What Does The Bible Say About Tattoos?


For many years now I’ve heard many people, especially Christians, asking the question, is it sinful to have a tattoo? To be truthful with you I never gave this question a second thought, I never thought it was such a big deal. Many people in society, including Christians have tattoos somewhere on their body and at first, I didn’t believe the Bible said anything on the topic until someone pointed out the following Scripture.

‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put TATTOO marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.’ Leviticus 19:28

I was surprised to find this little verse tucked away in the Book of Leviticus, probably because I just read over it without really noticing the word ‘tattoo’. After further study, it turns out I was right with my first thought, in terms of what the Scriptures actually say about the subject, they say nothing about them or address the subject in any shape or form.

Now you might wonder how I can claim such a thing as the above verse does mention the word, ‘tattoo’, but let’s look at the K.J.V.

‘Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor PRINT any MARKS upon you: I am the Lord.’ Leviticus 19:28

The actual word used in Hebrew for ‘print’ is the word, ‘nathan’ which means to inscribe or engrave symbols or words. The word for ‘marks’ in Hebrew is the word, ‘qa`aqa` which implies an incision or gash. The word ‘tattoo’ as used in the N.I.V. isn’t actually used in the original text.

Background To The Text

Now remember when this law was given to the nation of Israel, they have just been delivered from Egyptian slavery and they are about to enter the Promised Land of Canaan. In Egypt where they spent 400 years, they were surrounded by people in Egypt who had tattoos, although this was mainly the Egyptian women. The reason appears to be that tattoos on a woman was a sign associated with fertility, they wore them like some kind of lucky charm, in the hope that their pregnancy and birth would go well.

The Israelites are now about to enter the Promised Land of Canaan, the Canaanites didn’t really practice tattooing but would brand themselves with a hot iron, they would often slash themselves and very often they would cut deep gashes into their skin. This appears to be for ritual purposes, especially in mourning for the dead, 1 Kings 18:28.


When we remember the Egyptians practice of tattooing and the Canaanite practice of marking their bodies, it appears that God is simply forbidding scarification in Leviticus 19:28, but not tattooing as we know it today.

I personally don’t believe having a tattoo is sinful, but I also believe a word of caution would be appropriate concerning tattoos.

Many people have had a tattoo done on their body which they have lived to regret the rest of their lives. My prayer is that you stop and think about what you’re doing, especially what you’re going to have tattooed in your body!

‘Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.’ 1 Corinthians 10:31



"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD."

Isaiah 55:8