“God, Art, Beauty, and Me: The Bible and Tattoo”


“God, Art, Beauty, and Me: The Bible and Tatoo”
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

by Pastor Joseph


Origin of the word “tattoo”

  • “The word tattoo is thought to be derived from both the Polynesian “ta” — meaning “to strike” — and the Tahitian “tatau” — meaning “to mark.”
  • “These permanent designs [Tattoos]—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
    Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/tattoos-144038580/#ylUcwbr4sY2ZiQbV.99

I. The Millennials and Tattoos

  • “A 2010 study by the Pew Research Center found that nearly 40 percent of millennials have tattoos, and that nearly half of the ones who have them sport between two and five.”
  • “Today, 36 percent of Americans aged 18-25 have at least one tattoo, according to a report done by the Pew Research Center. That’s more than one third of America’s young adults! It comes as no surprise that the tattoo industry is the sixth fastest-growing retail business in America, as determined by the S. News & World Report.”
  • “This has obviously translated to online interest as well, as there are more than 147 million tattoo related searches each month on Google.”

Source: “How Tattoos Went from Subculture to Pop Culture”


II. Tattoos in the Ancient World

  • “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.”
  • “That it appears to have been restricted to women during the purely dynastic period, i.e. pre-332 B.C. Also the way in which some of the designs can be seen to be very well placed, once it is accepted they were used as a means of safeguarding women during pregnancy and birth.”
    Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/

III. Sample Tattoos




III. Functions of Tattoos in the Ancient World

  • “Tattoos were the mark of prostitutes or were meant to protect the women against sexually transmitted diseases”
  • “Tattooing of ancient Egyptian women had a therapeutic role and functioned as a permanent form of amulet during the very difficult time of pregnancy and birth.”
  • (The Britons) Tattoo as a mark of high status, and with “divers shapes of beasts” tattooed on their bodies, the Romans named one northern tribe “Picti,” literally “the painted people.”
  • “Yet amongst the Greeks and Romans, the use of tattoos or “stigmata” as they were then called, seems to have been largely used as a means to mark someone as “belonging” either to a religious sect or to an owner in the case of slaves or even as a punitive measure to mark them as criminals.”
  • In the ancient East (the world of the Bible) Tattoos were used to mark slaves, thus a sign of ownership and possession; for example, the name of a slave’s owner would be tattooed or branded on his hand or forehand. This was to prevent slaves from running away or in case a slave is run away, he or she could be easily retrieved by the owner.

IV. The Bible and Tattoos

  • The Bible prohibits tattooing one’s body: Lev. 19:28
  • Not to cut your flesh for the dead: Leviticus 21:1-5; Deut. 14:1
  • Some people state that tattoos are associated with pagan mourning practices and idolatry.
  • Positive reference to tattoos: Isaiah 44:5
  • The tattoo of Christ on Paul’s body: Galatians 6:17
  • The Tattoo of Jesus: Revelation 19:12-16


V.How about these other verses on Christian Liberty, the Mosaic Law, and the New Covenant?

  • We are under the Covenant: Heb. 8:13
  • We are dead to the Mosaic law: Romans 7:4
  • We are released from the law of Moses: Romans 7:6
  • God adorns his people: Ezekiel 16:11-13

VI. Questions to consider before Getting a Tattoo?

  1. Will my tattoo glorify Christ (1 Corinthians 10:31; Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 1:14-15; 1 Corinthians 6:20)?
  2. Will my tattoo hinder people from coming to salvation in Christ (Matthew 18:8-9; 1 John 2:10)?
  3. What is the motivation and real intent of this tattoo: is it a godly reason or is it to showcase something (Ps. 51:6; Matthew 5:8; Colossians 3:17; Matthew 6:1-18; James 4:3; Col. 3:5-6)?
  4. Will my tattoo bear fruit for Christ and build up the body of Christ (Rom. 14:1, 3, 19; 15:1-3; 1 Cor. 6:12; (1 Cor. 8:123)?


VII. Suggestive questions by John Piper

  • “Is our choice to get a tattoo influenced by the desire to be like the nations who do not love God?”
  • “Do I want to look like the nations who don’t love God? Or am I in some way governed and controlled by an alien spirit rather than the Spirit of the gospel?”
  • “Is your tattoo or will you tattoo will be an expression of Christ’s good works in you?”