Waiting on the Word/Flickr.com

You’re probably wondering why this question is being raised. Why would Jesus have a tattoo and what Scripture would indicate that He did? Well, there’s a reasonable explanation for why some people think that Jesus may have had a tattoo. In John’s vision of the Battle of Armageddon, he sees Jesus riding from heaven on a white horse, waging war against the beast’s evil forces. Revelation 19:16 includes the description of Jesus: “on His robe and on His thigh He has this name written: king of kings and lords of lords.” From this verse, some people have concluded that Jesus has a tattoo on His thigh. Some have also used this verse to justify tattoos being ok for followers of Jesus. Could there be any merit to the idea that Jesus has a tattoo?

One reason why it’s highly unlikely that Jesus has a tattoo is because of His Jewish background. The Jewish Law warns, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:28). Jesus, who was obedient in Jewish Mosaic Law would not have disobeyed the Law. Jesus came to Earth to fulfill the Mosaic Law, not violate it. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

Now you’re probably wondering what it means that on Jesus’ robe and on His thigh He has written “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”? To understand this, it’s important to understand how the Book of Revelation was written. The book is filled with symbolism and that’s exactly what the Revelation 19:16 description is: symbolic. In the same passage, Jesus’ eyes are said to be “like blazing fire,” His robe is soaked in blood and there’s also a sword coming out of His mouth. We know that these descriptions aren’t literal. We can also assume that the name written on Jesus’ thigh is likely figurative.

It could also mean that the mention of the name being written on Jesus’ robe and His thigh may not have been written on His skin at all. It may have been written on the part of Jesus’ robe that covered His thigh. During ancient times, a king or noble would often have his title woven into His garments. This would make sense given Jesus wouldn’t violate Levitical law by taking a tattoo.

The question around biblical tattooing is highly debated by Christians. As previously mentioned, Some Christians condemn all tattooing as immoral because God clearly forbids them in Leviticus 19:28. The Old Testament law commanded the Israelites, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:28). So, even though believers today are not under the Old Testament Law, the fact that there was a command against tattoos may raise some questions.

Since the word tattoo does not appear in this verse in some popular English translations, this argument seems straightforward. Other Christians say this passage no longer applies to us because it is Old Testament Law, and not for Christians. The New Testament does not speak on this issue. We do have this command in 1 Peter 3:3-4, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentile and quiet spirit, which is great worth in God’s sight.” While this passage is directed at Christian women, there is a principle here that may be appropriate to apply to this question: namely, a person’s external appearance should not be the focus of our attention. Much effort goes into “elaborate hairstyles” and “fine clothes” and “jewelry” but that’s not where a woman’s true beauty lies. In the same way, tattoos and body piercings are “outward adornment,” and we should be careful to give more effort to the development of the inner self, regardless of gender.

When it comes to tattoos, first ask yourself if you can honestly, in good conscience, ask God to bless and use that particular activity for His own good purposes. The Bible tells us, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). The New Testament does not specifically command against tattoos or body piercings, but it also does not give us any reason to believe God would have us get tattoos or body piercings either.

While 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 does not directly apply to tattoos, it does give us a principle: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” This great truth should have a real influence on what we do and where we go with our bodies. Our bodies are so important to the Lord that He calls our bodies temples of God. Remember, we are commanded not to do things that will harm what is precious to Him. We are called to honor our personal temple in order to enter His.