nowadays, people are more forward-thinking about tattoos and that is why it is more widely accepted. As modern-day Christians follow the New Testament where there are depictions of tattoos in the scriptures, it can be said that the Bible is okay with tattooing, just not in excess or rebellion.
✨ Next Attraction: How To Become A Licensed Tattoo Artist?