In the early 19th
century, Charles Darwin observed that every country practiced a unique style of adorning their skins. Strategic cuts, punctures and gashes were often embalmed with resins and pigments from plants and trees to leave behind embroidery of scar tissues on the skin. A century and a few decades later in the 20th
century, tattoos stood as a sign of bravado mostly on the brawny bodies of pirates, convicts, and riders.
Today, the modern interpretation of permanent inks can range from realistic and intricate portraits to dainty adornments. For those who think tattoos are a modern expression of art, a look at the well-preserved tattoos in the mummified remains of “Iceman” – a 5200-year-old mummy – will be quite a revelation.
When it comes to Christianity and the art of tattoos, lets us start by questioning a recurrent question. “Is it sinful to get a tattoo”? Or “can Christians get tattoos
?” In our quest to find the answer to this question, we must take a deep dive into the Holy pages of the Bible.
Tattooing vs. Scarification
Even though the practice of tattooing one’s skin ages way beyond the birth of Christianity, its mention only appears once in some translated Bibles. To quote from the Law of Moses, Leviticus 19:28, God declares, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.”
– NIV Bible. This is often the quote that makes believers condemn tattoos. However, before jumping to a haste conclusion, let’s us decode this quote for you.
Firstly, the Law of Moses was bestowed upon the descendants of Israel once they were delivered from the Egyptian bondage. The Mosaic Law or the Old Covenant ceased to apply to Christians upon the coming of Christ. At best, the parts of the Old Covenant dealing with Moral Law are still considered to apply on Christians by some. And, among those codes of morality, there is no mention of forbidding tattoos.
Secondly, in the land of Canaan, archeological evidence backed with Biblical reference suggests that people customarily made lacerations on their skin. The ghastly scarring left behind was often seen as a memorial of the dead. This Quote of God, thus, is a reference to the prohibition of such excruciating scarification and not the modern process of tattooing, which is far more sophisticated.
It is also worthy of taking note in this regard that a lot is lost in translation. The term tattoo did not make its appearance in the English language up until the late 18th
century. The King James Version of Bible written in the 1600s states, “ye shall not…print marks upon you.”
Did it mean tattoo? Can Christians get tattoos?
Unfortunately, or fortunately, it is open to the reader’s interpretation.
Your Body is a Temple
The next significant quote hails from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – “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
.” Surely, a quote that is used in abundance to forbid tattoos among Christians.
The argument is such that our own bodies and the soul which reside inside is the handicraft of the almighty. And we must see this beautiful creation as a temple to glorify God. However, it does, in no way, clarify if tattoos desecrate or decorate this temple. The context of this quote stems from sexual sin, and it is best if we do not stray from its original intent by misusing this quote.
An inked God?
A quote from the Bible that might fill Christian tattoo enthusiasts with renewed glee is stated in Isaiah 49:16, when God says, “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.”
God extends his arms to show the people – his dear children, that he has their name written on his own palms. This can be interpreted as a close reference to the modern-day tattooing employing pigments to make permanent marks. His engraving reflected his irrevocable and unconditional love for his children. So, an ink on one’s body which casts nothing but love should not be considered a sin.
The artistic expression of creativity, respect, and love on the body, especially for God, is not condemned by Christianity or its scriptures. It is important to really question the motive of your tattoo. Do they invoke a feeling of violence or hatred inside you or their spectators? Do they take away from your modesty and individuality? Remember, tattoos are expensive, permanent, and uncomfortable to get. Make sure to take a decision you will not regret in the future. But condemning an art form in the name of Christianity is not what this religion stands for in all honesty. And it is high time that people stop projecting their own opinions in the guise of God’s words.
So, "Can Christians get tattoos
?" Most definitely.