Tattoo Study

This study is going to be largely of information compiled from different sources. As this item of theology and sociology has been largely debated for a very long time I don’t have to much to add.

3rd Party Study ‘FOR’ tattooing

3rd Party Study ‘AGAINST’ tattooing

Definition –

Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)

Tattoo Tat*too", v. t. [imp. & p. p. Tattooed; p. pr. & vb.
n. Tattooing.] [Of Polynesian origin; cf. New Zealand ta to
tattoo, tatu puncturation (in Otaheite).]
To color, as the flesh, by pricking in coloring matter, so as
to form marks or figures which can not be washed out.
Tattoo Tat*too", n.; pl. Tattoos.
An indelible mark or figure made by puncturing the skin and
introducing some pigment into the punctures; -- a mode of
ornamentation practiced by various barbarous races, both in
ancient and modern times, and also by some among civilized
nations, especially by sailors.
Tattoo Tat*too", n. [Earlier taptoo, D. taptoe; tap a tap,
faucet + toe to, shut (i. e., the taps, or drinking houses,
shut from the soldiers).] (Mil.)
A beat of drum, or sound of a trumpet or bugle, at night,
giving notice to soldiers to retreat, or to repair to their
quarters in garrison, or to their tents in camp.

Interesting stuff. It would appear that there are multiple meanings for the word tattoo one of which has nothing at all to do with ink and skin.

My Study –

First off I’d like to point out that the ‘Against’ argument was almost the only one I could find. I did find one other that argued against but purely on the basis that it defiles the body and isn’t in line with what is ‘pure’ and the body being a temple. I excluded that one on the basis that it was purely subjective. Virtually all other websites with an ‘against’ argument were simply copies of this original one.

And now for the analysis. First off my own personal details in addition to what is all ready presented above. First off the main feature of both the for and against arguments tend to come back to Leviticus 19:28. Leviticus 19:28 with Strongs numbers attached from the KJV says “28Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead , nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD .” Ok so with that it should be pretty simple to apply some logic and figure out what we’re talking about. First is context.

The context of this verse is pretty clear. First off the heading in the New King James Version says “Moral and Ceremonial Laws”. While the chapter does start off with essentially ‘honor your father and mother’ it then digs deeper in to pagan practices like divination and soothsaying. This is obvious that it is talking about straight up pagan practices. Its obviously not talking about your every day adornment issues. It even says at the beginning of the verse that this is related to ritual involved with dead people. The ‘against’ study seems to want to take this out of context and say it doesn’t have something to do with dead people. For those of us who know how to use our English its pretty clear that there is a comma and not a period thus the thought, of dead people, had not ended. Old covenant aside this is still applicable scripture but the real purpose and meaning becomes clear once you get past the translation issues.

So we see that scripture as being useable for todays adornments being questionable if not flat out silly. Now here’s the kicker. Lets use those strongs numbers and kick it old skool style with the Hebrew. For ‘print’ we have 5414 which according to the strongs means:

5414 nathan naw-than’ a primitive root; to give, used with greatest latitude of application (put, make, etc.):–add, apply, appoint, ascribe, assign, X avenge, X be ((healed)), bestow, bring (forth, hither), cast, cause, charge, come, commit, consider, count, + cry, deliver (up), direct, distribute, do, X doubtless, X without fail, fasten, frame, X get, give (forth, over, up), grant, hang (up), X have, X indeed, lay (unto charge, up), (give) leave, lend, let (out), + lie, lift up, make, + O that, occupy, offer, ordain, pay, perform, place, pour, print, X pull , put (forth), recompense, render, requite, restore, send (out), set (forth), shew, shoot forth (up), + sing, + slander, strike, (sub-)mit, suffer, X surely, X take, thrust, trade, turn, utter, + weep, + willingly, + withdraw, + would (to) God, yield.

Looks to be a pretty general word that means simply to ‘to give, used with greatest latitude of application’. Pretty simple. Now the next word that needs attention is ‘marks’. The strongs number is 7085 which according to strongs means:

7085 qa`aqa` kah-ak-ah’ from the same as 6970; an incision or gash:–+ mark. see HEBREW for 06970

I thought it important to follow this a little further because the meaning gets even clearer when you check out 6970.

6970 Qowa` ko’-ah probably from 6972 in the original sense of cutting off; curtailment; Koa, a region of Bab.:–Koa. see HEBREW for 06972

I didn’t want to get so far as to bust out a medical dictionary or journal but incision or gash along with ‘original sense of cutting off’ makes it pretty clear that they are talking about a large thing not a small poking of a needle. If they are talking about holes in the skin that small then we should all pray for a person who knowingly chooses to pop a zit and creates a hole in their skin. It’s obvious trying to equate this statement to tattooing is pretty silly once you know the original context and wording.

So now we come to the subjective part of the study. There are quite a few points in scripture that talk about purity. I could break out every one of them and point things out about them that either favor or don’t favor tattooing. I don’t think that would really do any one any good. I think its safe to say that when it comes down to purity we are given some absolutes and we are given some room for discernment. No where in absolutes are we told tattooing is evil or sinful. This leaves that up to the realm of discernment. If it’s going to defraud a brother or sister than don’t do it. If you love your church and your particular Pastor is very anti-tattoo then out of respect for him don’t do it.

Some may try to argue the sanctity of Gods creation in our bodies. My response to that when thought out logically is that if your bodies were so pure and sanctified then why do we need to wear clothing? Why do we wear a lot of the things we wear? Aren’t a large part of our fashion simply adornments? Sinful sinful adornments! Taking that tact people need to take out their ear rings and take off their makeup. I think the large majority of us will agree that that is a little extreme. I’m being facetious of course.

What then can be said definitively about tattoos and scripture? Well not much. Nothing other than they are not expressly forbidden. In fact based on our need for love and patience and the ability to relate to people I’d be inclined to think that may be we should embrace tattooing the same we try to embrace the rest of pop culture. As a vehicle to reach others.

For the record I don’t have any tat’s but I do plan to get one. Possibly at the end of the school year before my friend takes off for grad school. We’ll see what this study looks like in a year.

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5 comments so far

  1. Cubical buddy on

    Very interesting thoughts! I like how you didn’t harp or dwell too deep into the old testament, I mean, there’s also instructions in the OT on proper slave ownership and beating/killing your children. Clearly we’ve evolved a tad bit. Oops, did I say ‘evolve’ on a Christian blog? 😉 – kidding of course.
    If God is concerned about my lil’ sun tat, then I’d like to kindly redirect his attention to all the starving children in Africa or evil plotting terrrorists. Surely my tat means next to nothing.

    Speaking of religious leaders who may single out tats as being “bad” or “disrespectful”… I’d be curious to know if they are bringing in evergreen trees into their home and decorating them just like the heathens of the old testament. – I’m certain this blatantly evil practice wouldn’t be done in Gods name!

    Heck, God tattoos us with freckles, moles and birthmarks… he started it.

    -Peace out

  2. JB on

    I( ran across ur lamentably lame rationalization for being tattooed, and the equally limp attempt to justify being tattooed because someone else might not be following biblical teaching perfectly so its excusable.
    Try perfecting your walk with God before trying to justify your not following His teaching because the teaching is ignored by someone else or they aren’t following God perfectly.
    If I rob someone, are you justified in shooting someone just because I broke the law first?
    By the way, God sees your disobedience, and theirs, cares for all of the poor and starving-but he sees your disobedience as yours, and does not judge us concerning anything other than our own “stuff”-not anyone else’s–
    God is glorified when we seek to remove the plank from our own eye.

  3. tekchip on

    JB thanks for your comment and your concern. I would hope and pray that you would carefully re-read my study and then spend some time writing your own. Use the scripture. Study the words, meanings and history behind the bible and then please send me a link and check back in. I’d be very interested after you do that work if your view is the same. Please show me where, other than an oft out of context old testament scripture we are told directly that it is bad or sinful?

  4. Bethany on

    Interesting study indeed – I’ve heard the negative side primarily so it’s refreshing to hear another take. I went to a private school for HS and had Bible everyday. Every Bible teacher I had condemned tats and stated those who had them (or piercing might I add) were going straight to the land WAY down under. I didn’t really agree with them that those were the determining factors of damnation.

  5. Nobody on

    I fully agree with your argument. There is no biblical basis against tattooing. On the other hand, we must remember that certain tattoos are not in line with how God reveals himself to us in scripture. For instance, the tattoo that (mostly women) wear on their lower backs, is sexually provocative and usually meant to be as such. Come to think of it, this can be said about most tattoos. Of course there is also some other criteria where certain tattoos will not agree with a christian lifestyle.

    You sound like an open-minded christian that thinks things through well, so I trust that you will use your discretion in this matter.


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